Three Ways to Be a Better Team Member

Three Ways to Be a Better Team Member

It may seem unlikely that there could be anything new to learn about what makes teams effective, but there is. More than ever before, work today gets done in teams, and your ability to contribute as a member is vital to your career success. Every team is a unique social unit. The quality of members’ social interactions —both intra-team and inter-team — determines project success or failure. Each member contributes to group outcomes — and some more so than others. But until recently, there hasn’t been much specific advice on how to improve your value as a team member. You’ve probably been advised to “display empathy,” “respect diversity,” and communicate and share openly. As a team member, you’re directed to work for common goals rather than focusing on personal success. Sometimes team members are evaluated on factors like leadership, technical skills, vision, communication, and motivation. But although these matter, they’re not nearly as important as social skills. Deep Human Interactions Research using ever more sophisticated measurement and observation technology has now determined that the number one factor in making a group effective is skill at deep human interactions. Effective team members demonstrate consistent social skills, like noticing the subtlest elements of social cues: a furrowed brow, a smile, a desire to speak up. Researchers have studied groups for years. They’ve learned that intelligence doesn’t explain a group’s effectiveness, nor does group cohesion, motivation, or satisfaction. Stability of the team and its size matters only a little. Furthermore, following lofty ideals doesn’t bring about a significant impact on team effectiveness, although these are certainly beneficial: Having a clear, challenging, meaningful...