Teamwork, collaboration, synergy, we've all heard the catch-phrases and management-speak that surfaces when we talk about team + work. And we all know the magic that happens when the right people come together for a shared goal. But how can we best foster this kind of team dynamic? What can we do to help boost the chances of the pairing working, to create our very own dream team? The considerations are actually pretty straight-forward.
Give a Sh*t
So, you've just started working with Bob, the new QA manager. He's shy and quiet, and keeps to himself for the most part. If you actually make the effort to get to know him outside of the QA reports he gives every Monday, chances are he'll be more likely to have open honest conversations with you. Building mutual trust and understanding, you'll both be able to share the challenges of each of your roles/departments, and will likely be more open and able to find creative solutions when you hit roadblocks. And knowing that you actually give a sh*t about each other as people, not just as cogs in the system, interactions will be that much more enjoyable. And who knows, you'll likely build some awesome friendships along the way :)
Play to Each Others' Strengths
You're a master in 3D and Sherry's a whiz with lighting. Perfect! Play to those strengths. When you divide and conquer a project or task based on people's strengths and interests, the world is your oyster. And remember, you don't have to do it all. Even if you know how to do more than one thing, there's benefit in letting someone else take the reigns in their area of expertise, or an area they're trying to grow in: it frees you up to keep things moving in other areas and it can even help you flex your mentor muscles. When people are happy with the contributions they're making, they feel ownership and are more fully engaged.
Communicate. And then Communicate Some More.
It's common to get stuck in our own little bubbles and forget that there's a whole world out there. Whatever it is that you're working on, there are likely others out there who would benefit from knowing how it's going, what obstacles you're facing, and ideas you might have to improve things. It's imperative to keep everyone downstream in the know, but remember that great ideas can come from everywhere - so be sure to communicate out more widely as well. And hard as it can be, when situations get tense, it's extremely important to take the time to talk it out. If you need to, take a beat, process what you're thinking/feeling, and then address it with a cool head. But holding in any frustration will likely lead to unnecessary resentment and misunderstandings down the line. We're all adults here, when shared with honesty and openness, we can all learn and grow better and stronger, together.
You're working on the next great advancement in facial animation, but it was Jerome over there who came up with the solution that ended your week-long creative block. Don't brush that under the table, or worse, take credit for it yourself. Instead, celebrate it! And give credit where due. The best leaders and teammates are the ones who elevate those around them. In addition to Jerome feeling validated, acknowledged and appreciated, you'll feel great for doing the right thing. Besides, when team members know their contributions are valued, they're more likely to want to keep the momentum going. This goes for showing gratitude in general as well. Big or small, every interaction and effort counts; a heartfelt thank you is always appreciated.
Embrace a Slice of Humble Pie
Although we'd like to think we know best and carry ourselves with grace and decorum, we all make mistakes. What's important isn't being right or poised all the time, but admitting when we're at fault. And doing so genuinely. Be the first to own up to your mistakes, take a moment to digest negative feedback (actually considering what the other person is saying, instead of dismissing it), and work to improve. We're human and a work in progress. But it's our humanity that unites us and helps us understand one another. The first bite of humble pie may taste tart, but once you realise it's just a step in your own positive evolution, it grows on you.
It's easy to remember to celebrate milestone achievements, a release of a film or game, or the big reveal of a marketing strategy, but there are hundreds of little achievements that led to that point in time. Celebrate the big, as well as the small wins and achievements, as a team. Especially when things are difficult, it's the little things that bring people closer and remind us that we're all in this together. That we're not alone. That we can achieve great things together. So remember to take a moment and applaud both big and small achievements of individuals and the team at large.
And that's just a start. There are 101 ways to keep team dynamic thriving. The above is just the beginning. So start from where you are, identify areas that can be improved, build on that and keep going. Together we are stronger. Together we are bold. Together we can make magic happen.