Show Up, Show Off, Get On the Team

Hone your team skills, and you can strut your stuff by serving on a
cross-functional team. The payoff? It just might land you that new job
or promotion.

By Leslie Stevens-Huffman | March 2008


Great technical skills aren’t enough anymore. Globalization and
increased regulation are making business more complex and presenting
multifaceted challenges to large and mid-sized businesses alike. To
face them, companies are creating cross-functional teams that include
professionals from a variety of disciplines.

"Cross-functional
teams are becoming increasingly popular because they link the company’s
operational and strategic resources and they provide fluid,
multi-functional problem-solving disciplines," says Paul Ruwoldt,
mid-level trainer and consultant for Training Resources Group, Inc.,
a management consulting and training firm in Arlington, Va.
"Technically trained employees such as those in IT are now being
required to wear their operational hats and then lend their expertise
to one of these teams, either as an intermittent subject-matter expert
or as a standing team member."

So, by augmenting your IT
skills with team skills, you can take advantage of the opportunity to
strut your stuff by serving on a cross-functional team. The payoff? It
just might land you that new job or promotion.

Great Team Players

What are the talents you need to make the most out of your involvement on a team. You should be:

1. An Effective Role Player

Every
member of the team has a part to play. Some provide emotional or social
support, others provide technical expertise, but there can only be one
leader. Know your role and play it. Don’t try to take over someone
else’s.

2. Comfortable with Ambiguity

Because they’re creating new solutions, teams often operate in
uncharted waters. Avoid frustration by preparing for this upfront and
expect the solution will most likely evolve over time, not be ordained.

"In
IT you work in a very disciplined environment, so that’s where an IT
professional is naturally most comfortable" observes Max Copley,
general manager for Copley & Associates, an IT services and
consulting firm based in Orange County, Calif. "It can be a challenge
to work on a team, because they often operate under less structure."

3. Flexible

You
won’t get your way all the time, so learn to compromise and pick your
battles. Also, don’t get stressed-out if things don’t go well all the
time. It’s common to face resistance, especially if you’re proposing
change within the organization, so the team might have to make some
solution adjustments along the way. Endurance, rather than speed, is
the mantra of effective team players.

4. Supportive of the Team Goal

Being
a good team member means putting the team’s goals first, your
individual goals second. If the team succeeds, you’ll be recognized for
your contributions. If you’re viewed as someone who is only out for
themselves, you can damage your career rather than help it. And don’t
forget to volunteer for assignments.

5. A Consensus Builder

Because
there’s little to no hierarchy within project team structures,
decisions aren’t mandated: They’re reached collaboratively. Use
persuasion and one-off conversations with other team members to help
build consensus, and be sure and ask others for their input.

6. An Excellent Communicator

It’s
important to offer up suggestions, but don’t hog the floor. Contribute
something at every meeting and make sure you’re listening at least 80
percent of the time. If you’re a technical subject-matter expert
serving on a cross-functional team, explain concepts in a way that
everyone can understand.

Be sure to document your team
playing prowess. Make notes each time you return from a meeting,
because you want to be able to cite specific examples of your
capabilities during performance reviews and interviews. Also, be a
presenter or to brief upper management if the opportunity presents
itself, and be sure to build relationships with other team members.

And
remember: Although the team player label might seem like a cliché, it
has real value: Very few people have learned to play well.

Leslie
Stevens-Huffman is a freelance writer based in Irvine, Calif. who has
more than 20 years experience in the staffing industry.

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