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A business communication must-have: The 'i' in team

YES. I am pleased to report that there is an 'i' in team. After years of working with many a 'half-dead' from the neck-up non-functional teams as well as several strong groups at work, I can say with much certainty: 'Eureka!' I will tell you where to find that elusive 'i' too because it is a good 'i' and not the selfish destructive 'Me-Myself and-I' and the devil take the rest of y'all one.

In the workplace it is inevitable that we work in teams in order to succeed at our individual and collective tasks. For example, try as you might come month-end you will not get your 'little much' for groceries and such delights if 'know-it-all-but-her-job Marcia' in HR does not forward the correct information about your credentials to the accounts or payroll department. And on time too. On the other hand, 'War-boat Margaret' from operations cannot be the one the manager asks to kindly answer questions about the implementation of a new system to staff members. They will be turned off by her approach.

If we define a team simply as 'a group of people with a goal working well together we can understand the importance of unity in team work. If we appreciate also, the significance of communications to properly functioning and highly effective teams, it will not be hard for you to see the 'i' in team: in communication and in unity. A team cannot be successful without utilising both of these words which both have 'i's'

If truth be told some Jamaicans are the most difficult and rambunctious set of people to corral into a properly functioning team. Aren't we? Please do not answer particularly this if you are the number one 'unruly' team member. In some of our work teams everyone is rowing in a different direction and then there are those who just will not row, preferring instead to sit still and not rock the boat and surreptitiously collect an 'unearned' salary when the 25th rolls around. There are some team members who doom their teams to failure from the start. Perhaps you will see yourself in one of these. I know I have.

Leader-takes-all: You and I have been there. The manager assigns us to work on a big project, that if successfully executed will make everybody look good: shared glory. There might even be a little 'something' in there for all of us at the end of the year. But guess what? The team is being led by a glory-hound. This hound-dog of which we speak, hugs all the 'work' to himself and doles out the task like a true 'meanie', keeping all the prized (read- easy) tasks to himself and gives us all the grunt work. This hound also never, ever keeps us in the loop. There is no clear communication and we all feel like we are on edge during project execution phase. Do you know him? I do. He is the one who will collect the trophy when all the work is done. Check under his nails -- you will see nothing because we have all done the dirty work. But come prize-giving time, he will have hustled us all out the way and when next you see him he will be busy climbing the podium to collect 'his' prize.

Lazy Liza: This is the seat filler who 'never know anything yet'. She is on the team to warm the bench and to fill her seat in the canteen, come lunchtime. She never finishes her assignments on time and always blames someone else for her shortcomings. The weather, the baby, the dog, missed e-mails, the bus and no phone credit: are some of the doozies with which we are fed. Always filled with excuses and never listening to what transpires in planning meeting: Liza is our millstone. She contributes the least but is very adept at the CYA (cover-your-ass move). The solution: neutralise her with small insignificant task that does not impact on the success of the project. Of course, you know that this will not work if the team is small -- meaning only you, her and one other member. Then you know that you are on your own. My advice? Just decide to saddle up for some back-breaking work to make the team work a success.

Don't-Follow-up-Donald: Every one loves Donald. He is affable and will help you out with lunch money if needs be. But don't ask him to follow-up on the task for which he has full responsibility. For the work to be done, someone has to well, do it. No use coming to report that you forgot to follow-up. The members of a strong team are usually very clear from the get go, what their assignments are to be in the execution of the project. If this is not done then we will all run around like headless chickens. So, everyone needs to know (and be competent) at their assignments. If there is no follow-up then disaster will follow. 'Don't Follow-up-Donald', waits until a few minutes before we meet to scramble around and do his follow up and he is inevitably late for the meeting because, he is following up on responsibilities that he should have completed a long time a go. Having Donald on the team is hard on everyone's nerves and he is the result of many a set-back for the team. However, sometimes if you have a Donald or Donna whose 'shame tree' is still standing strong, you may be able to embarrass him into following up on his tasks. Failing that -- I should strongly suggest that pepper him with weekly and daily memo reminders.

Good luck managing your teams.


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