2010 was the Year of Teams for me. Though I’ve worked at a design company besides being a solo freelancer, I hadn’t really worked on a design team since college. But 2010 found me working a lot on teams, both as a subcontractor for others and as a boss with subcontractors working for me. It was an eye-opening experience and I really felt like the projects I worked on with others turned out better than they would have if I had worked on them alone.
There were a few things I learned along the way, as a teammate, a subcontractor and a contractor. Here are a few of them:
1. Communicate Accountability
Accountability is huge when working with others. People need to know what to expect from you and you need to make sure and set those expectations correctly. If you are not going to be able to deliver on your part of the project for a week let clients and teammates know that so they’re not expecting it the next day. Make sure you meet your deadlines, and let your team know asap if you realize you’re not going to meet a deadline. Be the person on the team that people can rely on and they’ll love working with you.
2. Communicate Consistently
Whether its a daily call or a weekly email your team should be communicating at consistent times to keep everyone on the same page. Team members should never have to wonder where a project is or what they are supposed to be doing next on a project.
Also as much as possible, pick a consistent way to communicate. How do you and your team prefer to communicate otherwise? There are hundreds of tools out there for keeping teams updated – try some out and find the one that works best for your team.
The more you can get this communication down in writing the better. That way everyone can be part of the conversation and you can go back and review if questions or issues arise.
3. Communicate Personally
When you work with people on a team you’re working towards a common goal. Fancy corporate-speak and formal wording is unnecessary, especially the longer you work with someone. I’m not saying be a slob and fill your emails with cursing, but communicate personably while being professional.
Also this is your team you’re working with – so get to know them! Learning a little more about people’s personal life helps you understand them – how they tackle problems and handle situations. It also makes it easier and more fun to work towards a common goal with people you know and enjoy.
4. Communicate Feedback
The point of working on a team is that you’re better together than alone. Therefore get everyone involved on a project to produce better results. Make it easy and acceptable for your team to give each other (and you!) feedback. Then, don’t just brush it off. Even if you don’t implement their feedback talk about why and make sure they know their thoughts were heard.
Learning to accept feedback graciously about your part of the project is skill that you need to learn if you’re going to work on a team. See constructive criticism for what it is – other people trying to help make the finished product better!
5. Communicate Expectations
Let people know what you are expecting from them. And again, putting this in writing of some form is really crucial. Its important to communicate to people working for you what you expect them to deliver to you, and when you expect it. It makes their job easier if they don’t have to guess what you are wanting or needing from them.
One person that’s really taught me a lot about working on teams is Shane of Shane&Peter. He’s kind of a working-with-teams guru. Check out his extremely popular presentation on working with Distributed Teams.
For some final notes on teams here is my favorite inspirational video about teamwork: