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Three ways to encourage smarter teamwork

by Jim Whitehurst

September 14, 2015 | 12:35 am
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Business problems today are too big for any one person to solve. Agile teams are much more effective at solving problems than are lone geniuses. To build the kind of smart teamwork that’s going to give you a competitive edge, your organization should prioritize, train and reward the following skills.

1. Active listening. Great teams are made up of great listeners. One way to help ensure active listening is to take notes. That way, you can more easily follow up with the person speaking, letting him know what you heard and what questions you have. When team members start actively listening to one another, everyone becomes smarter.

2. Giving and receiving honest feedback. Teamwork requires constant communication — and most of it needs to be positive. Your associates should be encouraged to say “Great job!” and “Thank you!” to each other far more than they share criticism.

At the same time, team members need to be willing to accept a critique of their work without thinking someone is criticizing them personally. You want to build a sense of accountability among team members so that they watch one another’s backs — rather than looking to stick a knife in them.

3. Valuing team contributions, not ego stroking. We all want to be seen as smart and capable, especially in the workplace. But you earn influence and trust by making contributions to the team or community — not by showing off how smart you are. Great team members have a willingness to admit they don’t have all the answers. They seek to talk through problems and think on their feet in order to reach the best conclusions with the help of their team, rather than trying to come up with all the answers on their own.

When you can recruit, train and retain team members who display these skills, you’ll wind up with better decisions, better engagement, better execution and ultimately better results. How smart is that?

(Jim Whitehurst is the president and CEO of Red Hat and the author of “The Open Organization.”)


by Jim Whitehurst

September 14, 2015 | 12:35 am
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