Playing Well: How To Effectively Work With Others

by Mark Ellwood

Playing Well: Teamwork

Hari Raya Aidilfitri is here and the end-of-Ramadan celebrations are underway. But while the festivities and feasting are in full flow, it’s worth remembering that the Ramadan period of fasting, self-reflection and almsgiving holds lessons for us all regarding frugality, self-awareness and altruism. For today’s post, we’re taking this idea and looking at our interactions with our colleagues and peers.


We invariably work in teams comprised of a range of diverse personalities – something essential to keep diversity alive and the creative process vibrant. This means there will be people we work well with and people we struggle with; people we like and dislike (the two cases not necessarily being connected). So how do we maximise our time working with others?


Here’s our top-10 tips for making the most out of working with colleagues:


  1. Manners.  The importance and effect of simple good manners can’t be overstated. Manners show both our mutual respect for others and an awareness and control of self. And we don’t just mean holding a door open for someone or saying ‘thank you’ when they bring you a document. It also extends to email etiquette (acknowledging an email even if you don’t fully respond now, and then making sure you do respond later) to meeting people at the time you said you would (punctuality).  By exercising manners, you engender self-discipline and foster a reputation for integrity and reliability. This important lesson can too often be lost in the constant push to beat the queue to the top, resulting in a zero-sum game that can breed toxicity.  Looking at some of the world’s most successful firms such as Uber, Facebook and Salesforce - you’ll see an absolute dedication to team building and dynamics, based around shared success. Being respectful to each other’s views and ways of working is key to effective teamwork


  1. Positivity. We all want to work with positive people, the ones who find the silver lining in every situation and help others to stay motivated. We never want to work with that person who’s always talking negatively about the work, bad mouthing the employer or gossiping about colleagues. Exercising positivity can help you to overcome challenges that would otherwise seem overly daunting. If a project takes a turn for the worse, it can be challenging, but immediately look for ways to overcome the problems, or look at what can be salvaged and what lessons can be learned. Keep pushing forward


  1. Realism. Yes, let’s get real. What are your abilities? Can you complete the task yourself or as a team, or will you need extra help or training along the way? Know your skill set be honest with each other. Maybe you are good at detailed analytical work but struggle with a sales pitch and you’re working on a business proposal. You’ll need a good salesperson. By all means, challenge yourself to work to tight deadlines, but understand how long it realistically takes you to complete tasks. This way you can avoid getting bogged down in too much work and you’ll stay positive by:

  • Sticking to your schedules

  • Creating realistic timetables and deadlines

  • Understanding your (and your colleagues’) strengths and weaknesses

  • Not being afraid to seek help or raise issues

  • Inculcating trust within your team and with other stakeholders


  1. Feedback.  Correct feedback is essential as it is the only way we can learn and progress. Always be sure to give, and seek, clear and constructive feedback.  With the person/people you are engaged with, drill down to what went well and what didn’t work so well or failed.  Look at constructive ways to improve, rather than simply stating negatives.  Remember, your view of what happened will likely be different to others – you need to understand those perspectives. This way you will use feedback to move yourself and your projects forward and foster a create of continuous improvement


  1. Ownership. Take ownership of both your successes and failures and allow others to take ownership of theirs. Own up to mistakes and accept responsibility. Look at mistakes as learning opportunities. Give credit to others and praise strong work. Communicate and celebrate successes so they can be replicated elsewhere


  1. Tolerance. Inevitable, there will be people we like and people we simply don’t like in the teams we have to work in. Working effectively with people you don’t favour can be a rewarding challenge. It helps you to overcome prejudice and to understand the opinions of others. It also allows you to understand what it is about yourself that some people do or don’t like. Use emotional intelligence to get the best out of teammates. Tolerate mistakes and misunderstandings, ensuring that these are cleared up and remedied as part of development


  1. Extra-curricular activities. Out of work team activities are a great way to mix with colleagues in an informal setting. This could be the classic team away-day scenario, or it could simply be inviting the whole team to Iftar during Ramadan. People will usually open-up more about what they really feel at informal gatherings, giving you greater insight into the team dynamics, as well as finding out about people’s lives outside of work. Be sure to join in with these out-of-workplace activities whenever possible


  1. Deal with conflict. When conflict does inevitably arise, make sure it is dealt with as swiftly as possible.  See our previous blog post about dealing with conflict


  1. Mentor. As much as your experience at work is about furthering yourself, you’d be hard pressed to develop quickly without someone to guide you here and there and to demonstrate knowledge from experience.  Likewise, be that person to others. Share your experience with people more junior or those with different skillsets. Mentor teammates and colleagues, so that you can all push to increase the overall IP of the team and firm


  1. Hire the right people. Yes, would wouldn’t say this.  But it bears repeating that square pegs in round holes can cause tremendous heartache for businesses.  Make sure you hire correctly for the business needs, for the team needs and ensure utilisation and development.  Here’s our previous post on cultural fit. You’ll be the one working with these recruits, so it pays to get it right the first time and to make sure the hiring team is onboard