My problem is that my boss requires us to work together as a team and insists on frequent meetings which, to me, are a waste of time. I prefer working alone. I can accomplish my work faster and do things better without the hassle of working with a group of people who don’t care if the needs of their team members are violated. When my boss calls for a meeting, some arrive late, most are unprepared for the meeting, and almost all, including my boss, are glued to their cellphones. If they are not talking to someone on the cellphone, they are texting, or reading text message. Or, there are private meetings during the meeting. Nobody listens the way they should be listening. I’m so frustrated with this idea of teamwork but it is forced on us as one of the core (a.k.a. sacred) values of our company.
Mr. Lone Ranger
You are exasperated with having to work with members of your section whom you describe the way you did. I, too, am greatly disturbed and distracted when people, attending meetings or a training class, are busy with their cellphones. It’s true that teamwork has become a core value of almost all organizations because when people coordinate their efforts and contribute their abilities and skills, much more and better results are achieved. You can see this in sports teams.
However, people don’t work as a team simply because they are told to do so. Teamwork requires a great deal of self-denial: setting aside your own interests and preferences, exerting efforts to see and understand the viewpoint of the other person, being committed to a goal that you may not wholeheartedly agree with, having to coordinate with some team members you may not have positive vibes or may not trust, etc. Agreeing to a common goal and pursuing a common direction, performing agreed on roles, working out an efficient process that every one should follow regardless of individual differences, are challenges to every team member. We’ve seen this in movies where a group of talented people are assembled to form a team and given a mission to fulfill. They go thru the stages of forming, storming and norming before they can work together as a high performing and mature team. This is why team building is a regular activity and continuous process undertaken by every group, including and especially for, people at the top of the organization.
Your boss insists on team effort, not solo performance, even by talented members like yourself. Performance assessment includes the important dimension of teamwork. Your chances of career advancement, especially of following the management career path, include your ability to effectively lead a group and to be a contributing member of a team. Working and collaborating with others to achieve common goals on agreed-on dates, etc. are indicative of a high level of Emotional Intelligence (EI).
Any corporate setting – private business, government and non-government agencies, religious, political and socio-civic organizations, requires that people work together with people — superiors, peers, subordinates, external customers, etc. Even if you are given a project to undertake by yourself, you still need to coordinate with peers whose outputs are your inputs, or vice versa.
I agree with your idea of how people in a team should behave during meetings. However, if you are a member of a team, you have no control over the behaviors of your boss and over your peers. Since you can not change them, focus instead on changing yourself, starting with your thoughts and feelings and then your behaviors. Perhaps if you change your behaviors, you might influence others to change their behaviors as well. However, don’t count on this.
There are five proactive ways that you can do to bring about a change in your situation:
First: Think positively of teamwork and team effort. See movies where team effort lead to the successful accomplishment of seemingly impossible goals. Observe basketball teams on the court. Sell and buy the idea of teamwork.
Second: See the members of your team as people, like you, with needs, values and interests and preferences which are different from one another. As such, they are pursuing their own agenda and are meeting them thru the use of their cellphones. Your boss tolerates it; his own role modeling gives it a stamp of approval.
If you are self-confident, assertive and have a positive relationship with your boss, you can suggest to him/her the benefits of a focused meeting: better quality listening, discussion and decisions. Developing a positive relationship with your boss requires that you follow his/her instructions and directions, not resist them or criticize his/her leadership style.
Third: Be a positive role model of a good team player. Come on time for meetings, and come prepared; listen attentively; actively participate in the discussion, etc. Don’t bring your cellphone with you; don’t even put it in front of you.
Fourth: Give positive feedback to those who listen and participate during meetings. You can affirm people by positive reinforcement of their positive behaviors. For example: “I like the way you built on the idea of Tom and amplified it.” “Thank you for listening to me.”
Fifth: Develop a positive relationship with your fellow team members so that they will be open to your suggestions on ways and means of improving participation in meetings and coordination on projects. Listen and be open to their ideas as well.
The above are some ways you can exercise personal leadership by influencing people to behave in positive ways
God bless you.