Lone Wolves No More: Why Being a Strong Team Member Is So Important

In this day and age, everything is team-driven. In education, business and life, there is universal recognition that strong, diverse teams get things done better, faster and easier.

Make no mistake about it, in the business world, now more than ever, you must know how to be a strong team member.

gs-class-photoA recent study from Harvard Business Review found that ‘‘the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50 percent or more’’ over the last two decades and that, at many companies, more than three-quarters of an employee’s day is spent communicating with colleagues.

The statistics are staggering. 

In an article entitled, “The Secrets of Great Teamwork,” Harvard Business Review says, “Today’s teams are different from the teams of the past: They’re far more diverse, dispersed, digital and dynamic.” Harvard Business Review goes on to say that teams of today require compelling direction, strong structure, supportive context and shared mindset.

So how can you set yourself up to succeed within this teamwork-driven infrastructure? In a Mind Tools article entitled, “How to be a Great Team Player” they suggest the following:

  • Use Your Strengths: Do what you do best! Find a role within your team that allows you to make a meaningful contribution.
  • Understand the Team’s Objectives: Make sure you understand the group’s goals. Ask questions about your role and expectations. Communicate. Be clear.
  • Be Reliable: Deliver on your promises. On time. Hold up your part of the equation. Have high, consistent standards. Let people know they can count on you.
  • Be a Good Communicator: Be involved. Participate. If you don’t contribute, you are not being helpful. Show support, challenge ideas if appropriate.
  • Stay Flexible: Things can change quickly. Don’t fight it. A team is a living, breathing, thing and adaptation is necessary.

Being a good team member isn’t always easy. But if you approach it with a positive, participative mindset, it could be a great opportunity to garner respect and recognition in your organization.

Remember: You can go fast alone, but you can go farther together.

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Are You Going to Answer That?

In today’s business world, growing technology and access to all things mobile are reshaping perceptions of the term “full-time” employee … and even “part-time” in some cases. In fact, the work hours of Nine to Five are likely only ever muttered when referring to the 1980s comedy film starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. Now, many work professionals alike, from junior employees to C-level executives are accessible to their employers/employees 24/7.

Gallup research reveals that:

  • 96% of all full-time U.S. workers have access to a computer, smartphone or tablet.
  • 86% of full-time employees use a smartphone or tablet.
  • One-third of full-time employees frequently check emails outside of their normal working hours.
  • Two-thirds of Americans report that the amount of work they do outside of normal working hours has increased a little to a lot because of mobile technology advances over the last decade.

ctd-answer-thatWith the ability to stay connected to co-workers 24/7, it’s not surprising that many managers end up, knowingly or unknowingly, overloading their employees with excessive amounts of work, expecting unreasonable deadlines due to oversight of assigning the work during “off” hours and interrupting personal plans by contacting co-workers after hours by email, phone or text. What’s more, these managers may not even realize that they themselves have become an “always on” employee, as described in the Harvard Business Review, “Managing the High-Intensity Workplace.”

According to the Harvard Business Review, sociologists have coined a term for these “always on” professionals who make themselves available 24/7 — “ideal workers: people totally dedicated to their jobs and always on call.”

Of course, you might think that this is exactly what most employers want. The “ideal worker” who will go above and beyond, and then some, even at the risk of interfering with their health, personal life, family obligations and community responsibilities. But consider what Assistant Professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business Erin Reid shared with the Huffington Post. She said, “Our research shows that being always available is actually dysfunctional for everyone at some level.”

In Gallup’s research, the analysts found that over three-quarters of full-time American employees report that the ability to use mobile technology outside normal working hours is a somewhat to very positive development. What’s more, the research also revealed that one-third of full-time employees frequently check email outside of work hours, and that they are 17 percent more likely to report better overall lives compared to those that never check email outside of work. Gallup reports, “Similarly, workers who spend seven or more hours checking their email outside of work during a typical week are more likely to rate their overall lives highly than those who report zero hours of this activity.”

A Manager’s Solution
So is mobile technology really at fault for this unhealthy work ethic our society has created? We think not!

As more research from Gallup and Harvard reveals, employees’ work/life balance comes down to the relationship that they have with their managers, the expectations that their managers set for them, and the professional behavior that their managers model.

To help reign in the unhealthy 24/7-work mentality, check out Harvard Business Review’s three suggestions for focusing on developing “engaged employees” vs. “ideal workers:”

  1. Create your own multifaceted identity by cultivating your own non-work identities (i.e., a civic self, an athletic self, a family-oriented self, etc.).
  2. Minimize time-based rewards, like praising a consultant for a happy client that extends their partnership with your team vs. congratulating a consultant on reaching the “high-five” status with the client.
  3. Protect your employees’ personal lives by insisting on required vacations, regular leaves and reasonable work hours.

A Little More on Employee Engagement
While we strongly advocate for managers to nourish and grow “engaged employees,” we also applaud accounting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited’s suggestion to take even bigger steps to build an “irresistible workplace.” In a Deloitte published blog article titled Becoming Irresistible: A New Model for Employee Engagement, the company shares five elements that it considers are critical to fostering employees who are engaged, motivated and strike a good work/life balance: Meaningful WorkHands-on ManagementPositive Work EnvironmentGrowth Opportunity and Trust in Management. Some of Deloitte’s 20 recommended strategies for sustaining these five elements include a flexible work environment, transparency and honesty, continuous investment in people, autonomy, small and empowered teams, coaching, time for slack and investing in management development.

Do you have some tips for managers who want to help their employees feel more balanced and happy in their careers? Share your thoughts with us! We would love to hear your ideas!

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Dallas Right Now: October Events We Love

Finally, fall weather is around the corner! The State Fair of Texas is in full swing and we’re able to take advantage of being outdoors and enjoying Dallas.kayla-halloween

Here are few of our favorite October events and activities:

Seussical – “Oh, the thinks you can think” when Dr. Seuss’ best-loved characters collide and cavort in an unforgettable musical caper! The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, Mayzie LaBird, JoJo and others are your guides in this fantastical, magical exploration of family and friendship through the Jungle of Nool, Circus McGurkus and the tiny world of Whoville! Dallas Children’s Theater, October 1-23.

Shakespeare in the Park in Addison – The Tempest tells the tale of the exiled Duke of Milan, Prospero, and his daughter, Miranda, who have been abandoned on an island. Spurred on by revenge, Prospero causes a storm and shipwreck in order to gather all his enemies onto the island. Addison Circle Park, October 6-16.

Operation Kindness Pull for Puppies –  Charity tug of war tournament benefiting Operation Kindness – North Texas’ largest 100% no-kill animal shelter. Teams from all over Dallas/Fort Worth will be coming to McKinney, TX on Saturday, October 8th to play tug of war. If you love dogs, gather your team of six players and come and pull the rope for a great cause! Craig Ranch, October 8, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Dallas’ Best Tacos & Margaritas Tour – Sample both gourmet and street tacos on an adventure through such neighborhoods as East Dallas and Oak Cliff. Stops will include award-winning margaritas and tacos at Desperados, the No. 1 ranked taco venue in America. Note: at two stops there will be margaritas, at all will be tacos. Wear a sombrero if you have one! October 8.

Red River Showdown/TX-OU Game – Since 1900, it has become one of college football’s most eagerly anticipated games. The game usually has conference championship significance and, sometimes, national championship significance. Since 1945, one or both of the two teams has gone into the contest ranked among the top 25 teams more than 90 percent of the time. Cotton Bowl at Fair Park, October 8, 11 a.m.

Wipe Out Kids’ Cancer Spooktacular Sprint for the Children – Join the fight against childhood cancer by running or walking in the 31st Annual Run for the Children – “Spooktacular Sprint.” Costumes are encouraged! All proceeds benefit Wipe Out Kids’ Cancer, a DFW-based nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness and funding for childhood cancer research, as well as providing hope and support for children with cancer. Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, October 22.

Klyde Warren Park & Palate – Don’t miss one of the hottest culinary events in the city! Park & Palate, the park’s celebration of wine and food, will showcase the region’s most popular chefs as well as wineries, breweries and spirits from around the world, all against the backdrop of the distinctive Dallas skyline. Kyle Warren Park, October 21 and 22.

Boo at the Zoo – The Fort Worth Zoo’s family friendly Halloween celebration will ship the tricks and offer only treats for all guests to enjoy. Activities include a live animal stage show, a pumpkin patch, a Tot Spot, crafts and trick-or-treating. Wild Encounters keeper chats and Boo themed animal enrichment activities will take place at various exhibits in the Zoo. Fort Worth Zoo, October 28-30.

AIA Dallas Tour of Homes – Open to the public, this two-day event features self-guided tours through the finest residential architecture in Dallas. The event highlights unique residential design solutions, while illustrating the importance of working with an architect to achieve a high level of creative design. October 29 and 30.

Boo! Looking for a little haunted Halloween fun? Ghosts abound at our favorites –

  • The Boneyard – Boneyard Haunted House located in Dallas – Fort Worth features the perfect blend of high-tech effects and good old-fashioned Blood-n-Guts scare tactics. The Boneyard has new scenes, animatronics and movie quality props.
  • Cutting Edge Haunted House – Cutting Edge Haunted House is a dark attraction filled with terrifying live actors, amazing special effects and incredible monsters. Cutting Edge Haunted House is an intense, multi-story, multi-themed haunted attraction that is widely considered to be one of the best haunted houses in the nation, full of chilling detail and unbelievable scares!
  • Screams – Screams, presented by MetroPCS, is Haunted Houses and a whole lot more! Whatever you are afraid of, Screams will find it with three haunted houses, the CarnEvil Clown Maze and the ALL NEW Zombie Wasteland, providing a whole night of chills, thrills and guaranteed moments of terror for one low price! Do you dare tempt fate? Will you come out alive? FOR THE UNDEAD AWAIT!
  • Slaughterhouse – 16th year of fear, the longest running haunted house in Dallas County! Laughter House Meats has a long history of winning awards for taste and quality. Unfortunately years ago, the owners were murdered by a group of savage killer clowns that escaped a circus train, in the hopes of turning the meat processing plant into a sinister house of laughter and pain.

Have a fabulous Spooktacular October!

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The Job Search: It’s Game ON

The Job Search: It’s Game ON

So you’re looking for a job. You’ve updated your resume, researched the market, invested in a great interview ensemble and begun your process. Perhaps you’ve shared your resume with a job board or are working with a recruiter.

Now is the time to stop and realize – It’s Game On.

image1-6In everything (and I do mean everything) that you do and say from this point forward, you must be thoughtful and deliberate. The way that you personally interact and manage this process shows decision makers a great deal about the sort of employee you will be, and can make or break your chances of getting hired.

Your recruiter can be your biggest advocate in this process, but you must do your part. In a Good&Co article titled “20 Things Recruiters Want, But Won’t Tell You” they sum it up perfectly when they say, “Recruiters are evaluating everything to determine if you’re going to be a fit for the team, and every single action and communication – whether verbal, nonverbal, or written – can be the difference between getting a job or being passed over for another candidate.”

You must help us help you. Let me say that again. You MUST help US help YOU.

Here’s how:

  1. Be Timely. When a recruiter or a hiring manager calls, you have to respond quickly or they may move on to another candidate. Although you may be gainfully employed and unable to respond immediately, find creative ways to check in and be available for a meeting or interview. Early morning coffee, a call on the drive in, over a lunch break … be ready to be flexible and make it happen.
  2. Be Thoughtful. Know what you want and communicate it effectively. Dress the part. Be prepared. Ask good questions. Follow up. Although these things should be second nature for someone looking to get hired, they all too often are not. Represent yourself accordingly.
  3. Be Truthful. Although it is tempting to gloss over gaps in your resume or downplay touchy job situations, honesty with your recruiter is key. Address these issues pragmatically, honestly and with an eye towards lessons learned.
  4. Be Realistic. Are you changing industries? Are you transitioning from a corporate environment to a startup? You may need to make some trade-offs. Be realistic about the benefits and downfalls of each side of the aisle, and know when to give a little.

While the job market has improved recently, competition is still fierce. Don’t bomb your job search. If you come to the table prepared and professional, your recruiter can be your greatest ally in this process. Don’t give anyone a reason to rule you out.

It’s Game On!

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