| Career Zone – We’ve got this: Triumphing through teamwork
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Career Zone – We’ve got this: Triumphing through teamwork

By Stuart Karasik

Note: This column is updated from one originally published in 2020. We're sharing it again to support the career growth and success of water professionals.

One of my strongest insights from the pandemic period we’re working our way out of is: effective teamwork can make or break our success. 

Career ZoneAs many of us have experienced in the workplace, at home, and even in our communities -- our individual ability to move forward is often dependent on the contributions of all of us. This can be as simple as filling in for someone who is sick, or as complicated as diving into new technologies so as to virtually meet the needs of our customers.

Fortunately, we don’t usually face such monumental challenges and uncertainty in our daily work. However, we can all benefit from recognizing the importance of teamwork to accomplish what needs to be done. 

As we all continue to feel our way into the “new normal,” it’s worth considering how to best be a contributing team member in whatever work environment we find ourselves. Below are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Be ready, willing and able to take on any role that helps the team achieve its goals. You may not think you have the necessary knowledge, skills or abilities, but your co-workers value your contributions. You may even open some career doors.
  2. Avoid being a prima donna or wall flower. Your team’s success correlates directly with how much input each and every member provides. Remember, it’s a team, and not all about you.
  3. When your team achieves a success, congratulate your teammates first before taking any credit. Everybody worked hard and made a key contribution to reach this milestone.
  4. Pay attention to detail, research, data collection and analysis, planning and implementation. You can’t be an effective teammate if you only show up for the grand finale! Rehearsals are just as important. Abraham Lincoln once said, “in cutting down a tree, I spend 75 percent of my time sharpening the ax and 25 percent cutting.”
  5. Listen to others and be open to suggestions. Honest and constructive feedback is a gift that helps you improve. 
  6. Support those on your team who are having difficulty meeting their individual project goals. We all appreciate and benefit from someone willing to help out. On the other hand, if you need assistance, don’t be afraid to ask for and accept it.  
  7. Make sure to help your newest employees who are teammates. They may hold back because of their lack of experience or knowledge (or because they’ve only met you virtually!) but they can add valuable perspectives.
  8. Grow from your mistakes as well as your successes. Failure can be a very effective teacher. Research has shown that people learn much more, and more effectively, from their failures than their successes.

Successful team members contribute to processes and goals through their different personalities and strengths, and even their weaknesses and neuroses. As Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager and other leadership books, said, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

Stuart Karasik spent most of his career in the human resources/personnel arena. He has a Ph.D. in education, a master’s in biology, and was the training program manager for the City of San Diego. More career resources and job opportunities are available at AWWA’s Career Center and at Work for Water.