Where You Fit: Understanding Your Role on the Team

“Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
– Vince Lombardi, American football coach.

Here is the weekly roundup of activity from Laura Stack’s blog, columns, podcast, and other featured articles. Scroll down to read the complete roundup of productivity resources to help you create Maximum Results in Minimum Time.

This week on the Blog

Where You Fit: Understanding Your Role on the Team

Where You Fit: Understanding Your Role on the Team by Laura Stack #productivityIn some ways, the modern workplace represents an odd bundle of contradictions. At one level, each of us focuses on our own careers, the goal being to work our way up the ladder until we reach a comfortable spot—or even the top. We expect others to see to their own well-being and careers. But on another level, because we’re a cooperative species, we also tend to help each other with mentoring, recommendations, advice, getting our feet in the door, etc. And almost all of us work on teams, where we have no choice but to help each other and work cooperatively if we expect to produce quality work that gets us noticed and rewarded by our superiors.

Individual effort can build a home, work a small farm, or sail a ship to a nearby island. Group effort builds skyscrapers, multibillion-dollar agribusinesses, and spacecraft capable of taking astronauts to the Moon and safely returning them to the Earth.

Team effort changes the world for the better every single day. You may not always see the benefits arising from your own team’s work, but if you produce at a consistently high level, you almost certainly move your team and organization closer to their ultimate goals. One way to ensure you’ve hitched yourself to a star is to know intimately your role within the team, including how your knowledge, skills, abilities, and work ethic mesh with those of the co-workers with whom you work daily. When you maximize the power of your personal role, you inevitably boost team performance.

The Basics 

Most likely, your manager hired you and your colleagues because you offered specific skills to the team they wanted to build. You and your teammates probably display some level of overlap, so you can cover for each other during vacations and sick days, or more easily break projects into separate chunks you can then put back together later. That said, your specific role may vary slightly different for each project you work on.

If you don’t already know, make a point of learning, by heart, your job description whenever you join a new work team. Write it yourself if necessary. Consider your job description a bare minimum of what the company expects of you. ( ←CLICK TO TWEET) Don’t let it limit you, however, as it’s your goal to stretch beyond it and move up. Therefore, never say the dreaded words “That’s not in my job description,” because you and the company will face change and must embrace it to continue to thrive. If you can’t be replaced, you can never leave your status quo job. Be very clear about who you produce for and report to. Beyond your immediate coworkers, study how everyone else fits together in your team or group. This may be something you can determine by individually getting to know your teammates and observing them in action. However you learn it, take it to heart; discover how you fit in best, why you’re valuable, and how to adapt if called upon to cover for someone or move into another position.

Most managers set performance expectations for each person on the team. Do the same for yourself, raising your personal expectations a notch. This ensures higher performance, and it’s easy to raise the bar once the existing ones becomes too easy to hit. Don’t allow boredom or a fear of running out of work slow you down. If you’re revving too far ahead of all your teammates, they may be motivated to match your higher performance level—and if not, who cares—do it for yourself.

Connecting Your Gifts, Passions, and Strengths to your Performance 

We all have our talents, special interests, and passions we hone over time with repetition. Think about which of your abilities you improve or add to your current role to boost performance on a team level. You can do so either as part of your work or in an extracurricular sense. If you have a legendary sense of humor, maybe you can take on an unofficial role as team morale officer. Are you a gifted writer? Write a team newsletter or contribute the team’s column for the company newsletter. Have a passion for life, an ability to love your work? Inject it into your daily tasks, to get more work done and help your teammates do more as well.

Meanwhile, strengthen your best skills; and knowing what other people on your team do, boost your personal ROI by learning how to do their tasks as well. Cross-training is already a good idea; but if your manager doesn’t provide it, provide your own. If another, better-paying position comes open, you can toss your hat into the ring with a better chance of prevailing if you already know the job and have a reputation for top-quality work.

Fit in Everywhere 

The best machines have very low tolerances, meaning the parts have to fit perfectly in order to maximize performance. Teams where each worker knows his or her place and how to maximize their skills for it produce top-notch results. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up your ambitions for something higher. Unlike a chunk of metal, you can change your tolerances, and I recommend you make them as high as possible. Yes, study your situation closely so you know how to improve your work where you currently fit, but take the time—either on your own dime, or through a company improvement program—to add to your personal ROI by adding to your skills. Knowing where you fit and how to fit better doesn’t mean you’re sentenced to staying in the same place forever. You can also learn other roles, and how to fit in there as well—and should, whenever you have the chance. So you can provide value now AND move on. 

This week on LinkedIn:

Leadership by Consensus: The Self-Sustaining Team

Leadership by Consensus: The Self-Sustaining Team by Laura Stack #productivityThere’s an approach to business leadership call “Management by Exception,” where the team leader allows their team or work group to go about its merry way without much in the way of guidance, intervening only when something goes seriously wrong. Read More on LinkedIn.

In the news:

Don’t delegate that! 3 tasks managers should never pass off at HR Morning

Recommended Articles:

How to Be More Decisive and Get More Done

Effective Project Management: Working From 5 To 9


Tune in this week as Laura talks about Getting Clarity of Outcomes for Decision-Making.

© 2015 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and in 2015 was inducted into its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401 or visit her website.