How to be the person everyone wants on their team

One of my friends who’s an opera director was recently tagged in a post on Facebook with a link to an article listing 20 Ways To Be The Actor Everyone Wants to Work With. At first glance most of it seemed entirely theatre-related; with only a little imagination however, several items on the list could be translated into more general advice on how to be the sort of person that others really want to have on their team (and yes, that includes leading the team).

  1. Meetings start at EXACTLY the time specified. I know they often don’t, but you should act as if they do. And this means that helping yourself to coffee, or catching up with a colleague about an unrelated matter should always happen before the start time. It’s a slippery slope when people get to think “meetings never start on time here, so why bother trying”. Thinking you’re so important that everyone else can wait for you is not just rude, it’s a sign of rampant narcissism.
  2. If it’s totally unavoidable that you’ll be late (be honest, is it really?), let someone know in advance. This way people can get going without wondering where you are. When you finally do arrive, don’t make a grand entrance, apologising for the traffic, the weather or your dog throwing up. Slip in quietly so you don’t disrupt whatever’s going on. And please don’t ever, EVER come in holding a take-away coffee – if you had time to stop and buy that, you could have arrived earlier.
  3. Turn off your phone and other electronic devices unless they’re 100% necessary (again, are they really?). You may think it good use of your time to catch up with your emails during a discussion that doesn’t really concern you, but it’s distracting to others and probably means you won’t be entirely focussed when your input is needed.
  4. Do your homework. Read papers thoroughly before meetings so you know what’s going to be discussed and have given some proper thought to what input you can add, or what questions you want answered. Don’t try and wing it, and don’t waste everyone’s time by asking for information that’s already been provided.
  5. Let others to do their homework. Submit papers far enough in advance of a meeting so that people can read and consider them. Don’t play power games by springing a surprise on everyone and raising a really important issue under any other business.
  6. If anyone gives you feedback, ask questions so you really understand what they’re saying. Don’t get defensive or try and justify your actions. Thank them for what they’ve said, take a note of it so you can reflect on it later. If appropriate, let them know what action you’ve taken.
  7. Think carefully about giving other people feedback. For whose benefit is it? If it’s for them, fine; if it’s just to get something off your chest or show how clever you are, keep your mouth shut.
  8. You won’t get on with everyone, but you can always act professionally. Don’t whinge about them to anyone who’ll listen, or rant about them on social media.
  9. Find out what others need from you and make sure you deliver it promptly. Respecting other people’s work is hugely important, even if its relevance to you doesn’t seem immediately apparent.
  10. Don’t use other people’s equipment without asking, and always return it to its proper place (and if you use up the last of the photocopier paper, fill it up again or tell the relevant person immediately).
  11. Don’t look for ways to get out of the boring bits of your job hoping someone else will pick up the pieces.  Every job has its less glamorous bits – just learn how to do them quickly and well.
  12. It’s great to want to try out something new. Think however about how it may impact on others and discuss it with them before you start playing around with what’s already been agreed.

I’ll leave with one of the final thoughts from the article that inspired this post. I haven’t transposed the setting as I think the sentiment is clear enough as it stands:

‘The only person who can do whatever she wants is Barbra Streisand. You are not Barbra Streisand. Unfortunately, none of us are’