Team Members

Customer Service Teamwork: Beware the Sticklers

 

Do you have team members who are sticklers for procedures and policies yet care a great deal about the customers?  Wonder why I am asking?

 

As I work with leaders on customer service teamwork in diverse companies, I see them struggle with this very question.  Are the problems that rigid team members create outweighed by their caring hearts? 


Customer service teamwork: Image is heart shaped handcuffs

Customer Service Teamwork: Sticklers w/ Hearts of Gold

Image licensed from Istock.com

Customer Service Teamwork: Define It & Solve the Problem!

The good news is that this struggle doesn’t have to exist. Leaders actually create the struggle by mistakenly connecting these two issues in an either/or relationship. Unlink the either/or view. You can have both — caring customer service and agile teamwork!


And here’s some even better news for you leaders: You can ensure teams never struggle with this by defining what great customer service teamwork is.

    The standard definition of teamwork — a group working together toward a common goal — sets you all up for the struggle. Each team member defines working together from their own comfort zone. Those who love the safety of procedures, cling to them.
    If instead you use this definition — teamwork is adapting and growing to reach a common success — you eliminate the confusion and most of the struggle.



The rest of the struggle may be inside of you as leaders. Ask yourselves these questions to work through your concerns:

  • Do you prefer that team members stick closely to procedures? Perhaps it makes you feel secure. Being honest with yourself on this point is essential. If your answer is yes, then make it clear to all team members so they won’t struggle about this issue. Although customer service may not be as great as it could be with agile teams, at least team members won’t needlessly battle amongst themselves.

  • Do you want team members to be flexible yet fear the necessary coaching conversations with the rigid team members? These conversations do not have to be antagonistic or riddled with conflict.

    Base these conversations on the newer definition of teamwork above. Unearth their concerns about being flexible on procedures. Discuss parameters for varying from procedures to serve the customer. By connecting it to their caring side, you make it a bit easier for these team members to grow.


  • How do you feel about asking others to grow and change? If you want to be liked or feel like an ogre by asking others to grow, you trap yourselves in the struggle. Focus on creating outstanding customer service teamwork and the team members’ potential to grow and achieve it. This mental shift lifts you and everyone beyond the struggle.




Inflexible team members — the sticklers — create many problems for customer service teamwork. They can divide the team into camps. They drag morale as others get frustrated with their intransigence. They snarl the flow of success as others detour around them.


Such an unnecessary mess! Define with the teams what customer service teamwork is and what behaviors produce it. Model it and guide everyone toward the success of agility.


When you overlook team problems, success overlooks the team.


What successes have you had in developing team agility? I am very interested to help you go further. How can I help you?



From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
Adaptability is Genius & Generosity
5 Essentials to Building 21st Century Teams
Customer Experience Leaders: Remove the Never Ever Rules

©2013 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please first contact me via email info@katenasser.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.


Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

Professional relationships take time to develop and along the way they go through a few ups and downs. Those with outstanding people-skills smooth the bumpy ride by handling a critical moment with ease.

What is the one moment? The please don’t moment.

The ease and success in handling this moment comes from the courage and confidence to handle it from the heart without fear of looking weak.

People-Skills: The Critical Moment to Handle With Ease Image via Istock.

Image by: Istock


People-Skills: The Critical Moment to Handle With Ease
When someone asks you to stop doing something that bugs them, what is your response?

Do you …

  1. Give a list of reasons why you do it?
  2. Snipe something to suggest they are being demanding, irrational, unprofessional, or childish for asking?
  3. Take offense and avoid the person when possible?

These answers are quite common. They come from (the ego) interpreting the request as a criticism or from the embarrassment of having troubled someone.

These answers also commonly block productivity and true success. They paint you as someone who doesn’t care about easing someone’s day by accommodating a simple request. They leave a scar that stands between you and them and all that you can achieve together.


Conversely, those who achieve tremendous success, handle this moment from the heart: “Sure, of course if it makes you happy. Thanks for telling me. I’m grateful.” This is not a sign of weakness. It shows a caring mature insight to give on the issues that help people work well together.

From the heart never fails.

For years I have been doing a special pet peeve exercise with new teams to prevent strife and with existing teams to resolve it. It has been in the top 5 “most valuable” moments in the team development workshops for it gets people used to asking for what they need and comfortable giving what others need.




There are serious issues that leaders and team members must address together. Success is fueled by clearing up the simple strife with care and creating tremendous success with those caring bonds of respect.

So, what will be your answer the next time someone says, please don’t …. ? In a split second, you can sink into defensiveness or shine by caring for those around you with outstanding people-skills. What choice will speak the truth about you? What choice will give the biggest boost to your career?


Have a question on how to handle a particular pet peeve or moment of strife? Feel free to pose your question in the comment section below or email me for a private reply.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email info@katenasser.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.


Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

A Salute to the Second Bananas in the Workplace!

25 Incredibly Valuable Things to Be Instead of Leader

People who strive for a leadership position are held in higher esteem than those who do not. A second-class message lingers about employees who do not strive to move up the ladder — despite their vast contributions to the end goal.

We can work to replace this misguided culture with communication and action that change the dynamic and truly value the entire team.

The benefits to the organizations and employees abound.

  • Retention of high performing team members and their knowledge and finely honed teamwork.
  • An abundance mentality rather than a fight for the leadership spots.
  • A flourishing collaboration as people experience true recognition rather than a skew toward those who strive for the title of leader.

This is the zone of true employee engagement. It highlights contributions not just as tests for future leadership slots but also as a celebration of the employee’s continuing value. People can grow and excel at what they do well rather than feign interest in a leadership position to avoid being seen as an underachiever.

25 Incredibly Valuable Things to Be

In addition to occupational skills and business knowledge, people have natural talents and people-skills abilities that deliver success to the organization.


  1. A great collaborator. Those who have natural collaboration skills or have developed them through years of work are a definite asset to any team.
  2. A memory bank. Even the greatest computers don’t replace someone with a memory for BOTH what has transpired AND the human impact and reaction to it. This memory bank becomes the team’s intuition and collective gut for in-the-moment decisions.
  3. A motivator. Those who inspire themselves and others to higher levels bring every organization to unimagined success.
  4. A velvet truth teller. These naturals at speaking the truth honestly not brutally deliver the soft strength of trust to an organization and its pursuits.
  5. A creative. Having a creative on a team whose function is not primarily creative expands the team’s capacity to work on non-standard requests and its ability to work with creative departments.
  6. An innovator. Those who love and deliver innovation fuel evolution and prevent the failure that comes from inertia and resistance to change.
  7. A supporter. Supporters naturally anticipate needs, fill gaps, and often excel at last minute problem solving. Valuable for any team.
  8. An empathizer. Teamwork needs more than occupational skills to succeed. It needs people with emotional intelligence who can sustain each other. An empathizer does this easily and well and helps all to rise above tough times to reach the goal.
  9. A sounding board. This ability to know exactly when to listen and when to question while allowing others to own their progression uplifts all who experience this gift.
  10. A get-it-done guy/gal. Without action, ideas die. The follow-through champs drive home success.
  11. A healthy skeptic. Skeptics abound and often drown progress. Healthy skeptics challenge assumptions and prevent groupthink to keep progress flowing.
  12. A critical thinker. Often tapped for a leadership position yet not always interested or successful as a leader. Their value to any team is undisputed.
  13. A port in a storm. Those who can keep the calm for themselves and others during unexpected chaos keep the team balanced and performing during the blasts.
  14. A practical philosopher. Philosophical insights can sustain morale, move all beyond obstacles, and even solve problems. When applied with a simultaneous eye for the practical, the practical philosopher sees solutions that others overlook.
  15. A balance beam. Employees that see both sides of every issue, easily give and take, have hope yet still understand despair, love the present and adapt to the future, become the solid base of success for the whole team.
  16. A sprinter. Bursts of winning energy help every team handle sudden changes and requests, jump the hurdles, and win the day.
  17. A marathoner. Picture a grueling project that is not a sprint. Marathoners are an endless pump of energy, hope, and action during the long haul.
  18. A billboard of diversity. An employee who is of mixed culture, has lived in different countries, grew up with parents of different generations, etc… can bring a valuable renaissance of open-mindedness to the organization and resulting success.
  19. A nexus of personality types. Personality type differences can often be the source of discord. People who border the different personality types (and yes they do exist), help smooth the rough edges and blend the diversity into success.
  20. A double cookie. This is a phrase I coined for people who have great capacity to use their left and right brains together. Instead of being heavily left brain or tipping over to the creative right side, double cookies deliver the power of creative analysis and the big picture. They can spot when the team is trapped on either side or in a war between the two. They spotlight the juncture for team success.
  21. An intuitive. Historically, workplace cultures have marginalized the value of intuition. That is slowly changing to embrace intuitives’ gift of the gut to speed team success.
  22. An organizer. The natural organizer clears the path of complexity for all to reach simple success.
  23. A transplant. The employee who has worked in many industries, or professions, or departments in the organization delivers the single greatest advantage to reducing silos. Let us not label them as unreliable. Let us benefit from their broad vision.
  24. A rainmaker. This rare ability to create opportunities and attract new customers is not just for sales departments. A rainmaker fuels cross teamwork. A rainmaker can energize any team to the highest level of spirited performance.
  25. A communicator. Great communication was, is, and will be the essential fuel and necessary glue of any organization. Celebrate those who do it well and let them be the model for the organization.


What must leaders do to salute these talents and their second bananas who have them?

    Overcome the historical myth that those who don’t want to climb the ladders are lazy. Global success does not proceed vertically. Companies must reach outward not just upward. Organizations who “get this”, retain the talent.

    Change compensation schemes that claim there must be some who outperform others and base bonuses on that scheme. When you retain tremendous talent who are feeding success, make sure you give them all the fruits of their labor.

    Change compensation schemes that automatically pay more if someone switches into a management/leadership position. This has been discussed for years as the dual track issue and some organizations have made great strides.

    Give testimonials on high performers to other departments. Employees who don’t want to climb the ladder may want to broaden their experience by working in other areas of the organization. When a leader praises their talents to other department leaders, that leader is saluting the employee’s talent. The leader is fueling the employee’s career success and the organization’s as well.



I look forward to the day when job interviewees will be respected for answering the question, Tell us a little about yourself, with “I’m a balance beam” or “I’m a velvet truth teller”. When companies change their vertical mindset to a broader talent view, they attract and retain the best.


From your unique perspective, what would you add to the list of 25 to make it a list of 50 valuable things to be? I welcome your contribution in the comments field below.

Many thanks!

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
Leaders, 12 Worthy Kudos to Spark Employee Engagement
Beneath the Exterior, What Do Leaders See In You?
5 Psychologically Uncomfortable Career Shaping Opportunities

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email info@katenasser.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.


Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

In a recent meeting, someone once again quoted the maxim “there is no I in team”. The adage sprang from good intentions — to focus all on the team goal above personal pet peeves.

Admittedly, it has inspired many people who were raised on sacrifice over self and worked as a metaphorical bat with self-centered people to refocus them on the team goal.

Meanwhile, it is a disincentive to many who are inspired to maximum commitment by contributing who they are to the bigger success. Hitting them with the same “there is no you” bat is the exact opposite of what they need to hear.

Employee Engagement: A bat might not create the magic home run for the team. Image by:lambdachialpha

Employee Engagement: The Magic of the I's in Team Image by:Purple Phoenix




When we use an inspirational wand instead of a bat, we engage employees with the magic of the I’s in team:


  • Insight emerges from an individual’s unique experiences and views. This “I” is critical to the vitality of any business. Squelch it and we gift other companies the competitive edge.

  • Integrity lives within a person as they work in the organizational culture leaders create. “There is no I in team” confuses the inner voice of integrity with the risk of being labeled a whistle blowing non-team player. We can silence the voices of integrity to the detriment of the organization or clearly champion integrity as a critical “I” in team.

  • Initiative may well be the one living force that a business can’t live without. We must create a positive environment where all team members feel inspired to imagine, invent, improve, and initiate for team success.

    The old adage “there is no I in team” doesn’t light the fuse of initiative in today’s workforce. The request, “initiate team success with your talents”, does!


  • Individual talents are the essence of our hiring investment. We grow that investment by acknowledging the diverse talents and mentoring them into the light of team goals and organizational success.

  • Invaluable diversity gives teams their greatest successes and challenges. It is in the kaleidoscope of diversity we are likely to encounter the risky power of personal pet peeves.

    It is here we are most likely to spout out in frustration, “there is no I in team”, hoping to trigger flexibility from each. Yet, it is far better to coach the team from diversity to a unity of success than to neutralize diversity to achieve give and take.

  • Help the team learn about and from each other as people and see the bonds of individual respect and teamwork grow.



Capture the Magic of the I’s in Team

Leaders, managers, team leads, supervisors resist the urge for neutralize individuality:

  1. Recognize the individual strengths that complement and unite to overcome the toughest challenges.

    If you have a rewards/recognition budget at the end of a tough project, reward each team member in a unique way as well as the team’s efforts and collective success. Beyond a team celebration, give small individualized gifts (gift card noting “for your next fishing trip”, or “to revel in your favorite dance video” or “for your favorite author’s next book”). Go one step further and encourage all to use an internal company social media site to share their reflections on how they enjoyed the gift or what they love about their hobby.

  2. Coach each employee to learn from each others’ strengths. It turns diversity driven conflict into personal best with generous restraint.

    “Unity, not uniformity, must be our aim. We attain unity through variety.” ~Mary Parker Follett

  3. Honor team members with well-earned individual praise as well as team kudos. Your recognition and care for them as individuals engages self-sacrifice and contribution. It also models this behavior into a culture of peer to peer recognition and give and take.


There are many I’s in team and we can spark infinite commitment and unparalleled success when we capture the magic of the “I’s” we hired!

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

Related Post:
Teamwork Gems Create Startling Results

12 Worthy Kudos to Spark Employee Engagement

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email info@katenasser.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.


Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

Leaders, unchecked passive aggressive behavior in the workplace impacts the dynamics and potential success of teams. Those affected feel used, manipulated, and disrespected.

Passive aggressive is less direct not less aggressive.

It is just as hostile as straight out aggression and can obstruct both morale and results. It erodes a key component of teamwork and engagement — trust.

It can disengage employees from each other IF we allow it. How do we become accomplices to passive aggressive team members?

Leaders, Are You an Accomplice To Passive Aggressive Team Members Image by:korafotomorgana

The Pattern

Spot the pattern of passive aggressive behavior in order to eliminate its ruinous effect on your team’s success.

Passive aggressive team members will:

  1. Interrupt another team member who is speaking to us with a quick “sorry” yet no real acknowledgment of the other person’s presence. Or they will smile and say to the other person “You don’t mind do you?” They cover lack of manners with fake manners.
  2. Restate exactly what another team member just said as if it’s their own idea.
  3. Use subtle sarcasm against another team member and call it humor.
  4. Intellectualize instead of apologize. When faced with evidence of their bad behavior, they are known to say “I wonder why I did that?” instead of “I am terribly sorry.” Or they repeat their bad behavior even with apologies.
  5. Use neutral statements instead of true empathy. Effective team members support each other. Passive aggressive team members appear to support others. Facing a distraught team member, a passive aggressive would say something like “Yes, it is difficult, isn’t it?” A supportive team member would more likely say, “How can I help? Let’s look at it and find a solution.”
  6. Hold others to a very high standard of behavior and call them on it publicly. “Well you wouldn’t want to be known as the one who didn’t help out, would you?”
  7. Use apparently logical reasons to undermine others’ success — and then ask them if they mind. Example: As requested, a team member prepared a presentation for the next team meeting on a technology they were developing for all to use. The passive aggressive team member monopolized the meeting with discussion and at the end of the meeting said: Oh we won’t have time for your presentation today. Does it bother you?”


The Impact

Mistrust, anger, resentment, and disengagement are the most damaging impacts of passive aggressive behavior on the organization and its results. If we as leaders do nothing to prevent it or cure it, team members begin to mistrust us as well.

Strong driver type leaders become an accomplice to this behavior with their sole focus on results. They dismiss outcries of passive aggressive behavior with: “Just focus on the work.”

High amiable type leaders, who love harmony in relationships, often dismiss passive aggressive “Oh they didn’t mean anything by it.” They are now accomplice to this damaging behavior.

Strong analytic leaders may overlook the passive aggressive behavior claiming they don’t have enough data to prove it’s happening. They become accomplices through the misnomer that if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist. A ridiculous tenet.

High expressive leaders are so connected into the exchange of information they become accomplices by not seeing the manner of expression.

The Solution

  1. Check our own behavior. Ensure that you are not passive aggressive. Team members model the leader.
  2. Ask yourself, am I afraid of conflict? That doesn’t mean that you are passive aggressive yet you are at a high risk of not addressing it. Get coaching on overcoming your fear of conflict and you become a far better leader!
  3. Have the entire team develop a list of high performance team member behaviors. Clear expectations of behavior are one way to develop a culture of positive interaction and give everyone a mechanism for discussing negative behaviors.
  4. Provide training on how to disagree without being disagreeable. A team’s diverse opinions are its strength. The way they communicate is its lifeblood.
  5. Illustrate the difference between diplomacy and passive aggressive. Passive aggressives often mislabel their subtle behavior as tact when in truth it’s venom.
  6. Be willing to spot and address the behavior even in a top performer. Singular results only contribute a portion of success. Behavior impacts morale with accounts for much of success.
  7. Teach and use engaging meeting management techniques. Stop bad behavior in it’s tracks so all will fully engage as they feel valued and respected.
  8. Watch for and dismantle cliques. Not all cliques are passive aggressive. Yet many of them are and in any case are harmful to a positive team culture.

As leaders we have an organizational responsibility to engage team members for positive morale and highest quality results.

We also have an ethical responsibility to create a non-hostile environment where all receive basic respect and an opportunity to fully contribute.

Passive aggressive behavior is a virus that can infect the team and kill results. Let’s prevent it or at least be the cure.




Question: What other passive aggressive behaviors have you spotted and how have you handled them?


From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

Related Post: Leaders, A Pain Free Journey to Employee Accountability

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please first email info@katenasser.com for terms of use. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.


Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on employee engagement, leading change, teamwork, and customer service & experience. Kate turns interaction obstacles into business success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

For decades, leaders have heard the same outcry from customer service, call center, and technical support teams: “We have to treat the customers well even when they are yelling at us. Why do they get treated better than they treat us?”

Service and support leaders, managers, and team leads ask me: “Kate, how do we counter that?  Beyond our efforts to treat team members well, what’s the answer to this endless outcry?”

It depends on what you think the team members seek. If you hear it as an outcry for equality and fairness, you might be tempted to say “because they are the customers” or the old standard “the customer is always right.” Your reply affirms that it is not an equal relationship.

Well fairness and equality may be part of what customer service and tech support teams want. Everyone deserves to be treated with basic human respect and most organizations do not tolerate true verbal abuse on either side.

Customer Service & Tech Support Leaders: Do You Hear the Envy?


Nonetheless, the outcry continues.


I can assure you, after 23 years of training these wonderful teams, that the other part of the outcry is envy. 

It’s understandable how agents, reps, analysts, and associates could envy the customers’ privilege of:


  1. Showing anger and dissatisfaction; they can’t.
  2. Receiving help; they give it and often don’t get help from other teams.
  3. Participating in industry conferences; they rarely see the light of day.
  4. Attending training for professional growth; they have limited access.
  5. Having time to work projects completely; they are expected to perform well while simultaneously clearing the queue.
  6. Working a regular schedule with holidays and weekends off; they often work shifts or are on-call.
  7. Being respected and valued; few top leaders recognize service and support as vital to the organization.



Leaders, The Impact of Envy in Customer Service
The risk and impact of this envy is worthy of your attention.

  • Unchecked envy emphasizes the feelings of unworthiness and diverts valuable focus.
  • It stops teams from consistently delivering the ultimate in customer service. If their heads and hearts don’t love being in service, they won’t.
  • It impacts the teamwork critical to delivering outstanding service.
  • Unaddressed envy can fuel high staff turnover. Some turnover is healthy for service teams. High levels are a warning sign of a service organization in trouble.

Understanding this has given many leaders the chance to cultivate a non-envy culture that inspires and delivers service greatness.
Through workshops, we have helped the front line managers, supervisors, team leads, and staff to replace envy of customers’ privileges with pride in:

  • Breadth of knowledge
  • Continuous learning through experience
  • Great ease and style in working with people — valuable and not everyone has this prowess
  • Multi-tasking and ability to work under pressure
  • Professional skill of being empathetic and objective — many doctors don’t even have this
  • Inspiring yourself and others to excellence

To build and sustain a non-envy service culture, help service team members discover a sense of fulfillment. Fulfillment squelches envy whether it comes from their family life, years of work experience, inner peace, gratitude for having a job, comparison to previous jobs, or a tremendous high from reaching results in the face of adversity. Important note: I rarely hear the cry of envy from service team members who are fulfilled in other ways.

Successful leaders feed fulfillment:

  1. Show appreciation and recognition for service team’s work.
  2. Help them build a positive service team identity.
  3. Work with your peer leaders of non-customer facing teams to build the cross teamwork for shared success and recognition.
  4. Declare your vision of team greatness and ask them for their insight on how to achieve it. Asking engages them to pride of ownership.

  5. Offer training to develop their professional skills. Budget for temps to cover service demands while service team members present a case study of their achievements at an industry conference.

Face team problems, like envy, stress, and morale, and your teams will achieve success.

I look forward to helping you take your customer service and tech support teams from inspiration to action.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
Leaders, 12 Worthy Kudos to Spark Employee Engagement
The Ultimate Customer Experience – Challenge of Excellence (video with sound)

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please first email info@katenasser.com for terms of use. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.


Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on customer service, customer experience, teamwork, and leading change. For 23 years, she has turned interaction obstacles into business success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer testimonials and results.

Leaders, what behavior do you expect among team members? This is not a trivial question especially if you are new to leadership.

How you define teamwork shapes how you will inspire, lead, and facilitate or solve team difficulties.

Beyond the expectation that all work together to produce success is often the unstated hidden set of expectations that can silently unsettle or even destroy teamwork.

If you are a new leader, it’s valuable to sit back and admit to yourself your definition of teamwork.  With clarity of your basic beliefs, you and the teams can have a better discussion to define teamwork.

New Leaders: 10 Gritty Questions to Define Teamwork

10 Gritty Questions to Better Define Teamwork


  1. Does teamwork mean blunt frankness, diplomatic honesty, or ultimate polite respect? Team members have diverse styles. One blunt team member can offend others. One ultra polite team member can confuse others and fall short. What do you value and expect of them?

  2. Does teamwork require caring for each other personally? If yes, to what extent? What if a team member has a serious illness in their family and amasses debt? Does teamwork mean that all show empathy and donate money to help out? Can a person be a good team member and not do that?

  3. What if people don’t like each other personally but pull together to achieve success? Does that meet your definition of teamwork?

  4. If one team member has a critical specialized skill or achieves more, does that entitle them to extra respect, special treatment, or more recognition from you? It happens and your view of it impacts teamwork.

  5. Do you expect the team to work out their own interpersonal difficulties? There is much debate about this today. Some say yes and others see the leader as a valuable team facilitator.

  6. What do you expect of existing team members when new members join? Would you expect them to actively welcome team members for quick integration? What if they are a bit skeptical and hold back to see what team members have to offer? Is that teamwork to you?

  7. How will your teams work with other teams? Great teamwork within a team can sometimes stifle cross teamwork. What is your view and how would you address this issue?

  8. Tight team member relationships produce one of the toughest teamwork issues – whistle blowing. What would you want a team member to do if aware of unethical behavior, bullying, or major mistakes by another team member? Is whistle blowing a duty or disloyalty to the team?

  9. Disagreements occur. What place and purpose do they have in teamwork? Do you expect high levels of harmony or do you see value in discord?

  10. How will you assess teamwork? By the interaction and end results or just end results? If you view only the end results, the team may think your expectations of their interaction as inconsistent and illogical.

When a leader asks me to improve team function, I ask the leader to paint their view for me and I speak separately with the team members. The comparison unearths the gaps and sketches a road map to high performance and success.

What is teamwork to you? I look forward to understanding your definition and working with you and your teams!


From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please first email info@katenasser.com for terms of use. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Related Posts:

    Insights on Handling a Self-Serving High Performing Team Member
    Team Whistle Blowing: Duty or Disloyalty?

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on customer service & experience, teamwork, and leading change. Kate turns interaction obstacles into business success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

And 6 Tips To Quiet Noisy Knowledge!

Most leaders and teams hope their knowledge and experience will serve them well. We listen to it for guidance during uncertainty. Yet in times of change, is our knowledge too noisy to listen to new ideas?

Leaders, Is Our Knowledge Too Noisy to Listen to Change?




How can knowledge serve us and our teams well if it screams inside when new ideas don’t fit it? Consider that:

    Knowledge and experience are on a list of common listening barriers.


    Interesting recent study results from the University of Pennsylvania suggest people are biased against creative (new) ideas.






So what does it matter?



Key Concerns About Noisy Knowledge

    Is timely innovation in the workplace possible with bias against creative ideas that challenge existing knowledge?

    When knowledge and experience are a buoy during times of change, will people ease their grip on that buoy — early on — to listen and consider creative, innovative ideas?

    What are the risks of allowing noisy knowledge to slow or stop innovation? It happens and often in the shadows.



Quiet Noisy Knowledge With Awareness

  1. Bring the issue into the light with your teams. Start using the phrase “noisy knowledge” as a cue with yourself and anyone in the room who is not listening to new ideas.

  2. Position new ideas as new knowledge. If knowledge is the buoy, you can add more to the buoy instead of letting go of it. New knowledge is the buoy of security for continued success.

  3. Note aloud the emotional reactions to the new ideas. Then put aside the emotion to consider the substance of the ideas. By separating the emotion from the thinking, new ideas have a chance! “My emotional reaction is …, now let me consider the idea.”

  4. Ask yourself and others, how is my/your noisy knowledge impacting others, the business, and success? We are each responsible for the energy we bring to or drain from a workplace, a meeting, or a moment.

  5. Leaders, consider having everyone take a social styles indicator (Amiable, Expressive, Analytic, Driver) so that everyone can own their type and understand how others communicate. Communication styles affect listening!

  6. In advance of any major change initiative, help yourself and team members identify everyone’s change reactions. The KAI (Kirton Adaptive Innovation Inventory) is a great instrument to help each person see how open s/he is to change. Once known, then owned and managed!



The need for comfort and security is understandable. The need for timely change, inevitable. The pathway for both, around the noisy knowledge, is awareness, ownership, and communication.

What else would you add to overcome the barriers to listening to new ideas? What’s your #7 for this list?


With belief in everyone’s change-ability,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

©2011 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email info@katenasser.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.


Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers consulting, training, DVDs, and keynotes that turn interaction obstacles into business success especially in tough times of change. See this site for workshops outlines and customer results. Lead change with vision, courage, and communication.

Leaders can easily see the impact of people who chronically complain and contribute less than what is needed and less than their potential.

What do leaders think about about action-oriented team members who do not accept input and help? Do you prefer high performing self-sufficient team members even if they resist input and help from others? What if one of them is highly experienced like a senior network engineer?

Image: MathSticks.com

Traditionally, most believe that teamwork needs people who both offer and accept input and help. I thought about this as I remembered an IT project teammate from many years ago who did not accept input or help from others on the team. He did a great deal of work on the project, gave brief status reports of what he did, and that was it. The leader of the project did not see it as a problem.

What do you think? What is the impact on the organization’s current goals, on the future success of the business, and on teamwork overall?

As a leader, do you generally ask the action-oriented self-sufficient team members to handle the more critical areas because you feel confident they will deliver?  Not all refuse input and help. What about the ones who do?

There are some effects of this behavior:

  • Solutions that cover only that team member’s perspective
  • Blind spots and exposures if that team member is unavailable or leaves
  • Less knowledge and readiness for future organizational goals and needs
  • Change in team dynamics and possibly less willingness to ask for help

This issue is quite prevalent on teams yet is often not discussed nor addressed. Is it a silent toxin? Or is it irrelevant to the success of the business? What do you think?


Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach, works with leaders and their teams at the Fortune 500 on developing the optimal teamwork for today’s changing global business needs. See team workshop outlines at Team Building Workshops.