Your fifth grade soccer coach was right when she reminded you that there is no "I" in "team." And since you'll be working as part of a team for different projects and departments as you build your career, being in the know about some of the challenges that work teams face can help you be your team's star player -- or its best leader.
When team members share a vision about the values and goals of the group, it gives them a sense of purpose and an understanding of how their team fits into the whole. Unfortunately, not being on the same page about these goals is a challenge that often leads to confusion about priorities and to competing agendas -- two problems that can stall a team's progress. Save yourself some aggravation by asking your team leader to be clear about the goals for the organization, the department and the team before you get started on a project.
When it's unclear to team members whose role it is to perform certain work tasks -- such as leading meetings or presenting reports -- it's easy for that confusion to lead to multiple team members taking on the same task. Power struggles may occur or tasks remain unfinished. To avoid this confusion, ask questions to clarify your role when your leader assigns you a task. Asking questions up front can lead to a lot less stress in the end.
When team members break trust by not meeting a deadline or failing to follow through on a task, it's difficult for the other team members to feel that they can rely on her, presenting a great obstacle. A good rule of thumb to overcome this challenge is to agree as a team to allow for a certain amount of human error and to agree on what team members need to do to re-earn trust if it's broken.
For a team to function at full capacity, all team members need to know how to do their jobs and must be able to do them well. When new members join, there's a learning curve that takes time and may prove to be a challenge. To help new team members get up to speed quickly, existing team members can take part in the training process by sharing how that new member's job intersects with theirs. The team leader can also assign a longer-term member to help the new member get up to speed.
Because teams are made up of people with different talents and personalities, it's a challenge for members to find common ways to relate. Having mutual respect for one another and assuming good intent by other members are good ways to overcome this challenge and avoid misunderstandings, jealousy and personality clashes.
Not keeping team members informed about changes in a project presents a big challenge. Misunderstandings between team members can take time to overcome, and a lack of communication to solve problems between team members can often derail team efforts. Make sure you keep team members in the loop about changes and clear up misunderstandings quickly to overcome this challenge. The group should have an established method and channel of communication to ensure that everyone receives the same information and updates.
Jennafer Martin has more than 14 years of experience in writing, editing and brand management for literary, business-to-business and consumer publications. She is a writer for Zoe Soul Spa and "Pets in the City" magazine.