Tesla, Einstein, Da Vinci, Newton—to name just a few—made tremendous contributions to the world. Without their contributions, much of how the world works might still be unknown. Individual contribution is what enriches the world, what makes progress in societies and individuals. What helps amplify an individual contribution is when it is combined with being part of a larger team.
In everyday life, being a contributor certainly helps others but it unquestionably opens the door for more career opportunities and advancement. People who give their time and energy to activities that benefit the entire team, are certainly noticed by their managers. They are seen as team players who might have what it takes be given more responsibilities and advance in their careers.
From a new member of a small team to a leader of a large company, we can all be better contributors. Infobip values the contributions of every employee and it is that core value that allows us to deliver top-class products to our clients. Below are some ways we encourage employees to be effective contributors to their teams, the company, and the greater world around us.
Be a catalyst for ideas and discussion
Meeting attendees can be divided into two groups—active and passive. When someone is actively engaged, they contribute ideas, comments, and lend their voice to helping solve the problem at hand. Passive attendees just aren’t there and engaged with the meeting, maybe they aren’t interested in the topic or about an area they aren’t familiar with. But passive attendees aren’t bad, they just don’t contribute to the meeting or help solve the problem at hand. The challenge for many people is that it can be hard to be active in meetings. As hard as it might be, to help your team and be a true team contributor, you have to find ways to be active. Even if just a few times in any meeting. Even just be being actively engaged with what’s going on and listening. Just a little bit can help make a difference in your team.
One way be active in meetings is taking on the role of catalyst. You can be the one who asks good questions, stimulates deeper thinking, or ensures that team values are maintained. Questions like:
- "What might be downsides of that idea?"
- "Is there another way to approach the problem?"
- "What will happen if a client uses this in a wrong way?"
- "Does this go against our culture and values as a team or company?"
You don’t have to have all the answers
One of the common mistakes people make is thinking they have to have all the answers. One of the most important things a true contributor says is: “I don’t know, but I’ll go find out”. When someone asks you if you know about a particular topic, it’s okay—maybe even better—to give the honest answer and not lie thinking that you can Google it later. Committing to tasks that require knowledge and skills you don’t possess is stressful. If you are honest, and take on a task admitting you do not possess required knowledge—but that you’ll learn it—that shows you possess the determination to grow and improve your skills. True contributors never stop learning. True contributors know what they don’t know, then go out to learn it.
Self-awareness is not only about knowing who you are as a person, but also knowing your strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and opportunities as well. When you understand what you do best you can contribute where you do the most good. Knowing your weaknesses lets you avoid problems that get in the way of your success, and give you something to work on and improve.
Becoming self-aware starts with knowing who you are now. Start by listing your strengths and weaknesses, be honest to yourself and if you get stuck at any point, ask someone you trust for feedback.
The next think about your habits. We all have them but do not necessarily know how they affect our daily work. Think about the good habits you see in successful people and emulate them. Since habits can be changed, you can use this list to improve good habits and overcome the bad ones. Habits are hard to change, but often small changes can make a big difference.
It’s important to know what motivates you, what drives you to succeed. Understanding why you do what you do (even some of the bad things), you can use that to help yourself perform better and improve yourself faster. Self-awareness is one of the hardest things to achieve. Putting the hard work in to understand yourself, the good and bad, will help you be a better contributor and a better team member.
Set an example
Setting a positive example is one of the most important ways to contribute to your team. Teams develop habits and attitudes, both good and bad, from each other. If you work hard, help others and share positive energy, the others are likely to do the same. If you miss deadlines, argue, and are negative, you can be assured your team will start to follow your lead. Model the kind of team member you want to be and that will help the whole team achieve success.
Stop back channel talk
Nothing erodes a team faster than team members talking behind each other’s backs. Once people start this kind of negative gossip, it’s very hard to fix or change attitudes. When there is conflict between team members, it’s better to address the issue in the open. Discuss it, work on it, resolve it, and move on.
There is always a time for private feedback and conversation—even venting about something that bothers you—but it’s essential to remember that if team members can’t trust each other to be professionals, when you hit a crisis the team might not act much like a team at all.
How each team member contributes to a team makes it stronger. Their energy, their drive, their insight combines to make a strong, successful team. Someone’s contribution doesn't have to be as direct as proposing new ideas; simply be being supportive colleagues, they are contributing to our team. At the end of the day, you can always share chocolate with your fellow workers and make them happy at least for a while.
*Emir Dzaferovic, Software Engineer / Team Lead