Teamwork makes the dream work, so why not set professional goals that will make you a better teammate? It’s an underrated practice, but one that can leave a long-lasting positive impact on your team.
“No one does their work in a bubble. So, when setting professional goals, it’s important to not only think of what will help you, as an individual but also what will help your relationships with others,” says Ashley Andersen, partner and leadership coach at 10X Leadership Lab.” The way we interact and collaborate with others is deeply impactful to our outcomes at work.”
Added bonus: Impacting someone else’s experience in the workplace can be incredibly fulfilling and boost your own job satisfaction. Here are eleven professional goals that make you a better collaborator and coworker.
1. Improve your ability to give and receive feedback
“Part of successfully working on a team is giving each other insightful feedback on performance, whether as a manager or a peer,” says executive and empowerment coach Smita Das Jain. “People respect those who provide honest and actionable feedback.”
Whether you’re in a leadership or more entry level role, the ability to both give and receive feedback is a key professional skill. Aim to be receptive and make the most of any feedback you receive, but also practice giving feedback in a way that’s straightforward, specific, and constructive.
2. Become a better listener
Das Jain recommends setting goals around becoming a better listener too. “The importance of active listening is often underrated in a professional team setting,” she says.
“One of the best gifts that we can give our colleagues is to make them feel heard and valued, which is only possible when we listen to them in an unhurried manner without [thinking of our response while they speak] or interrupting them with an eagerness to convey our thoughts.”
Improve your active listening skills and you’ll notice so much more team bonding and rapport.
3. Build your emotional vocabulary
Andersen suggests building your emotional literacy. Wondering what that means? It’s all about being aware of the range of emotions that exist and the way they impact your interactions at work.
“If you don’t understand how you respond or react to things like hurt, disappointment, anxiety, etc., chances are you’ll take it out on someone else around you. In my work, this type of goal is usually surprising to folks because there is a tendency (desire) to place emotions outside the realm of ‘what belongs at work,’” she says.
However, this tendency often backfires because we can’t change the fact that emotions are part of the human experience, whether at work or outside of it. Embrace them instead.
4. Learn and practice empathy
You may also want to set a goal to learn and practice true empathy. Showing up empathically for others is something that can quickly drive connection and boost productivity, helping your teammates feel seen and heard, says Andersen. But the opposite is also true, so you’ll want to treat empathy like a must-have skill, not just an abstract concept.
“People overestimate their skills and abilities when it comes to empathy and actually end up showing up in a way that does the opposite, shutting down others or minimizing what they’re experiencing,” she adds.
5. Create psychological safety
From demonstrating consistency between your words and actions to promoting open dialogue, various habits can create a sense of psychological safety in a team. However you go about achieving it, setting one of your professional goals to increase psychological safety is a great idea if you want to be a better teammate.
“This is often something that everyone looks to someone else to create. What the research says though, is that we all play a role in building psychological safety. And, if you’re a team leader, you play an even bigger role,” according to Andersen.
6. Master your project-management tool
Does your team use a project management platform such as Hive? Das Jain recommends mastering collaboration tools to become a better team player.
“Familiarizing yourself with new technology means you will be confident to use it, motivating other team members to emulate you and use it too. This will also bring more efficiencies within the team.” Not to mention you may get extra props and be seen as an expert!
7. Learn about other departments
Another powerful professional goal that can make you a better team player is gaining a deeper understanding of other teams and departments. This combats the tendency to operate in team silos and increases collaboration, says Das Jain. She recommends working towards that goal by taking the initiative to shadow a team that your team often works with.
8. Be resourceful
The more we practice empathy and listening skills the better we get at understanding people’s needs and aspirations. The result? We also expand our ability to help, leveling up our teamwork game. You can share that interesting article you read on newest trends in your industry with your colleagues at product & development, or let your team know about a great restaurant to take a client, or introduce people with the same type of interests. Being sociable and resourceful may sound easy, but it doesn’t come natural to everyone. Proactively offering help can be seeing as a burden to some people. Remember: generosity can take you further.
9. Learn NLP
We are not talking about Natural Language Processing here, but Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). This technique offers great resources to anyone looking to improve their emotional intelligence. Being proficient in NLP helps to improve how we perceive the outside world or external influences and how we communicate our perception through the language we use. The words we choose can deeply affect behaviors. Want a practical example? Which teammate sounds more open for collaboration: the one who says “Don’t hesitate to reach out” or someone who announces “Feel free to reach out”?
10. Become inclusive of your references and language
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives go beyond hiring and training practices and include awareness of the daily interaction with people from different backgrounds, nationalities, languages and beliefs. When aspiring to become more inclusive with your language and references, you also become a better team player. It’s important to respect and understand each individual. Strive to use inclusive language and avoid references that can be alienating for people with different career paths and experiences.
11. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of maintaining a moment to moment awareness of your thoughts, emotions, body and surroundings without judgment or rejection. A mindfulness practice at work can increase your personal wellbeing and help in the development of better focus and decision making. Mindfulness has the ability to reduce stress and anxiety while increasing flexibility which can help when we are working within a team. This practice is typically thought to be done on an individual level, but it can also be something done collectively (think of a yoga class). When a collective mind is working together with a better understanding of its intended goals, the dynamics within the team can be transformed. Mindfulness invites the team to view challenges from fresh perspectives. Overall, the practice can influence any other professional goal and impact your performance beyond your career objectives.