How can my kid be a good team player?

Every year, LinkedIn releases the Workplace Learning Report identifying key trends in the professional world. To prepare the 2020 report, LinkedIn surveyed more than 6,600 professionals in eighteen countries. Among the takeaways: universal skills are really important. The report says, “they are foundational to every employee’s success, regardless of their functional role or how the technology landscape evolves.”

The top five skills kids need most for future employment are:
  1. Creativity: generating original ideas and solutions
  2. Persuasion: convincing others to support your creativity
  3. Collaboration: working as a team to reach a common goal
  4. Adaptability: thriving in change and uncertainty
  5. Emotional intelligence: understanding and modulating your emotions and understanding the emotions of others
While all these skills are invaluable to our kids’ success in school and in the future, they become even more powerful when they build on one another. With continuous advances in technology some current professions will cease to exist in a few short years and many of the jobs our kids will do have yet to be created. In fact, 65% of kids entering elementary school will work in as yet unnamed fields. The ability to tap into these skills will enable our kids to adapt to this rapidly changing environment. And the one with the biggest payoff is collaboration. 

What is collaboration?

Collaboration is connecting authentically with others and working across differences to build a productive team. Learning to work well together elevates each team member’s contribution and improves a project’s outcome. In the business world, collaboration gives companies a competitive edge. Teams outperform individual decision-makers 66% of the time. When collaborative work includes diverse teams that involve different ages, genders, and geographic locations, that percentage rises to 87%. But since we tend to be a competitive culture, collaboration does not happen naturally. It must be taught, and home is a great place to start.

Whether it’s deciding what to eat for dinner or where to go on a vacation, collaboration as a family happens all the time. You’re setting up group goals you want to accomplish together. Take advantage of these real-world opportunities to develop this important skill by focusing on these four things.

1. To collaborate, communicate.

Articulating clear goals early and often will keep your family team on task. And giving each individual a voice and the opportunity to use it allows all family members to fully participate. But communication does not just mean letting team members talk; it includes listening without interrupting, editing, or offering opinions. Show respect to each other by giving adequate time for each to express themselves. Then take a moment to respond using these sentence starters:
  • I noticed…
  • I wonder…
  • I feel… 
Set the expectation among all family members to be open-minded as you listen to each other. Otherwise, a sibling might dismiss a really great, unexpected idea that’s going to lead you all to the resolution you’re looking for. 

Allow time for a back-and-forth and you’re implementing effective problem-solving. Together you can shift strategy, respond to setbacks, persist, and ultimately ask for help when it’s needed.

2. Agree to agree, come to consensus.

Frequently families operate under the majority rules principle. But if you’re not in the majority, what’s your incentive to follow the final decision? A more effective collaborative process is consensus. It encourages our kids to express their ideas, develop proposals, get buy-in from the team, and see the project through to completion. 

For those who are not on board, consensus requires them to state their dissent and come up with constructive alternatives with the understanding that they may or may not be accepted. Then you can figure out how to work together to revise and improve the project. Not everyone will get exactly what they want, but outcomes tend to end up better because this is an inclusive process engaging all participants.

To reach consensus all family members become stakeholders responsible for key steps in the process. You can even use the below Decision Grid to map out roles.

3. Take responsibility, be accountable.

Teams that collaborate well check in frequently to share feedback, observations, encouragement, and suggestions. But each individual is responsible for their own role. It may feel counter-intuitive, but collaboration requires self-direction. A kid who is self-directed takes ownership for their role on the team and the confidence developed through self-direction can propel other team members as they support each other.

Self-direction encourages reflection which develops self-awareness. A kid willing to look deep within learns who they are,  That in turn helps them decide which role to take on the team by answering these questions:
  • What do I care about?
  • What do I know?
  • What don’t I know?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What do I need to improve
  • What can I contribute to the team?

4. Connect with each other, practice empathy.

To get the family team to jell, add this important ingredient: empathy.  In a recent appearance on the podcast Class Disrupted, co-hosted by Prepared author, Diane Tavenner, Angela Duckworth, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the co-founder and CEO of Character Lab said, “What really makes you a great team player is that you can be very sensitive to the emotions and thoughts of other people on your team and that you can put team performance above your own individual success.”

Empathy is how we make connections. It’s the foundation for acting ethically, building good relationships, loving well, and living successful lives. In the business world, empathy is considered one of the five essential personality traits of every leader. We often say empathy is putting ourselves into someone else’s shoes, but that doesn’t mean being you in that other person’s shoes. It’s truly trying to imagine what they are experiencing.

Empathy builds trust which empowers each member of a team. If you trust those you collaborate with you won’t step on their toes as they fulfill their responsibilities. Practicing empathy resolves the desire to grab power and promotes engagement with the rest of the group.

Successful collaborators know their strengths and where they need to improve. They know what they contribute to their team because they know themselves: who they are, what they care about, what they know, and what they don’t know. By teaching the skills of collaboration at home, you’re helping your kid develop a habit they’ll continue to build throughout their lives.