You need to turn your teammates from your harshest critics into your staunchest allies.

People are constantly using that tired old line “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Catchy, but total crap. Dogs and, more importantly, humans learn new tricks all the time. It’s easy to learn new and better ways, it’s just hard to sustain them.

The last time you got some feedback, how did it play out?  If a teammate told you that you talk too much or frequently interrupt, did you spend the next couple of meetings balancing your contribution and waiting for a pause before speaking? I bet you did.

Did you keep it up for a while and then slip up one day when things got heated? That’s okay.

What’s not okay is how your teammates probably reacted.  Instead of being helpful and starting with a positive assumption, they probably rolled their eyes, or jumped down your throat. They wrote you off instead of coaching you back.

The problem on teams is that we make it all about everyone else.  We forget our responsibility to help one another.

We’ve stopped doing the work of teamwork.

If you let your colleagues make the feedback all about you, you’re probably doomed to fail. If all you get from your teammates is a pat on the back and “good luck with that,” they aren’t adding much value—you’re in the unenviable position of trying to change a habit without any help.

Next time you get feedback, make it a shared accountability.  “Thanks so much for your feedback.  You know what an extrovert I am and how passionate I get in our meetings. I really want to get better at this so I’m going to need your help.”  Aha! Now you’ve enlisted your teammate in your self improvement efforts.

“I’m going to pay a lot of attention to how frequently I speak.  When I slip up, I need you to make eye contact with me and give me a sign.  If I interrupt, I really need you to remind me to let the person finish.  I’m glad you brought this to my attention and I know that with your help, I’ll be able to do a better job.”

Now your teammate doesn’t just have permission to help you when you overdo it, he has an obligation.

You’re counting on him so hold him accountable. “You didn’t give me any signs in that meeting this morning.  How did I do?” If he tells you that you were still taking up too much of the meeting agenda, remind your teammate of his responsibility to help you. “Thanks for being honest with me. Obviously it’s harder for me than I thought. Next time, I’d love if you could find a way to tell me before my foot is in my mouth.  How do you think you could get through to me before I take over a meeting?”

Through this ongoing conversation, you’ve created a shared responsibility for your success.  Instead of rolling his eyes when you start to pontificate, your teammate will be more likely to want to help you. When someone complains to him about your behavior, he’s more like to say “she’s actually making a real effort to change.” Then you have a fighting chance of not only learning a new trick, but keeping it up.

Convert your teammates from the doubting, critical, “told you it would never last” types into the supportive, helpful coaches that you need in your corner.

Further Reading

What to do if you’re Struggling with your Team

The ‘You’ in Team

The Secret to Changing your Teammates from Critics to Allies Part 1