The University of Notre Dame’s football team nickname is the Fighting Irish, named after Irish immigrant soldiers who fought in the Civil War with the Union’s Irish Brigade. But do we send sports teams onto the field or the court to do battle? No; we talk about team play in sports and marvel at how well players work together to win a game or a championship. How do we translate this conversation to the world at work?

More and more in today’s workplaces, people are working in teams. When people come together to work, conflict is inevitable. Whether on the court, on the field or in the workplace, here are some tips for effective teams and phrases to support those tips.

Effective team members recognize the importance of establishing and maintaining trust. Teams thrive on mutual trust, so it’s critical to establish trust early in the team’s life cycle. Trust is important if the team wants to avoid conflict.

Here are some phrases to help:

  • “It’s important that we trust each other so we can discuss ideas and make decisions.”
  • “Mutual trust is the foundation of good teamwork.”
  • “If we can’t trust each other, we need to discuss why and find ways to overcome it.”

Team players keep their commitments. Once a commitment is made to a project or deliverable, they complete assigned tasks so the team can meet the deadline. If something interferes with his or her deadline, a good team player lets the rest of the team know in advance so they can make other arrangements.

  • “Let’s prioritize all the tasks by due dates and importance.”
  • “Let’s put some milestones down so we stay on track.”
  • “Let’s establish some guidelines so we all know what’s expected.”

Team players support each other and pick up the slack if someone has a family emergency or other unexpected interference.

  • “Our priority has to be to pull together and finish this project.”
  • “There may be times we have to make sacrifices to get the work done, even if it means changing your schedule.”
  • “We’ll check in regularly with each other to see if anyone needs help.”

Team players appreciate the work the others contribute and value differences. They ensure that everyone participates and no one dominates. Differences are regarded as opportunities rather than barriers and are celebrated.

  • “It’s good that we’re questioning each other. It can lead to creative ideas.”
  • “Differences – different styles or backgrounds, for example – bring new perspectives to the team.”
  • “Everyone on this team has a role to play.”

Team players have opportunities for sharing with and teaching each other. They work hard to increase their skills and knowledge and are continuous learners. They trust and respect each other’s knowledge, expertise and work styles, and they build on each other’s strengths.

  • “As a team, we have to be open to hear other views and invite everyone to share theirs.”
  • “Everyone on this team brings something different. Let’s reserve some time to understand everyone’s unique talents and backgrounds.”
  • “What opportunities can we create for team members to learn from each other?”

Teams are important. Team leaders and team members share the responsibility to make their team successful. If they are collaborative, inclusive, mindful of others, purposeful and thoughtful in their work, they will accomplish their goals.

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