Work goals aren’t accomplished on a solo basis anymore. Even when one person is credited on a project, there is an understanding that somewhere–perhaps unseen but not unknown–was an entire team or group who had contributed in varied and specific ways. Sales teams work together with finance, engineering, marketing and administration to prepare a proposal. New product development teams often employ armies to see a project through from initiation to R&D to testing to revision to completion. Even a seasoned PR hack isn’t flying solo: he or she may be alone in an office, but there’s research and approvals to be had, along with at least two more sets of eyes to review the work before it’s delivered. Teamwork is varied and can sometimes be difficult, but it’s a vital part of many environments – school, work or volunteer.
How do you communicate in team settings?
Many of us spend our professional lives working in group or team settings. Like snowflakes, each group is different: it’s dependent on the assignment, the chemistry of the team, and the experience and commitment from each member. Working cooperatively is important. With the prevalence of integrated technology and communications, the projects continue to evolve.
In one of my courses, students are working together in small groups to present
information under a general topic. Individually each has already written a research paper that identified a specific thesis form that topic. Now group requires they work together to discover a connecting thread or thesis from their different research and give a cohesive presentation. Even on the first day, they experienced challenges with team members. Group work may not always be easy, but it’s something they’ll continue to experience throughout their professional careers. We reviewed some of the basic elements and addressed those team member challenges as they got started.
First, goals have to be set. If all team members clearly understand the objectives, the timeline and the proposed process to achieve the goals, there is clarity. Next, team members might look to take on dual roles within the group. There are the “task roles” and “maintenance roles.” Task roles, such as being the recording secretary or the moderator, are related directly to accomplishing objectives. In maintenance roles, which may be a gatekeeper or on-line moderator, this person will help facilitate group interaction. Ultimately, one or two members will emerge as the leader(s).
The team leader should work to ensure active participation with the team. Assigning tasks and duties is one way; the other is to ask members directly to contribute during group discussions and assignment to stay involved.
The one role all teams want to avoid, but unfortunately there always seems to be one, is the “anti-group” role. This is the person who focuses on individual needs, who exemplifies herself as the floor hogger or recognition seeker. She might be the one envisioning how this project is going to gain her recognition with the C-Suite and/or a potential promotion, or she just doesn’t want to be there at all. She’s focusing on individual needs that most likely aren’t relevant to the task. To say, “that role should be avoided” is easier said than done. When you have that person in your group or team, it can swiftly increase levels of frustration and wedge a divide among the members. It is up the leader and other team members to change the attitude and behaviors of the member who may be unwilling to acknowledge her blocking behavior. *
Working together in a team or group is essential. It may be in school, at work, or within a volunteer organization. With a strong foundation in place and open communication with members, it may also be rewarding and effective.
(*Sometimes there is no cure for this type, and it’s probably indicative of other issues or problems in that person’s performance. Who hasn’t sighed with relief when one of these “blockers” was dismissed from an organization?)