Can you hear the grumbling?
It’s the second week of class for my students in Mountain State University’s BSOL online program.
So far, working on teams has been challenging for my students.
At school or in the workplace, working with others can be difficult. Here’s why:
When people work on teams,
- they have to depend on others.
- they feel frustrated if everyone doesn’t contribute equal effort to the assignment.
- they struggle to get people to finish their work on-time or according to their high standards.
- communication with team members isn’t as easy as they’d like: people ignore emails, fail to return phone calls.
- their performance and success are contingent on others.
Have you ever voiced these frustrations?
Sometimes it seems easier to work independently. We may feel like it’s easier to complete a project ourselves; we may struggle to find a time our team can meet; we may resent that our job performance will be evaluated on the basis of another’s work.
So why bother? And what can we do to regain enthusiasm for working on teams?
When we work on teams, we can depend on others. Our team members often have strength, abilities, and ideas that we don’t have. Take time to recognize the value that your team members have to contribute. Depending on others can be a positive experience.
When we work on teams, we gain from others’ contributions. It’s impossible to clearly quantify what each team member adds to a group assignment or project. Does it really matter? Sometimes you may take on more; other times, a team member may step up with more. What matters is the pride you can all share in your finished work.
Working on teams requires patience, tact, and clear communication. Sometimes when team members aren’t performing the way we want them to, patience is all we have. A leader may help a team function at its best by clearly outlining expectations and deadlines, but frustration is inevitable.
When we work on teams, we have the potential for great success. Collaborating with others refines our ideas, sharpens our skills, and multiplies our effort. We can do far more with others than we can do alone.
The team assignments in MSU’s leadership programs are about more than the academic content of each week’s lesson. By working in teams, students work through issues — while in a safe environment. Each team member takes a turn as the leader and gains the opportunity to experiment with team communication, trying new methods and strategies to get the job done.
You know what? I don’t mind the grumbling, because it’s a sign that the learning exercise is effective. It’s making the students uncomfortable enough to try something new in working with others.
Join the conversation!
What frustrations have you experienced with team projects on the job?
What has worked for you in creating successful teams?
This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is re-posted with permission.
I am the founder/CEO of the Weaving Influence team, the author of Reach: Creating the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause, and the host of the Book Marketing Action Podcast. I’m a wife and mom of three kids, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, coffee, and dark chocolate.
I wonder if there is a sweet spot of teamwork though. If teamwork brings creativity but too much tension negates creativity, is there a Laffer-curve-esque chart to help guide.
Last semester I was taking an Accountancy class. There were three of us graduate students in otherwise undergraduate population. Our professor told us that our graduate project for this class was to describe some recent development in one particular company from accountancy point of view, and that this project was supposed to be a team work. Soon after getting our assignment the three of us got together and drafted a kind of plan of which part of the project each of us was going to develop. For several weeks we didn’t discuss this project, each of us presumably working on his part. Then, around mid-term, two of us got an e-mail from the third which basically said that he was going talk in his presentation about this, this and that and if we minded or not? And this, this and that was not at all what we agreed he was going to do. Guess what? I felt tremendously relieved! It meant that our “team” was not a team anymore and we all were back in our usual “I’m alone against the rest of the world” individual selves. I quickly drafted my own presentation, e-mailed it to the other two to see if they minded or not (we didn’t want to overlap). They didn’t mind of course; they were busy doing the same. We performed our presentations in class one after another, and the whole thing probably looked from outside like a team work. But it wasn’t.
I guess the bottom line is that one has to be very careful when assigning “team work” status to a project. There should be a very specific and strong reason why it should be a team work, and not just arithmetic sum of individual inputs. And every team member should know it and agree with it.
And another point: each team member should have and know his/her particular field of responsibilities within the team’s project, and often these responsibilities should be assigned from outside the team. Teams are not always good at organizing themselves. Am I right or not?