group of people showing team work

What is team work

Ever admired the eye-catching rainbow on a sky-blue background and wondered what makes it so spectacular? A rainbow is the coming together of all seven colours only to enhance each other’s beauty! With this, we introduce ourselves to the very efficient phenomenon called ‘team work’! Let’s see below, what is team work?

What is team work ?

A team is a group of people with a common objective and team work is the collective effort within that group to achieve the common goal.

But that’s not all, because, if it requires profound art to build a team, there is also a whole lot of science behind managing team work! Before we start unfolding the intricacies in this well-knit phenomenon, let us look into some instances to get a broader picture.

I remember, when I was a kid in grade 2; I was part of a skit and my role was that of ‘Mr. House’! My peers were given roles of ‘Mr. Water’, ‘Mr. Sand’, ‘Mr. Brick’, ‘Mr. Cement’, and ‘Mr. Iron’.

Curtain rises and the play begins

My character, ‘Mr. House’ stands quietly in a corner when suddenly all the others start off an argument. Each of them tells the other how invincible they are for constructing a home. They shout out loud, saying, “I am the most important among all’! Argument turns to fight and they decide to break apart. The result? ‘Mr. House’ collapses! However shortly after, they realise that though they are invincible, they are insignificant without each other, because neither can make a home all alone! Then they reconcile and join hands to stand tall again as ‘Mr. House’!

Curtain drops and the show ends

This simple skit was all about the importance of team work! Including team-building as a skill can be an important curriculum right from kindergarten days! At high school level, kids may be assigned projects where they form teams. While working as a team, they slowly learn to appreciate their own unique qualities while respecting those of others. By the time they grow up, they are not just experts at building teams, but also very comfortable working together within the team.

Learning from Nature about team work

When we carefully observe around us, we realize how Nature has lessons in store for us! When we talk about teamwork in Nature, what comes to our mind are the bees and the ants. Let’s dig deeper.

Consider the human body. What’s thought of as a single entity is actually the result of teamwork at a subtle level. Physically, it is the collective effort of all organs. The lungs oxygenate blood which is then pumped to every body part with the activity of the heart. The brain is the principal leader, delegating tasks! The liver helps metabolize / assimilate nutrients, while the kidneys constantly help rid the body of toxic substances. The skin; it protects all of these organs from the hostile environment outside!

Team work is most often not just a choice, but a necessity!

More instances on team work

Almost anything can be interpreted as team work.

In a sport, although the category is labelled an individual event, there is an extensive team behind the participant that includes the coach, dietician, work-out trainers, physicians, counsellors, and so on.

Let’s now take the example of healthcare. When a doctor handles a patient, he/she is backed by a strong support system. The researchers come up with new drugs/vaccines. The pharmacists then manufacture these drugs. The clinical researchers validate for their safe use in humans. Biophysicists develop essential medical devices, while the software programmers code for important medical applications. The nurses form the backbone of any hospital, and then there are a host of paramedics that include laboratory technicians who aid in diagnosis of diseases.

Similarly, be it academics, space missions, movie making, entrepreneurship, music, or any field you may think of, team effort can never be over-looked. Teamwork is therefore more of a rule than of choice.

Building a Team

The power of a human mind never ceases to astonish us! Language abilities, face recognition, decision-making, creative thinking, memory, logic, multitasking, emotions, and so on; all wrapped up in a single organ called the brain! Imagine the potential when several such minds work together! The outcome is innovation!

What does it take to build a team?

Concrete purpose

A solid purpose is the driving force and a craving for building a team. It is the precursor which the team eventually adopts as its goal. A team must adopt genuine service goals to attain breakthrough.

Selecting suitable team members

Choosing the right team members is the most crucial part in team building. No compromises should be made while assessing members for the right qualification, skill set, or zeal. If not, there will be an impact on team performance.

A Strong Leader

While teams can function without a leader, it is always great to have one. Good leaders influence a team into performing better. They help maintain integrity and delegate the right amount and type of tasks to the members. A true leader never gives false credits or discredits to team members. Leadership qualities plays key role in building a strong team.

Without a leader, the team members have to spend extra time sorting out problems such as rifts.

Characteristics of a Strong Team

Any teamwork adds to convenience, but a strong team contributes to efficiency and success. A strong team keeps rising the bar not letting any other catch up with them. They present strong competition amongst the rest. The reason? Below are the features of a strong team:

Having talented / skilled members

Talent is the exceptional ability that comes more naturally to a person, while a skill is an ability acquired through training and practice. A talented individual may have a natural inclination towards singing, art, oration, mimicry, leadership, taste for fashion, etc. One may nurture these talents to convert them into skills or simply learn new skills. Coding in computers, expertise in languages, cooking, swimming, playing musical instruments, sport and many others can be called skills. Team members who are talented and proficient in several technical and soft skills contribute to achieving objectives.

Having passionate, hard-working, and consistent members at work

Being talented or skilled is not enough until you fortify them with the right mix of ingredients like passion and hard work. Members who consistently work hard, deliver results.

Staying committed and respecting confidentiality

The unity of a team rests on the pillars of commitment within its members. The team members oblige to being committed when they are assured that his / her objective is being reinforced by the rest of the team. As a consequence, the team as a whole then protects its confidentiality.

Every member contributing to success

A team that reaches new heights in accomplishment often has all of its members contributing to the triumph. It simply accelerates progress. On the contrary, a team with only some members actively contributing, performs moderately.

Synchrony in work

Synchrony is the perfect co-ordination among members with respect to time. When you establish a synchronized flow of different tasks at the micro-level between the various divisions within the team, it is a huge bonus. 

Adaptability

Skill of adapting in the work environment aids in smooth work flow. Getting along well with bosses and colleagues irrespective of their age, gender, designation, ethnicity or any other differences enhances team spirit.

Having trust

Trust is a super-quality that must and should be developed within a team and its members. With mutual trust, the members will not experience any inhibitions in open discussions. This reliability ensures better problem-solving, exposure of weaknesses, taking of risks and ultimately paves way to achieve meaningful goals.

Multitasking ability among members

Multitasking may refer to either the ability to handle a variety of tasks simultaneously or the ability to be working on similar tasks in more than one project. The ability to multitask comes more often with experience or practice. The advantages show up in speed of achieving targets and also in being able to handle the work of their colleagues in their absence.

Members being able to handle pressure situations

Many a times, no matter how well a team sticks to time schedules, there may arise times when there is unavoidable pressure. These are testing times for team members and a time that also decides the grit and integrity of the team. Frustration and worry don’t lead anywhere. Instead, keeping a calm while increasing focus and presence of mind can help implement better ideas.

Ability to sail through failures

The real strength of a team is assessed during times of failures. A strong team does not allow failures to distract its motive.

  • The members introspect what went wrong and take care never to repeat mistakes. Mistakes repeated are like a step backwards in the path to progress.
  • Sometimes wrong delegation of tasks could result in failures. It requires careful observation of who’s good at what before deciding on roles.

Team Etiquette

Behaviour and attitude collectively give rise to etiquette. Here are some tips:

  • The team should be responsible as a whole for both successes and failures. No member should take undue credit or simply blame or discourage another.
  • If any audience, viewers, customers, or fans in general, praise any single team member after a performance, it is only apt for the other members to also join in the cheering of that member. It does not mean that the other members are not being given any credit. It is only the celebration of a thing of prominence in that performance and could be the turn of any other team member next time. Examples include a single player in a team being recognised as the ‘Man of the Match’, or a single actor receiving the best performer award.
  • Newly joined team members should be given some time to accustom themselves to the work place.
  • Any kind of abuse like verbal harassment, physical abuse, cyberbullying, or undue sexual advances should never be tolerated and must be boldly reported to the appropriate authority.

Strategies worth adopting in a team

Allowing no room for toxicity

Negative emotions not only with rival teams but also within the team members dampens the spirit and hinders progress. Instead, encouraging friendly rivalry promotes respect and healthy competition that is most essential for individual growth and for the growth of the team as a whole.

Creating equal opportunities for all members

Bias and prejudices often may lead to favouritism. Many deserving team members may not be exposed to equal opportunities. This is a major setback for the progress of the team. On the other hand, permitting favourable execution of ideas based on merit, rises the team as a whole in both speed and efficiency of results. 

Exploring hidden talents within members

The routine demands a team faces such as meeting the timelines, may not give enough scope for the team members to explore their own hidden potential or that of their members. Some interesting games that can be included among the team during at least one day of a week gives chance for new discoveries, new learning, growth, and refreshment.

Trying new techniques like shifting roles among members

Sometimes, in simpler projects, the team leader may try exchanging the roles among members. For example, in a music band comprising the vocalist, guitarist, drummer and rapper, the leader may try shifting roles amongst each other for a change. Miraculously, the audience may be presented with surprising changes that they may appreciate to such an extent that it may break box-office records!

In much the same way, in the popular sport of cricket we may see the players shifting roles. A batsman may try seam bowling, or spin bowlers may try wicket-keeping and so on.

Conclusion

From what has been discussed, it is clear that working in a team does not mean losing ‘individuality’. It is in fact about reinforcing each other’s strengths to cross boundaries and emerge stronger. Just as individuals join together to form a team, several of such teams may join to form a collaboration for more efficient, agile and complete delivery of purpose. However, teamwork is also like working with the seven notes of music. When everything’s perfect, they result in melodies, but when not managed well, the same notes can lead to noise. When you get the knack of teamwork right, you also learn to reap a greater share of success. Teamwork is the new ‘in thing’. Why settle for meagre outcome with individual performances, when you can master the art of teamwork and rule the roost!

Recommended books for team work

Article Credit

This article is contributed by Ms Preeti Tambraparni, post graduate in microbiology with a certification in clinical research. Her expertise are writing personal blog in life science related topics and health blog.

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