Gabriela and I are challenging our media communications students this semester. We have designed group projects as we want them to work in teams and draw on one another’s knowledge and skills.
This is how our students will need to get used to teamwork - they will have to assess the difficulty of a task and break it down into small steps and stages; to plan a strategy; and to manage time. They will need to explain their ideas to others; listen to alternative perspectives; reach consensus; delegate responsibilities; coordinate efforts; resolve conflicts, and so on.
In the kick-off session, I asked them if they agreed with the following: “There are people who would rather be on a less important project and enjoy working with the team than on a “hot” project where there is constant battle, personality issues, and conflict.” Most students were clear that they’d prefer to work in a harmonious environment with nice team members. Some argued that a “hot project” does not necessarily have to involve conflict and battle.
Back to real life
How do we go about “hot” projects in our real life work environments? Are we able to collaborate and inspire each other or are we fighting over personal issues? What I have observed is that team members tend to make life difficult for each other due to a lack of communication and transparency, out of diffuse fears, as a result of personal rivalry, and last but not least due to bad team leadership. A lot of good initiatives are blocked or even killed like this. What a pity!
The Community of Practice model suggests that we should collaborate - trust each other, share our know-how and experience, discuss possible solutions, open up to new ideas, and treat each other with respect. - Just like Gabriela’s and my students wish to do. - Creating such a team culture is a complex and difficult process, though. If you ask me, it all begins with attitude, accountability, and getting to know each other. It may sound trivial but as a first step, we need to open up, spend time listening to each other in order to understand the cultural orientations, preferences and values of our team members. Only then can we start defining our goals and objectives.