Mastering teamwork at school

18 Jan 2020


Teamwork is a combined effort on part of group members to achieve a common goal. Teams are driven by a purpose, have a vision and achieve success through effective communication. Lack of trust and poor communication are cited as two common reasons for failure of teams.

You are part of a group when you are travelling and as soon as you reach your destination, the common purpose is accomplished and you no longer belong to that group. As soon as you fall as sleep in the symphony, you are no longer the part of the listening group.

Teamwork is all about respecting and trusting others, proactively communicating and being open and showing flexibility. Isn’t it a dreaded moment when the teacher asks you to work in a team and you fear the idea of being part of a team once again?

Maybe you are again paired with someone you dislike, or in some instances children maybe shy to work as part of a team. But teamwork can’t be avoided as it is an integral part of school and college life, and now companies also prefer individuals who can work in a team instead of working independently and alone.

In a team you are interdependent on each other, you brainstorm, face opposition to your ideas and finally everyone comes up with a shared and mutual solution. High-performing teams are not necessarily those having high-performing individuals, but they are composed of individuals who collaborate with each other, share solutions and give importance to team goals instead of personal success and recognition.

You might be wondering while reading this article that why is teamwork given such importance and why is it important to be a team player?

Well, teams are preferred for several reasons — they increase feelings of dignity and self-worth, reduce tension and stress, and unleash creativity. Here are some more reasons why teamwork is preferred and why is it important to learn this skill.

Increased knowledge and diversity of views

Teams pool different people’s ideas, talents, perspectives and experiences. As it is said, two heads are better than one, more people bring more ideas, knowledge and information. There is a pool of diverse viewpoints with the common goal and purpose shared by all team members.

Increased acceptance

When you participate in the process of reaching a solution and decision-making, you are more likely to support the outcome and encourage others to accept it too.

High performance level

Suppose there are five people who work independently on a project and take ample time to complete it. On the other hand, when the efforts and perspectives of these five individuals are combined in a collaborative effort or, in other words, they form a team, the project will be completed more efficiently, and the outcome quality will be better. There will be a pool of ideas and there will be less boredom and stress, while each member will feel valued and will own the solution.

Some of you might be wondering about the downside of teamwork. Yes, there are downsides to teamwork as well. Sometimes it can take too long to reach a consensus, or the members might try to put down each other to gain attention for their own individual contribution.

Another common and more frequently observed practice is when immense pressure is built up to conform to popular ideas. Because of this peer pressure, some members might have views that are not valued by the majority and this can lead to a negative outcome as compared to when the individuals had worked individually instead.

Effective and high-performing teams are those where the members trust each other and believe that everyone can bring something valuable to the discussion. Also, there is open and honest communication, a clearly communicated sense of purpose that rules out ambiguities. But conflict is always there, and its possibility cannot be ruled out.

But is all conflict bad? No, it isn’t when it brings out issues in the open, increases members involvement and leads to unleashing of innovative and creative solutions.

You must have observed that teams are formed with a purpose and for a specific time period after which they disburse. Ever wondered that teams also have a lifecycle like the lifecycle of a fly taught in your science course?

Group dynamics is a topic of special interest to researchers and teams also evolve and pass through different phases/stages of development. To master teamwork and to be an effective team player, you need to look at the different stages of team development which are discussed below:

  1. Orientation: This is the first step in team evolution. If you are the team leader, then you should allow members enough time to get to know each other before discussing work and responsibilities. This is hence the phase of socialising and identifying roles. It is important to know that all teams don’t have a leader as some are self-directed teams where the members know each other well.

  2. Conflict: As teams begin to discuss ideas, conflict and disagreements occur at this stage. Your idea might be brilliant, but it does not strike a chord with your classmate who is also your group member.

  3. Brainstorming: Team members discuss the pros and cons, debate and discuss the issues.

  4. Emergence: Consensus is reached when teams agree on a solution, although some members might be having reservations. All teams, however, don’t follow the consensus rule, as some follow the majority when a consensus cannot be reached.

  5. Reinforcement: This is the stage where the members carry out the group’s decision, receive their assignments and decide for follow up on those assignments.

In my opinion teamwork is not only about dividing work and then working individually on the selected parts. Instead, the members should sit together and work together, which is the essence of teamwork.

Carly Fiorina, the first female CEO of a Fortune 20 company, who oversaw the taking over of Compaq by HP, was a great believer of teamwork. In her memoir Tough Choices, she writes, “I am a realist and I know that when people work together, inspired by a worthy goal, focused on a common purpose, everything is possible.”

Through teamwork, common people can achieve uncommon results as rightly said by Michael Jordan, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

Published in Dawn, Young World, January 18th, 2020