How many times have you heard the saying that “there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’?” More than enough, I’m sure. It hints that we should all be selflessly working together to achieve our organizational goals, a thing that totally goes against the annoying American worship of independence, yee haw.
I admit that I have always wanted to be a member of a team. Gosh, if only I wasn’t small, chubby, and extremely slow, I could have even been on a sports team at some point in my life. But, though I was very accurate at kicking and throwing a football, girls couldn’t play on those teams (and my distance sucked). As a young adult, I was politely asked to stop participating on my husband’s volleyball team, because they were actually competitive. Sigh.
But, today I’m here to sing the praises of working collaboratively and getting things done with colleagues. I’m doing a couple of projects at my Austin job where teams are producing some technical content to help users of our powerful and somewhat complex product. Working together keeps everyone accountable for what they say they will do, and lets people jump in and help when needed. I guess it’s sort of Agile project management without the rigidity and jargon (sorry Agile folks, I am not on the Agile train yet).
I’ve discovered a couple of great working relationships with people outside our team, too, and wow, we are getting things DONE. By working together, we avoid misunderstandings and having to re-do drafts, because we review as we go, and tell each other our thought processes.
The Friends of LLL Board talked about collaboration at their last meeting. Previously we were sort of sticking to our roles, with a little crossover (people would send me articles for the newsletter, I’d help on the website occasionally). But, in our discussion of accountability and helping out when needed, we came to the conclusion that our primary roles aren’t set in stone, and we will reach out in the future if one of our areas isn’t going as well as we need it to.
Teamwork has been important to all my volunteer organizations. The Master Naturalists made that great brochure as a team, and the MTOL folks have to team up to get all those vaccinations, spaying and neuterings, and floats taken care of. And teamwork is vital in all our small businesses. Thank goodness I have Mandi and Kathleen to bounce things off, and Carol to share her real estate knowledge!
Consequences of the Team Approach
I can hear some of you saying, “That just doesn’t work for me.” And yep, there are people who just aren’t comfortable with collaborative work. If you are someone who takes pride in being able to do your work yourself and figuring out how to handle hard problems on your own, this is not for you. I happen to know a few of those folks, and it’s a perfectly fine way to get things done if that’s more your style.
The important thing is to find a spot where your working style fits in. The teams I’m in right now need to rely on each other as backup and accountability partners. A “do it myself” person might not fit in well on the team, but might be perfect to do one of the sub-jobs that don’t need interference once the job duties are down. Not being distracted by meetings, discussions of other topics, and administrative talk can help this kind of individual contributor focus and get their tasks done efficiently.
I’ve been that person in some of my work/volunteer spaces. Just let me do my work and don’t distract me! Once I started managing projects and people, though, the team approach has benefited me the most. We can compensate for each other’s weaknesses and take advantage of our special skills and strengths.
My first impulse is to say collaborative work helps you make fewer mistakes, but hey, I’ve been on teams where we all jumped on some bandwagon and it fell down a ravine, too. When we were ALL involved in the process, though, there was a lot less finger-pointing and a lot more useful discussion of lessons learned.
To be totally honest yet vague, I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons lately. I want to thank all the folks who’ve helped me look at challenges and mistakes clearly and objectively, so we can all go out and try again. Yes, there’s “me” in my teams, but I’m better with the rest of the group.
What’s your preferred method of working? How do you cope when you need to work the “other way?” Let us know!