I just listened to a couple of really informative webcasts on the topic of working in teams during library school. I have to admit, the thought of working in teams to complete school assignments fills me with a bit of a sense of dread as I remember my undergrad days. Will my teammates pull their weight? Will I pull my weight? Will someone try to take over the group and run things? I experienced all of these issues and more while in college, although my biggest fear now is will I be able to significantly contribute to a team and add value?
A couple of skills that I know that I can bring to the table are providing support and helping to manage conflict. I am often complimented by my current coworkers on my ability to work with my colleagues, support their ideas and initiatives and help resolve conflict.
One other issue that is common to working with a group is going off on tangents. I have to admit, I am very guilty of enabling that and it’s something that I will really have to work on in order to help myself retain focus on the topic at hand.
The webcasts gave some really good tips on how to make a successful team, such as creating a group goal (What is our function? What minimum grade would be satisfactory on this project?) and maintaining personal accountability for your part of the teamwork. Setting ground rules, like arriving to meetings on time, also helps to drive success.
Of course, a key ingredient to a successful team is communication. You have to be honest (yet tactful!) with teammates about expectations, opinions and ideas. I firmly believe in communication and always appreciate honesty, even if it’s something that I don’t want to hear. It takes courage to be communicative in some situations, but can help avoid or resolve issues that can arise when working with people, no matter how well you know them.
One interesting factoid that I gleaned from one of the presentations is that learners retain 70% of what we learn when we talk about it with others and 80% of what we use in real life. Teamwork is helpful in learning because it not only helps reinforce what we learn by discussing it with someone else, it also provides us with opportunities to gain new perspectives on already learned concepts.
Working in a team helps build trust with others, as well as confidence in yourself. By trusting others to collaborate as a group, you gain new skills to use in both the classroom and real life. In my day to day work life, I work pretty independently. I do enjoy this, but at times I miss working as part of a larger team like I had earlier in my career. Although meetings are not necessarily something to look forward to, I typically enjoy the weekly staff meetings I participate in as they sometimes provide opportunities to work with colleagues in new ways. So, although I am a bit apprehensive about the idea of working in teams for so many reasons, I am looking forward to the new challenges and opportunities it will present.