Working Well as a Team

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01Aug2010

Working Well as a Team

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By Sarah Jeffrey-Gray

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Teams are generally made up of all sorts of different types of people with different strengths and weaknesses. When the team works in balance, each member of the team feels encouraged to contribute his or her own strengths and capabilities to the team to support it, and the individual needs of each person (as opposed to things he or she might just want!) are respected.

Whilst all individuals have similar emotional needs, for some people some of these needs rank higher than for others in the workplace. For others, various needs are met wholly or partly outside the workplace and so they are not so reliant on work to meet that need. If the respective needs in the work environment are not recognised and respected, the team is likely to become unstable.

Two of the main needs in this context are:

  1. Status and a sense of competence and achievement
  2. Receiving and giving attention

How far do you rely on the workplace to meet these needs? Is there any more you can do to recognize or support the needs of others in the team? Do you praise your seniors and juniors in equal measure when they do something well? Positive affirmations of others’ behavior are among the best ways to motivate them to maintain that behavior. Are you clear about your expectations  and those of the team? If not, there could be a clash of expectations. Discussions of what is expected can reduce misunderstandings, and the more you can do to encourage those discussions the better. There may be missing skill sets in the team. If so, what can be done to introduce them, either by recruitment or training? Do you feel you or other members of the team have enough support for training and development? If you think you need further support, ask for it, explaining how you believe it would enhance your and the team’s performance. If others need further support, encourage them to ask for or take the training (positively), especially if the lack of training is putting a strain on you or other members of the team.

There are four main behaviors which can be very damaging to a team (including relationships in or outside the workplace). These are criticism, contempt, withdrawal (stonewalling) and defensiveness. All of these behaviors destabilize and alienate. Constructive criticism is generally the most helpful way to improve things and will help the chances of other people actually hearing what it is you would like them to do. It is specific and gives them a template to work with.

When thinking about working well as a team, I am put in mind of the story of the then President of the United States when he visited NASA before the first moon landing. The President had been introduced during his tour to scientists and researchers, astronauts, administrators, and accountants. As he walked through the corridors on the way to his limousine, he came across a man in overalls with a bucket in one hand and a mop in the other. The President asked him politely, “And what do you do here at the Cape?” The man replied “Sir. I’m doing the same here as everybody else. I’m working here to put a man on the moon. That’s exactly what I’m doing here.”

About the Author

The The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs offers accredited and recognized qualifications, professional recognition for our Members and their ongoing development, together with support, advice and career guidance for trainee and experienced Legal Secretaries throughout the UK and overseas.

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