There is a great line in the movie “The Italian Job” (1969) (the original, not the 2003 re-imaging) from the scene where Charlie Croker (played by a much younger Michael Caine) has assembled his team of thieves to steal gold bullion from the Mafia. He says: “From now on, it’s teamwork; which means you do everything that I say.” Perhaps it is just the quirky British humor that causes us to chuckle. Or perhaps, as Dr. Haycock suggests, we all are familiar with at least one incidence of alleged teamwork turned out instead to be dysfunction at best and a dictatorship at worst. Thus, when we heard the words “teamwork” and “group project”, we will either consciously or unconsciously shudder at the thought because of our past experiences. But also as Dr. Haycock points out, it doesn’t have to such a bad experience at all.
From the outset, Dr. Haycock assumes rightly that there will be many points in our studies and careers where collaboration is required. And we all know that sometimes we produce better and more in collaboration than working alone. Having established this fundamental principle, Dr. Haycock turns to the pragmatic functions. Some of the material, such as the five stages/characteristics of a dysfunctional team, I have heard before in a different context. Other parts I have not heard before and was new to be. For example:
- What’s the definition of a team? As compared with a committee and a group?
- What makes a successful team?
- What are the roles and responsibilities of the team leader? What about the other members?
- How to set goals and standards
- What are the criteria for success?
- If conflict is inevitable, how then can we make the best of it?
To be honest, I have not heard something so basic described so well. Likewise, the other presentation was insightful too except some of the pop culture cartoons caught my attention instead of the crux of the presentation. Nevertheless, Irwin does stress that working in teams has great benefits, such as greater productivity as a group and individual growth.
Currently, I work as part of a team at work. But there are times when it is more advisory because there are some decisions that are not made by the team members but the leader. Everyone follows his rules and definitions, no exceptions. The rest of the work we do is usually done by ourselves unless we need. Then we start asking each other and learning how to work our software. There are two members who were hired 3 months after I was. Although they’ve become better, they are still inexperienced compared to the rest of the team. Therefore, the rest of us mentor them, answer their questions and help them when they are stuck. This demonstrates the good aspects of teamwork.
Likewise, when I go to India later this year, I will be traveling as a team. We have not had training sessions yet but I am looking forward to them. Right now, I have a tendency to distrust some of my team members. After all, I’m a bit older, have traveled a lot more, and have more experience in the work we are about to do. But as the two presentations stress repeatedly, this leads to dysfunction. Instead, I have to swallow my pride, listen – really, really listen – to the trainers, to my teammates, and ultimately the people in India. Because we all have needs and strengths and weaknesses, and we need teammates to balance each other.