By Sandeep Sehgal
Teamwork plays an integral part in today’s society regardless of your field of work or study. The saying “two heads are better than one” is certainly true, but is it always true?
Over the past year, I have been part of many teams of different sizes and for different purposes. We have tried different strategies to manage teams and let’s just say it wasn’t always productive. The two key highlights of a successful team is respecting others and effective communication.
People have different personalities and while some people ‘click’, others won’t. The important thing to remember is to be respectful of other people and their ideas. Although it is fine to disagree or voice your opinion, it must be done respectfully. That may seem obvious but it is much harder to do.
I have seen adults relate an idea to a person, which may discourage the person from contributing ideas in the future. For example, “You’re wrong” is less effective than saying the idea is wrong and why you believe this.
However, the biggest challenge I have experienced in teams is when team members miss deadlines or submit low quality work. In a sense, this is disrespectful to the team because everyone else will then have to pick up the slack.
Making clear expectations of each team member requires effective communication. I recently worked in a 12-person group and effective communication was the hardest part. As groups get larger, keeping everyone on the same page gets harder. This is where the beauty of technology comes in. After each meeting, a summary of the meeting was emailed to everyone. This was beneficial in cases when members missed a key point or weren’t able to attend because they remained informed about the progress of the team and upcoming deadlines.
Effective communication also includes feedback. This was especially helpful when presenting a topic as an ‘expert’ for school projects. We would break up into pairs and practice a part of the presentation on a colleague. We would then discuss the strengths, weaknesses and offer suggestions for improvement.
At times it may be difficult to work in teams but this is a skill that everyone must develop. I hope that my experiences will help in making your next group project more pleasant and productive! Please share your team stories about what worked and what didn’t.
Sandeep Sehgal is completing an Honours Bachelor of Science degree at University of Toronto Mississauga. She is currently utilizing her skills and knowledge of biotechnology issues as a bio-business intern at the Altitude Accelerator. Upon graduation, she hopes to seek opportunities in R&D for a pharmaceutical company.
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