Teamwork isn’t child’s play

By Lauren Winfrey on December 12, 2013
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It’s often said, team work makes the dream work, and in general, we are conditioned by our parents to work well with others. We are taught that making friends is a good thing, being a part of a team is an even better thing, and completing an A-worthy group project with your classmates is downright admirable.

In fact, the development of this skill is just as important as learning to communicate effectively. According to the Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS), teamwork skills are one of the five competencies needed for successful job performance. Reaching far beyond group projects in the classroom and passing the ball to a teammate on the court, the ability to work well with other people is crucial.

A case study conducted by professors at Edith Cowan University contends that teams and teamwork help promote deep learning that occurs through interaction, problem solving, dialogue, cooperation, and collaboration. Successful teamwork relies upon synergism existing between all team members, creating an environment where they are all willing to contribute and participate.

Working toward a common goal
If the ability to work well with others were not important, we wouldn’t continuously be confronted with the task of doing so. Indeed, it is important to experience the thought pattern of another. It is equally important to learn to accept that the thought processes of your counterparts may be very dissimilar from your own. Yet, despite the difference, you should be able to come together for the purpose of accomplishing a common goal.

Working together as part of a sport team is crucial—from teamwork a greater sense of camaraderie is gained. You learn to trust others by working with them and depending on them to pull their weight. Have you ever wondered how some sport teams can execute a Hail Mary pass near the end of the half with what seems little to no effort? Or even how teams can make tremendous game-changing comebacks in the second half of a game?

It’s all about the removal of the individual and the emphasis on team. “No man is more important than The Team. No coach is more important than The Team. The Team, The Team, The Team …and think what a great thing it is to be a part of something that is, The Team,” former University of Michigan head football Coach Bo Schembechler told players during the 1983 season.

It takes trust and commitment
Teamwork ignites trust. You must trust that your teammates will protect you, and they must trust that you will protect them. You must trust that each individual has put aside personal agendas for the sake of the team.

Commitment to teamwork is just as important in the classroom as it is on any field or court. When asked by your instructor to complete a project as a group, collaboration and communication are important—each member of the group should be held to a certain standard of responsibility, and expected to complete his portion of the project. The ideas and opinions of each group member should be heard and acknowledged—no one should be made to feel as if their thoughts and contributions are invalid.

Beyond school, you’ll find teamwork skills are important in the work place as well. In fact, being employed while in school is probably the best way to capitalize on the development of your teamwork skills. You learn not only to work with others, but to work for others. You build relationships, and a network that may later be an asset.

Captain, worker bee, cheerleader or slacker: What do you bring to the team?
Consider the following questions as you assess the role you tend to play when working as part of a team. After doing so, you might find you are comfortable where you are -- or you might decide you should shake things up a bit! On a team, do you:


  • Take charge and assume the role of group leader? (Often? Sometimes? Never?)
  • Allow others to make decisions while you comply and complete the task assigned?
  • Listen actively, taking notes and ensuring each voice is heard?
  • Encourage teammates to stay focused and offer help and support?
  • Goof off, leaving more work for your teammates?
Regardless of your role, unless you’re a slacker you are vital to the team. You add to the team
chemistry, aid in the team’s progression, and you’re a necessary component of its overall function.

About the Author

Lauren Winfrey

Lauren Winfrey

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