There’s no I in team.

I’ve got a friend…. Hang on, before you click away in disbelief, I actually have several friends, but the one I have in mind did his PhD on the correct use of debriefing after teambuilding activities. He and I share a belief that teambuilding activities can add real value in a work-place, but the catch being only if they are done correctly. Most times they are done badly, resulting in social awkwardness, time wasted, zero outcomes and people wondering why they had ever found themselves in the given situation.

Doing a PhD can be quite a lonely pursuit. I make this assertion based on what I have seen and heard over a number of years working with people pursuing their PhD. Long hours of reading, planning, reflection, data collection, analysis and writing up. The PhD – Supervisor relationship is a dyad, not really a team involvement.

Yet, the employment market makes much of the need to be a team player. Usually thought of in terms of working in one’s own team, section, department etc… but in a work context teamwork really involves these things plus working with clients, prospective clients and suppliers. Why should the employment market set such store on teamwork? Well to add another cliché to the one in the title of this blog edition, many teambuilding sessions include the acronym: Together Everyone Achieves More.

Indeed some research would indicate that some employers outside of the HE sector have doubts about PhD researchers capability to work in teams. Yet the truth is many work settings expect people to work teams whilst rewarding people for their individual performance.
In conclusion, teamwork is a necessary employment skill. Whilst the mis-representation of teamwork may cause frustration to people such as my friend and I, in truth teambuilding activities can make a measurable difference to the efficiency, effectiveness and even the bottom line of a business. However, for it to work there are some necessary pre-requisites:
1. There has to be a plan;
2. The content of the teambuilding intervention has to be clearly linked to team and organisation requirements;
3. It must be delivered competently;
 The team members must truly buy into it.

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Martin Coffey

About Martin Coffey

Career Management Skills Developer, Researcher Development Team.

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