Team working

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If you associate teams more with sporting activities than business, subsequently you are not unaccompanied. Originally, this was true, but today the benefits of teamwork are so great that many organisations group their staff into teams, as you will see by reading many job advertisements. Sometimes the aptitude to be a “good team player” is considered more important than high-level qualifications. Teamwork also benefits the members themselves because each individual experiences a key part of a small group, rather than one individual working alone or lost in an enormous department. A definition of a team is a group of people who possess complementary skills and who work together to achieve a common goal.

The importance of team working If you watch a good team in action – from the flight crew in a cockpit to a sport team – you should be able to note various aspects about the way it functions. Each person knows his or her own role and how it fits in with others. The teams have complementary skills and work in harmony. They do not get in each other’s way or hold each other up. They work to accomplish a common objective as quickly and professionally as possible.

A well-known writer about teams, Dr Meredith Belbin, disputed that a major advantage of teams is that the members, cooperatively, acquire more strengths than one individual. This strength are not just as job skills but other skills, such as problem solving, communications and an eye for detail. If you are excellent at setting up spreadsheets but poor at proofreading, and your colleague is the opposite, then “sharing” your skills brings you both mutual benefits. A team simply does this on a larger scale.

Interdependence of group members Teams are interdependent because they rely on each other to get a good result. This is why teams typically become more effective if they work together regularly because the members know and understand each other’s strength and weaknesses. This enables them to depend upon each other with more confidence. Team members must recognize their own role and how it “fits” with the roles of other team members.

Group responsibility The critical point about a team is that its members must be enthusiastic to put the team’s aims above their personal ambitions. This is often means readjusting the way you work to fit in with other people, using other people’s strengths efficiently and supporting them if there are any weaknesses.

Collective responsibility means that the entire group is at fault if something goes wrong. Blaming one or two members is not the answer, because the team should have acknowledged the problem earlier and sorted it out. Key aspects that influence team effectiveness are summarised below.Employees at all levels contribute to the work of an organisation through effective team work and positive personal attributes. Many of the implied terms involve the personal attributes of an employee – such as honesty, behaving responsibly and observing confidentiality. These are imperative that many organisations also include them in express clauses too, to make sure there are no misunderstandings.

The main attributes that a business will expect its employees to have are shown in the diagram below. Personal presentation relates to the appearance of each employee as well as his or her personal hygiene. This is significant whether or not there is a related policy or dress code. Verbal communication skills are essential because every employee needs to communicate with other people – from senior manager to their own colleagues within the organisation, as well as external customers and contacts.

Written communication skills must be excellent so that messages can be clearly understood, emails are not full of spelling or grammatical errors and all communications sent externally give a good overall impression of the organisation. Following instructions is an implied term of your contract, so long as the instructions are reasonable and no one asks you to do anything illegal. Punctuality and time planning means arriving on time each day; it also means being competent to schedule your time appropriately by thinking ahead. This way you use your time efficiently and constantly do the most important and urgent tasks first. Courtesy to other people, both your colleagues and external contacts is essential. This is often a stated condition of a code of conduct.

Honesty does not just mean not stealing money. It also means not saying one thing to someone’s face and another behind their back, taking a box of CD’s from the stationery cupboard or stealing time from your employer by coming back late from breaks or taking a “sickie” whenever you feel like an extra day off. Observing confidentiality is an implied term of your contract and is often included as an express term as well as being part of a code of conduct.

It is pointless for an organisation to offer a wide variety of services for customers if staff are scruffy, ill-mannered or cannot respond to routine questions. Often the attitude of staff is remembered by customers long after they have forgotten what they wanted to purchase at the time. There are three main skills that individuals require and need to develop in order to deal with customers effectively: your presentation skills, interpersonal skills and communication skills. People must be able to apply these in a range of situations.

Presentation skills These skills relate to you as a person. What do other people see as you approach? Do you attract them or alarm them? Nevertheless, this has nothing to do with good looks but everything to do with a welcoming smile, appropriate clothes and a smart appearance. Many organisations have uniforms, a dress code or guidelines to ensure staff projects a consistent image to customers. At all time personal freshness, clean clothes and a professional appearance are essential.

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