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The Chorus of Teamwork
by Darin Green

In order for a delicately honed piece of music to be performed by a group of singers, they need to work together with an eye towards each otherís strengths and limitations. When such impeccable teamwork is achieved, the song - the carol -literally becomes music to our ears. The same is equally true in the office. With row upon row of compartmentalized personal working space, we might even call this so-called song "the Work Carol," as a reminder not only of the physical composition of individual workspace, but also the synergy needed for successful performance. Working together means attention to the song, not necessarily attention to individual accomplishment. In this, it is best to remember that team members are not independent, but inter dependent. This means sharing responsibilities alongside the occasional failures that will occur with any given project. This is, arguably, the greatest tool for building a successful team: "Effective teams are characterized by the trust and empowerment which exist to provide a culture where risks can be taken in the secure knowledge that failure will be seen as a part of the team-building process.- 1

This is true, but naturally you are more interested in success, which is precisely why you have taken the time to read this article. Iíll be blunt. The way to achieve success is rather simple: communication. Through good communication, which is the responsibility of every team member, individual differences can be broached allowing for a vibrant and open atmosphere.2 Openness is essential for effective teambuilding.

Through healthy communication three important pluses occur:
  1. New ideas are more readily expressed.
  2. The fear of failure is reduced (which in turn allows for more adventurous thinking).
  3. Stress is lessened.
When a team is communicating with each other, individuals necessarily contribute their own special brand of innovation to the overall dynamic, resulting in the job-at-hand being completed more smoothly and with less social friction.

Teams are, I hasten to add, merely composites of society. Importantly, this does not exclude teams that were once regarded as specialists in their fields; since the workforce is embracing diversity, this means that teams are mirroring society outside the walls of the office.3 Naturally, this includes women as well as people of color, but it is important to remember the generational differences that often exist in the boardroom. Generation X now works alongside Baby Boomers and, lest we forget, it is only a matter of time before Generation Y - also known as the Nintendo Generation - joins our ranks. Teams are no longer homogenous groups. They are becoming increasingly diverse, they often contain differing voices and social concerns; in short, a diverse team represents the outside world, the world of your consumer. It would be a mistake not to use these differing voices in order to bring new ideas to effective teambuilding. At this point I would ask you to reconsider my idea of a chorus. If a group of singers all sounded the same, the resulting song would be dull and boring. But imagine how a chorus of altos and tenors and basses would sound. Each individual is allowed to express their ideas openly while at the same time working together. The best teams are those who value individualism but work towards the same goal. Put another way, you donít need a team leader, you need a team of leaders.

But how do I get a team of leaders? Iím glad you asked.

Here are what I call the "Big Five" for successful teambuilding. First, a team must be focused on the task observation, both individually and as a group; this means frequent meetings where progress is monitored. Second, there should be several one-to-one meetings for troubleshooting and guidance; if used effectively, this fosters a sense of support, which is certainly necessary to bolster personal confidence. Third, progress reports should be viewed as watersheds, not inconveniences. Fourth, constructive feedback should be given on a one-to-one basis and during general group meetings. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, everyone should learn from failure and resist the urge to blame anyone in particular for a temporary setback - we all make mistakes, itís part of the learning process. Iím confident that if the "Big Five" are used effectively your team will outperform even your expectations. Just remember that successful teams are like choruses. A single voice may be beautiful, but a group can produce music that is complex, stirring, and perhaps even unforgettable.

Do tempers seem shorter and nerves more rattled in the office these days? If you're experiencing increased pressure at work, youíre not alone. Sometimes it is a difficult task to keep our own feelings in check and help others do the same. Managing our emotions has never been more important than it is today. Our attitudes are the engine to the vehicle to success. Attitudes are infectious. Whether positive or negative, they can and will have a serious impact on an organization's bottom line and an individual's professional and personal success. So why do we ignore this? In today's ever-changing marketplace and fast-paced, multi-tasked work environment, we need to manage our emotions more effectively. How we manage our emotions and attitudes determines how well we manage change and transition and how well we perform with others. A positive, productive attitude is a must. Many people believe that we have no control over our emotions and attitudes. But this is not so. To better manage our emotions we must design our attitudes before adversity takes place.

There are four steps called the 4 C's that can help you start down the path of emotion management and attitude adjustment. These four steps will help you develop a positive attitude, as well as a healthy and productive personality.

    Know what type of person you would like to be. Be clear about the type of attitudes this person would have. See this person clearly in your mind.
    Believe that you can be this person by being absolutely sure that you can change your attitudes. This will give you the power to design your attitudes no matter what the circumstances may be.
    Start each day and end each day with a vision of the type of attitudes you would like and the type of person you would like to be.
    Stay committed to shaping your attitudes. You will have periods and days when you will fall off track. It's all right to fall; just get back with the program. Keep with it and you will become the person you deserve to be.
  1. Chivers, Judith. Team-Building with Teachers . (London: Kogan Press, 1995), p27.
  2. Ibid . p30.
  3. Cockburn, Jim. Team Leaders and Team Managers in Social Services . (Norwich: U of East Anglia P, 1990), p92.
All contents of this article, unless otherwise noted, are ©2003Ė2004 Darin Green Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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