Team work – Now

My current course and business ambitions require me, to jump outside of my comfort zone. To leave an extent of my individuality at the door and embracing learning as a team. Gone are the heavenly days, in which I can sit with my head in endless books and journals, pulling out fascinating theories and questioning them for hours. Working in business involves having a symbiotic relationship of learning together and bringing my learning as an individual into the team. Whilst this fills me with uncertainty, I’m ready to jump in and do it as a necessity to achieve my end goals. There we can already see an issue to my approach, as I’m considering it from a selfish view point and what I can get out of it. This is quite normal, as Hills (2001) would agree, at the moment in the beginning, we are a group of individuals attempting to work together, each with selfish needs and wants and we’re not a collaborating united, selfless team. That is the journey of this year and the aim as a team; we want to become a collective with the intention of starting a business.

Why is team work and team learning important? Well Hills (2001:7) would have you consider it was for “survival”, we are stronger as one. Hills would also use my experience within Enactus Newcastle and H&M as evidence that “personal satisfaction of seeing another member of the team achieve” was a focal point to its success. I do agree, i think there needs to be other motivating factors. Katzenback and Smith (1993:111-20) cite many team learning and working necessities from commitment, to goals, to complimentary skills, to a uniting factor. These factors provide the building blocks to build around, without them, the personal satisfaction would just never materialise.

So reflecting on where our team is at currently, well we don’t really have anything that unites us. I wouldn’t classify ourselves as a team. We are too focussed on achieving the end goal and completing tasks as quickly as possible, forgetting about the process behind it and doing it to the best of our abilities. Our meetings are brief and members can’t wait to get out due to varying levels of commitment, hence we simply delegate tasks out. Consequently, our work comes across as disjointed and superficial. Whilst we have set up a structure and communication channels to engage in, there is a distinct lack of accountability, commitment and may be due to my added few years and experience, I’m shocked at the lack of initiative and spoon feeding needed. As entrepreneurs, you’d expect them to possess, what I’ve been told is a nightmarish quality of mine, my stubborness and inability to give up; I get fixated on things and achieving…..this means I’m a self starter and I’m always surprised at how quickly others give up and accept defeat over something so minimal.

So my focus within this team at the moment, is not dragging the group through kicking and screaming. It is to let them fail (and hopefully succeed) and provide a contribution. Whilst it took everything within my power, not to automatically self appoint myself as leader and kick everyone into shape, I’m aware it would be counter productive to do so. Consequently, I made the suggestion that we have project managers for each project, meaning hopefully that each member will gain an element of respect, team will get to know their learning style and commit to them for the week. The reason I want to take this method of almost inactivism is due to Hills (2001:8) mantra ; “learning has to come from within the team”….we need to “recognise there is a problem” and understand what is happening and why. If someone is constantly there guiding and telling people what to do, the team never learns why they aren’t able to work together as a unit and we will simply become a group of individuals, led by a leader. I believe this will come from learning at a unit from experience. I can already see at such an early stage, that several of the things I had suggested (and were rejected) in the first meeting have naturally been adapted into the way we work and we are changing. I can also sense that some members of the team, would not suit to my working style, as they hate working within structure and others have confessed they don’t like working in teams at all.

In regards to looking forward and areas of team learning we need to adapt and consider, we need to open our minds and explore ideas instead of instantly shouting things down. I’ve always brainstormed and explored initially and then refined and dismissed ideas once considering their practibility. So I’m not used to being so instantly dismissive. I also consider we need to stop relying on key players and their strengths. I think this should be the time to experiment and learn new things. Hence this week, I put myself up to research figures and compile information. My strength is taking information, interpreting and planning from it, so i natually would have preferred to write the sustainability report. But like we worked in Enactus, we imparted skills constantly, so whilst people had more expertise, others could take over their position if needed. Moreover, we had a strong succession and shadowing plan, so that I was able to step down as President this year and hand over to Charlotte, a process that filled me with excitement in terms of how she is going to build on my foundations. We also actively independently learnt things, filling our missing skills area…..

So looking forward, how do I consider our team working and learning so far? It has been extremely frustrating and I’ve had to behave in a completely alien manner. But we have began to change as a team, I wouldn’t say we have started to gel but we have started to learn together. We lack identity, we lack purpose…….something I would suggest usually in this situation would be to develop the community, work out our team ethos, writing a team mission statement and vision statement? But I think this has to come from organically within. Hopefully as the projects progress, we stop working as separate individuals and begin learning as a unit…..


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