Whistle While You Work


"There is no 'I' in Team, but there is in ' Meat Pie', and meat's an anagram of Team…" (Shaun, Shaun of the Dead, 2004)

As Simon Pegg's character in Shaun of the Dead so tentatively suggests, teamwork is about sharing the load, being part of a bigger being than just you. Jokes aside, working as part of a group can be a very difficult and frustrating experience if every individual doesn't pull their weight. I personally have had several good and several bad experiences with teamwork, and ultimately feel more comfortable when given an assignment that I can do alone.

However, this mentality can sometimes be perceived as selfish, especially if you start talking down to colleagues in an interview or assessment centre, and come across as pompous and self important. It isn't an attractive look. To be able to co-ordinate and communicate with other people is a truly essential skill, which must be practiced throughout any career. Having independence and confidence in your own abilities is wonderful, and that's just as important, but there are some things that should be considered when you are put into a team.

Firstly; don't instantly assume leadership. I find it very helpful to assess the qualities and attitudes of those I'm working with before I jump to any conclusions about their skills. Despite confidence in yourself, there may be somebody at that table who is better at delegating, and could be a more beneficial leader than you.

Secondly; be polite. If you have an argument to make about a group decision, make it as friendly and gentle as possible. An aggressive personality in a working environment is bad enough as it is, but if it's concentrated onto a small group of people, not only will it reflect poorly on your people skills, but could also jeopardize the overall outcome.

Thirdly; communicate and work in harmony. Even if you all have a specific role to play, keeping up to date with the others in your group is vital for the overall success that you achieve. Sometimes, when a person feels pressure little things can slip their mind, and if they have the continued support of their team, these little slip-ups can be identified and sorted before they become big problems.

H. E. Luccock, an American Methodist Minister who taught at Yale's Divinity School a generation ago, was quoted as saying- "No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it." This is a fine metaphor for encouraging people to employ responsibility and compassion whilst working with others. Although we can be tempted to attempt the workload alone, it simply isn't wise- allow other people to make decisions whilst also making your own. Be part of the crowd, but don't be drowned out.

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