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Employability Skills

Teamworking Skills

All employers are keen to recruit employees who are able to cooperate, solve problems and work in teams. As less hierarchical organisations have emerged with project teams, self-managed work teams and management teams, so the requirements to 'Get on well with people', and to 'Work with and through others' become increasingly important.   Teamwork involves working confidently within a group, contributing your own ideas effectively, taking a share of the responsibility, being assertive - rather than passive or aggressive, accepting and learning from constructive criticism and giving positive, constructive feedback to others.

What makes an effective team?

  • It has a range of individuals who contribute in different ways and complement each other. A team made up just of planners would find it difficult to cope with changing deadlines or plans whereas a team full of spontaneous individuals would be disorganised: you need both types. A good team produces more than the individual contributions of members. 
  • Clear goals are agreed ones that everyone understands and are committed to. 
  • Everyone understands the tasks they have to do and helps each other. 
  • It has a coordinator who may adopt a leadership style from autocratic to democratic depending on the circumstances. Different people may assume the role of leader for different tasks.
  • There is a balance between the task (what do we need to do?) and the process (how do we achieve this?) 
  • There is a supportive, informal atmosphere where members feel able to take risks and say what they think.
  • The group is comfortable with disagreement and can successfully overcome differences in opinion. 
  • There is a lot of discussion in which everyone participates. Group members listen to each other and everyone's ideas are heard. 
  • Members feel free to criticise and say what they think but this is done in a positive, constructive manner
  • The group learns from experience: reviewing and improving performance in the light of both successes and failures. 
  • Great Teams Are About Personalities, Not Just Skills 

What makes an ineffective team?

  • People talk more than they listen and only a few people may contribute. 
  • Some members are silent and don't contribute. They may be indifferent, bored or afraid to contribute.
  • Members’ ideas are dismissed or even ridiculed and their views are ignored. 
  • There are arguments between members of the group (as opposed to constructive differences of opinion).
  • One or two members dominate the others and make the decisions. 
  • Disagreements are put to the vote without being discussed. 
  • Some members are unhappy with decisions and grumble privately afterwards.
  • Little effort is made to keep to the point or to work to deadlines.
  • There is a lack of clarity regarding goals and specific tasks are not agreed to. 
  • Roles are not delegated to particular team members.
  • There is a lack of trust and helpfulness. 
  • Members don't talk about how the group is working or the problems it faces. 

The roles people play in meetings.

There are a number of different roles that people adopt in meetings, some of which are listed below. These roles are not always constant - one person might adopt several of these roles during one meeting or change roles depending on what is being discussed.

Energises groups when motivation is low through humour or through being enthusiastic.
They are positive individuals who support and praise other group members. They don't like sitting around. They like to move things along by suggesting ideas, by clarifying the ideas of others and by confronting problems. They may use humour to break tensions in the group.

They may say:
"We CAN do this!"
"That's a great idea!"

Tries to maintain harmony among the team members
. They are sociable, interested in others and will introduce people, draw them out and make them feel comfortable. They may be willing to change their own views to get a group decision. They work well with different people and can be depended on to promote a positive atmosphere, helping the team to gel. They pull people and tasks together thereby developing rapport. They are tolerant individuals and good listeners who will listen carefully to the views of other group members. They are good judges of people, diplomatic and sensitive to the feelings of others and not seen as a threat. They are able to recognise and resolve differences of opinion and the development of conflict, they enable "difficult" team-members to contribute positively.

They may say:
"We haven't heard from Mike yet: I'd like to hear what you think about this." 
"I'm not sure I agree. What are your reasons for saying that?"

Good leaders direct the sequence of steps the group takes and keep the group "on-track".
They are good at controlling people and events and coordinating resources. They have the energy, determination and initiative to overcome obstacles and bring competitive drive to the team. They give shape to the team effort. They recognise the skills of each individual and how they can be used. Leaders are outgoing individuals who have to be careful not to be domineering. They can sometimes steamroller the team but get results quickly. They may become impatient with complacency and lack of progress and may sometimes overreact

They may say:
"Let's come back to this later if we have time." 
"We need to move on to the next step." 
"Sue, what do you think about this idea?"

Calm, reflective individuals who summarise the group's discussion and conclusions. They clarify group objectives and elaborate on the ideas of others.
They may go into detail about how the group's plans would work and tie up loose ends. They are good mediators and seek consensus.
They may say: 
"So here's what we've decided so far"
"I think you're right, but we could also add ...."

The ideas person suggests new ideas to solve group problems or suggests new ways for the group to organize the task.
They dislike orthodoxy and are not too concerned with practicalities. They provide suggestions and proposals that are often original and radical. They are more concerned with the big picture than with details. They may get bored after the initial impetus wears off. 

They may say
"Why don't we consider doing it this way?"

Evaluators help the group to avoid coming to agreement too quickly.
They tend to be slow in coming to a decision because of a need to think things over. They are the logical, analytical, objective people in the team and offer measured, dispassionate critical analysis. They contribute at times of crucial decision making because they are capable of evaluating competing proposals. They may suggest alternative ideas.

They may say:
"What other possibilities are there?" 
or "Let's try to look at this another way." 
or "I'm not sure we're on the right track." 

The recorder keeps the group focused and organised. They make sure that everyone is helping with the project.
They are usually the first person to offer to take notes to keep a record of ideas and decisions. They also like to act as time-keeper, to allocate times to specific tasks and remind the team to keep to them, or act as a spokesperson, to deliver the ideas and findings of the group. They may check that all members understand and agree on plans and actions and know their roles and responsibilities. They act as the memory of the group.

They may say:
"We only have five minutes left, so we need to come to agreement now!"
"Do we all understand this chart?"
"Are we all in agreement on this?"

Destructive or selfish group roles to avoid!

  • Autocrat: tries to dominate or constantly interrupt other members of the team. 
  • Show Off: talks all the time and thinks they know all the answers. 
  • Butterfly: keeps changing the topic before others are ready. 
  • Aggressor: doesn't show respect to others, comments negatively about them. 
  • Avoider: refuses to focus on the task or on group relationship problems.
  • Critic: always sees the negative side to any argument, but never suggests alternatives. Puts down the ideas of others. 
  • Help seeker: looks for sympathy from others: victim 
  • Self-confessor: uses the group as a forum for inappropriate talk about self.
  • Clown: shows no involvement in group and engages in distracting communication

Why do employers want team working skills?

Every job will require you to work with other people at some point. It is also more than likely that you will, at times, have to work with people you do not necessarily like or get along with. These people may be within or outside your organisation. Having an understanding of different team working styles, and appreciating the value that this mix brings, will help you to be more accepting and understanding of others. By recruiting people who demonstrate the qualities listed above, employers ensure that teams are more likely to be successful and effective thereby contributing to the success of the organisation. 

Examples of how team working skills can be developed or evidenced

  • Group work at college or university.
  • Team sports/ outdoor pursuits.
  • Work experience or voluntary work (e.g. negotiating with others to achieve an agreed objective, motivating and supporting other team members, improving working relations, resolving disputes by bringing together different opinions).
  • Organising an event with club or society members.