ACTE Techniques October 2011 : Page 8

C LASSROOM C ONNECTION The Teamwork Fallacy: Not All Teams Get Things Done and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce,” teamwork is considered one of the most important skills for success at work. The report also says that employees frequently lack this skill. Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team , has an explanation for this. He says that teams are never easy because “we tend to look out for our own best interests, and not necessarily those of the team.” He also says that managers often leave team problems alone, “hoping they will work themselves out without any heavy lifting.” Based on this need for teams, will prac-tice improve team performance? It may help, but if teamwork skills are gained by simply being on teams, then we should all be experts. Our families are a type of team, as well as a circle of friends, sports and club groups. However, low-function -ing teams continue to be a problem. It is obvious that simply being on teams does not guarantee teamwork skill. I believe there are three main ingredients when teaching teamwork. Students should learn interpersonal skills, decision-making and team-management skills. It may be surprising to know that conflict is a necessary part of healthy team discussions. However, this is functional conflict, not dysfunctional conflict. Func -tional conflict involves sharing ideas respectfully, which is important for teams. Dysfunctional conflict occurs when team members compete and become angry with one another. Effectively using functional conflict is an important part of team success. Functional conflict requires an awareness of interaction styles that people use. The goal is true collaboration, where everyone works respectfully and openly together to develop the best solution. Most other styles result in a loss of ideas in the group. Let’s examine these styles: • Avoiders , also known as social loafers , simply sit back and let others in the group take over. They contribute almost nothing. • Accommodaters will share ideas, but they want to “ just get along,” so they will quickly give up their ideas. • On the other hand, competers openly share ideas but they are focused on having their ideas win. If they succeed in winning, almost all other ideas are lost, and hard feelings can result. • Compromisers openly share ideas, but they can be quick to blend their ideas with others, even if it is not the best idea. • The ideal style for everyone on a team is collaboration , where people share ideas and keep working until the best solu-tion is reached. In daily life we may use all of the interaction styles (avoider, accommodater, competer, compromiser, and collabora-www.acteonline.org PHoTo By ISToCk.CoM By Charles D. Johnson I OFTEN HEAR TEACHERS say that they use teamwork in their classes because it is needed by business. This may be true, but does simply working in teams actually improve team performance? Although educators excel at placing students in groups, I suspect they less often actually teach teamwork skills. Let’s explore this is -sue and think about ways we can improve the quality of teamwork. Interpersonal Skills Interpersonal skills are the skills needed to interact with others effectively. In order to do this, students should know about teams, functional conflict, interaction styles, and groupthink. Teams are different from groups . A group is a collection of people gathered together. However, teams are groups of people placed together to use the strengths and talents of each person to solve problems or reach a goal. So, a team is only successful if everyone participates. The Importance of Teamwork Teamwork is a critical need in the workplace. In the 2006 report, “Are They Really Ready to Work? Employ -ers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge 8 Techniques OCTOBER 2011

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