There’s no “I” in TEAM

In the week of the Postgraduate Enterprise Summer School, we take a quick look at effective team working.

This week, PGRs from across the University are participating in the Postgraduate Enterprise Summer School (PESS).

Participants will work together in small teams to solve a real life strategy challenge being faced by an influential local organisation.

PESS is designed to develop PGRs’ enterprise and transferable skills, and in particular to give PGRs the invaluable opportunity to develop team working skills.  You will often be required to work in teams in careers both in and outside academia.

Teams are formed when a group of people get together with a shared goal.  One feature of effective teams is each member of the group/team understanding their own strengths and weaknesses, and appreciating the strengths and weaknesses of other members of the team.  One of the most common models used for this is the Belbin Team RolesBelbin’s original research demonstrated that successful teams had a balance between eight (later nine) “team roles” (or clusters of behaviour in a team).

If you’ve attended training on team working, it’s likely that you have completed a questionnaire to find out your preferred Belbin Team Roles (although it’s important to note that these will change over time/in different groups).  However, even if you don’t know your official Belbin Team Role, you can still help your teams work more effectively by being more aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and taking into account the strengths/weaknesses of your colleagues.

  • Identify your strengths in your team: what do you think you do better than your team colleagues?  What resources do you have access to that others don’t?  What skills do you have?  Ask your colleagues what they see as your strengths.
  • Identify your weaknesses:  what tasks will you try to avoid?  Which situations do you find difficult to resolve?  Again, ask your colleagues what they think.
  • Acknowledge your colleagues’ strengths:  what are your colleagues really good at?  Try to allocate work/tasks within the team to play to everyone’s strengths.  Make sure you value everyone’s contributions.
  • Forgive and work with your colleagues’ weaknesses:  the Belbin Team Roles refer to “allowable weaknesses”, because something that is often perceived as a weakness can be the natural flip-side of a strenghth.  That indecisive team member?  They’re probably helping to ensure that everyone is as happy as possible with each decision.  The bossy one?  Making sure things happen.  The nit-picker?  You get the idea…

Next time you’re working in a team to co-author a paper or organise a conference, think about your role in that team to develop your awareness and skills.  There are also some UoB training opportunities which will develop your team working skills:

Do you know your Belbin Team Role?  Has that helped you to work more effectively in teams?  What teams are you currently working in?

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Helen Kara

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