Earlier this summer I took part in the Coniston PGR trip as part of the PGCARMS programme. This is an advanced transferable skills module which focuses on team skills and collaborative working. This may seem a strange choice given that my doctorate in Education is essentially a solo endeavour, but that’s exactly why it appealed to me; doctoral research can be isolating and pretty lonely at times, so I jumped at the chance to do something interactive, learn new skills and to meet new people, and of course spending a week in the beautiful Lake District was also a bonus!
At Coniston we were split into two teams and each day brought new challenges, from paddle boarding to rock climbing to navigating our way back from the village pub in the pitch black at night which definitely tested our skills as a team! Each activity had a collaborative element and at the end of each day we were asked to reflect on what we had learned about being part of a team. We also had a session on the different Belbin team roles and reflected on our own Belbin profile and how it fitted in with the others in our team.
The key lesson I took away from the week was that every team member has their own particular strengths and the key to great team work is to communicate effectively to identify and use those strengths. It’s really important to let each team member know they are valued as part of your team, no matter how small a role you may perceive them to play. The key word here is ‘perceive’; a task given to another team member may seem fairly insignificant to you in comparison to your own task, but take a step back and look at the bigger picture – how does that one small task fit into achieving the team’s overall goal? Can the team as a whole accomplish their objective without those smaller tasks being completed (probably not!)? How does that task fit into what you are doing (it definitely does!) and how will it facilitate what you are trying to achieve?
This is equally important to apply to yourself too when you are doing something which seems less important or peripheral to the team’s objectives. During one activity my team had to earn points from various activities, and I was given several small tasks to do by myself. While the Completer-Finisher in me was pleased to be given individual tasks that I could focus on, at first I felt a bit disappointed that I was only given low point-value tasks. However afterwards my team members told me how much they had appreciated knowing they could leave the smaller tasks in my hands knowing those points were ‘in the bag’ while they focused on other tasks. This made me realise that my specific role was valued by my team even though I had thought at first that it maybe wasn’t a very important one.
By the end of the course I had made new friends, acquired many new practical and personal skills and most importantly gained a new level of confidence in myself as a valuable member of a team. I would definitely recommend the team building course at Coniston for PGRs who work as part of a team and for those who work on their own too, as you may learn things about yourself that you never knew before!