A band is made up of different members with different roles that create music that blends perfectly. A band is a team. Teamwork is essential in almost every work field but has an extremely high value in the realm of youth work.
In the field of youth work, turnover is often high and avoiding burn-out is an ongoing battle. It is of the utmost importance to make sure that you have the support necessary to do your job in the best way possible. When working on a team of youth workers, making that team structure work at its optimum is a challenge few can attest to. Below are some tips on how to be the best member of a team you can be when faced with the day to day challenges of youth work. The youth we serve are already a challenging component of our jobs, though we love them and our work dearly. Interacting with the other adults in our work place shouldn’t overshadow the work we do with the youth. Read below the strategies to maintaining your place as a meaningful part of any work team.
Bring Talent to the Team
Be good at what you do. Teams need talent. The more of it you bring to the group, the more you can contribute. Build your skills and in a very real sense, you are building the team. You can’t have a high-powered team with low-talent people. The weakest link in the chain sets the limits on what the group as a whole can achieve.
Play Your Position
Dig up all the details on your assignment. Nail every bit of it down so you will remember it. Then, play your position. It’s tough to achieve a coordinated team effort when people leave their stations…stray into someone else’s area…or just get sloppy and let things slip through the cracks. Teamwork by definition implies interdependence. What you do affects other people. Some people in the unit depend on you for their success, their effectiveness. What you fail to do can cause them to fail. Chances are if you fall down on the job, you pull others down with you. If you’re out of position, you may throw the timing off for the entire group. If you’re careless about covering your assignment, teammates have to abandon their duties to bail you out.
Push for High Quality Communication
Communication breathes the first spark of life into teamwork, and communication keeps teamwork alive. Nothing else is so crucial to coordination of effort. No other factor plays such a precious role in building and preserving trust among teammates. Communication is the make or break issue. It’s not enough for the right hand to know what the left hand is doing. The right hand needs to know what the left hand intends to do. People need a keen sense of what’s planned if they are to execute with precision. There’s no hope orchestrating a coordinated team effot unless good communication precedes action.
Turn your Team’s Diversity to the Team’s Advantage
Differences on a team can add depth and create strength. They can also broaden the group and bring balance. A dozen drummers couldn’t create much of a musical group. A six person team of people with the same opinions, values and viewpoints shows less promise of crafting good solutions than a more diverse group could. But for diversity to have value, you have to respect those different within the team and not sideline people who are considered different.
Back Up Others Who Need Help
Anybody can make a mistake, get overloaded, or just need a helping hand. The question is will you be in a position to cover for your teammates? The first step in being an effective back-up person is think team. Instead of focusing narrowly on you your personal assignment and nothing else, watch what’s going on with the rest of the group. There’s not much chance you’ll bring help unless you see that someone has a problem.
It’s one thing to show up for work every day and do your job, or, to show up on game day and go against competition. But, it’s another thing to show up for practice. To drill and rehearse, running through your plays time after time, watching the people perform as a team and pushing for better performance. True professionals never stop practicing because they recognize that practice is a winning way to move toward perfect.
Ask Questions and don’t FUDGE It!*
There is never a dumb question except the one unasked. Working with young people professionally does not afford the luxury of blindly entering a situation with no idea of what the expectations are of your role. If you are unclear about what you are to perform as a youth worker—ASK!!!! Ask before you begin. Especially if you are a youth worker imparting curriculum or specific information, it is your duty to make sure you are schooled in what you are talking about and aware of what outcomes your supervisor would like you to aid in being reached. Read the post in this blog regarding FUDGE-ing and why it can be the downfall of a facilitator.
Be Prepared to Sacrifice for the Team
The struggle of “me vs. we” is no stranger to team members. You can expect occasional conflict between your selfish interests and what’s best for the team. However, people figure out in a hurry just how much you can be trusted to protect the team. If you “sell out” the group to your selfish interests, how can you expect your teammates to be there when you need them?
Help New Teammates Make Entry
People come and go. The make-up of the group changes. You see a new player brought in, and you may see the substitution break the rhythm of the group. Turnover can be hard on teamwork. Still, newcomers deserve support. It works to the team’s advantage to get them settled in as soon as possible. Do your part to help bring new teammates up to speed. Take them under your wing. Get to know them. Help them get to know the group and how it operates. Find out how they can best contribute to the team’s success then make sure you contribute to theirs. In this regard, whatever goes around definitely will come around.
Help Drive Discipline Into the Group
In high performance teams, the players police themselves. The people don’t rely on somebody else—for instance, the boss, coach, or whoever is in charge, to crack the whip. Team members show superb self-discipline. Individuals hold themselves and each other accountable for top-notch results. The leader shouldn’t have to keep everyone in line. Sooner or later, teamwork comes down to the simple matter of self-control anyhow.
Give Attention To Group Process
Things are always going wrong at some point when people work together in a group. And even when things are going right, a sharp eye can often find ways for them to go better. Pay attention to what’s going on inside your group, and you’ll see problems there that need fixing. If you see behavior that’s hurting performance, have the guts to bring the problem to the rest of the team’s attention in a tactful and professional manner.
Help Create a Climate of Trust
Real teamwork requires people to have trust in each other. The only way you can build that kind of belief is by the way you behave. Will you keep your word? Do you honor your commitments? Are you consistent? Do you spread gossip about other team members? Do you play fair? Do you communicate well with your team members or do you do your own thing apart from the group?
In a climate of mistrust, the risk factor climbs so high it becomes a barrier to cooperative effort. Individuals begin to look out for themselves when they don’t feel protected adequately by the group.
Strengthen the Leader Through Good Followership
No leader is good enough to take a team to high performance if the team members are lousy followers. What’s involved in followership? Initiative- know what to do without being told, and do it. Think for yourself—give yourself permission to take appropriate action. Align yourself with the efforts with the group—No man is an island when it comes to teamwork and followership. Sometimes good followership can mean having enough guts to take a stand against a leader if you may need to argue a point, question your orders, or challenge authority if it is being abused. The key is to do it for the good of the group and the group’s goals and not for personal gain and the sheer joy of being a troublemaking rabble rouser.
Be a Good Sport
Good sportsmanship greases the wheels of group interaction. Poor sports put a strain on the team’s relationship. Good sportsmanship entails showing respect for others without putting them down; being humble yet aware of your strengths and talents you bring to the group; being big enough to ask for help and to say I’m sorry; Having a sense of humor instead of taking yourself too seriously..
Adapted from Teamwork: The Team Member Handbook, 16 Steps to Building a High-Performance Team by Price Pritchett
*Concept developed by Khadijah Ali-Coleman, SOYA, LLC