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Healthy Living: Team Building

Sabra JacobsYour success in college depends to a large extent on how well you work with others. You will find that you will have to work collaboratively with classmates or fellow classmates to complete assignments, with your instructors to do well in your classes, with your family members who can either enable or prevent you from becoming a successful student, etc. Consequently, it is important for you to learn the basics of team building so that you may increase your efficiency and success in all of your endeavors.

The New Websters Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language (1997) defines collaboration as working together cooperatively. Another way of looking at this concept is group members working together in a climate that encourages and values the contributions of each of its members to meet a common goal. In this case, group members interact and communicate, assume various roles within the group, and establish a group identity.

Some benefits of working collaboratively include: generating a multiplicity of diverse perspectives, providing support and encouragement for one another, contributing uniquely specialized skills and talents to the project, and ensuring a high-quality end-product that is sure to be successful.

Some of the difficulties of working collaboratively include: dominating group members who do not permit others to share their views, lazy group members who do not pull their share of the projects load, and opposing personalities within groups that may prevent the group from getting anything accomplished due to constant arguing, nit-picking, etc.

Here are some suggestions for building an effective team:

1) Treat all group members with respect even if there are members of the group that you do not like.

2) Dont hesitate to contribute your own ideas everyone has important viewpoints to share

3) Encourage diverse ideas from others be supportive of a free and open exchange of ideas

4) Evaluate ideas objectively, not personally use critical thinking when deciding which ideas may be the most useful and/or appropriate

5) Keep the group focused on the task at-hand in order to be most efficient and to reach decision-making in a timely manner

6) Assign group responsibilities in an equal manner everyone has important talents and energy to contribute to the success of the project

7) Deal directly with problem members dont let problem members disrupt the positive momentum and functioning of the larger group

Characteristics of successful teams include members who share a common goal, care for one another, communicate effectively with each other, and grow together. Whether the goal is to pass a test or work collaboratively on a committee, each member should always be mindful of the common goal for the team. As rapport is established among the team members, it is natural for each member to develop caring attitudes toward the welfare of its members and to show compassion and encouragement to any member having a particularly difficult time fulfilling their teams responsibilities. Each team member should communicate directly and indirectly in positive ways to further the teams success. And, each member should grow together by learning about the project and their shared experiences and positive give-and-take of communication with each other.

Here are some team-building exercises that you can try for your next collaborative project:

Scavenger Hunt

Materials Needed : Data sheets and pens/pencils

Activity : Each person in the group receives a data sheet of questions. The questions should include unusual questions that most people do not readily share with casual acquaintances. For example, questions may include: been canoeing/kayaking on a river or ocean; seen a wild turkey; used a map and compass to find your way; been in bad weather during a camping trip; camped in a national park; cooked smores over a campfire; taken a photo of an animal in the wild; been afraid outside; and been horseback riding. Next, they must introduce themselves to the other members of their group and inquire who in the group has experienced the various activities printed on their data sheets. When they find someone who fits one of the descriptive statements, that person must sign their name in that box on the data sheet of the inquirer. No person can sign more than one box on the data sheet and group members must have a signature from a group member for each box on their data sheets.

Variations : Different questions may be used for the group members to ask. Also, different numbers of questions may be written on the data sheets depending on the groups size and composition.

Continuing Story

Materials Needed : None

Activity : The group gets together in a circle and each person contributes his own thoughts and ideas into a common story. The first person begins by starting a story. For example, Once upon a time, a farmer was out in his field planting his crops, when he noticed a small furry bundle close to a tree. At first he thought it was a baby rabbit, but as he approached closer, he found Then, the next person would finish the sentence and continue from that point in the story by adding their own personal touch. Each person would have their turn and the story can continue around the circle as many times as the group chooses. The only major rule is that the story must remain a story and not a discussion, and each person must finish the sentence of the person before him. A participant cannot directly change the subject; however, indirect changes are accepted as long as they are connected to the ongoing story theme.

Variations : The group can enforce additional rules. For example, each person may contribute only one or two sentences rather than an unlimited number. Also, each person can write sentences on a piece of paper. As a person finishes his sentences, the previous sentence can be folded down, and passed on to the next person, with only his sentence showing. Alternatively, instead of using printed words or sentences, participants could take turns drawing different objects in a creative picture.

Compliments

Materials Needed : Pieces of paper and pens/pencils

Activity : Each participant receives one piece of paper and writes his/her name at the top of the paper. Next, the papers are rotated around the circle to each group member who must then write something that they like or admire about each group member on the appropriate sheet. When this activity is finished, had the papers back to their original owners for them to read and enjoy. Take care to ensure that nobody can see who writes what. Discussion may follow.

Suggested References :

Chaffee (1999). The Thinkers Guide to College Success. (Second edition.)Houghton Mifflin Company: New York.

Maxwell (2008). Teamwork 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know. Thomas Nelson, Inc.: Nashville, TN.

Phillips (1992). Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times. Warmer Books: Boston.

Webster (1997). The New Websters Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language. Gramercy Books: New York.

Questions or Comments? Please contact: Sabra Jacobs, Professor of Psychology, Big Sandy Community and Technical College, 1 Bert T. Combs Drive, Prestonsburg, KY 41653; email sabra.jacobs@kctcs.edu ; call (606) 889-4778; or stop by my office Pike Building, room 209 f on the Prestonsburg Campus.