You’ve heard phrases such as “working in a team environment” and “team dynamics” so often that their actual meaning can become overlooked. Understanding the true concepts underlying these phrases can go a long way in maximizing a team’s output while enhancing our own understanding of where we fit in the team and how we contribute our most valuable skill sets.
According to a 2013 study by the journal Human Resources for Health, interdisciplinary team work in the healthcare setting is becoming more prevalent in this age as a result of various factors. These include an aging population with more complex health needs, the increasing complexity of skills and knowledge needed to provide comprehensive care, and fragmentation of disciplinary knowledge due to increasing specialization in the health professions.
With that said, whether you’re working with your school’s ASDA executive board or embedded in a surgical team working in the emergency room, principles of effective teamwork are unanimous. On top of that, people talk. For the ideal team-oriented player, that spells good things for his reputation and job prospects. In terms of team-oriented habits that you can control from your end, here are some tips to follow:
- Listen. As brilliant as you may be, if you don’t listen to others in your team (especially your team leader), you can easily lose sight of the team vision. This, in turn, dulls the effectiveness of your own work as it relates to team goals. Moreover, people have little patience with insubordination and/or stubbornness. Don’t be the ostrich with its head in the sand.
- Never be complacent. Navigating the balance between complacency and satisfaction with your work is akin to walking on a tightrope. Left unchecked, complacency can eat into your motivation. A poignant moment of the film “Whiplash” contemplates this balance, where the film’s antagonist, a dictator of a jazz band conductor, describes his extreme view against positive feedback. He warns the film’s protagonist (an aspiring drummer) that “there are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’” because he believes it encourages complacency and creates egos. My alternative interpretation of this scene is that you have two options after a moment of success: remain satisfied with your work or continue building on it. Instead of letting compliments get to your head, understand that you have made significant progress and work on improving what you have already accomplished. Any self-improvement on your end leads to better output for the team. In the long run, this is how you get recognized and move up the ladder.
- Understand the value of your other team members. This means others as well as yourself. Give incentives to other team members, and demonstrate their value privately and publically to the rest of the team when they accomplish tasks. Recognition of hard work gives the impression that the work is appreciated. Delegate work to others when necessary too. This does not demonstrate weakness on your end, but rather an appreciation of others’ value to the rest of the team and a mature understanding of your team’s resources.
- Be flexible and resilient. Sometimes you don’t manage to accomplish what you set out. Realize instead that this can be an opportunity for introspection. An alternative to dwelling on failure is reevaluating your methods and pivoting to alternative strategies to achieve your objectives. Change and failure can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. If you can manage to roll with the punches and deal with adversity the right way, failure becomes a mere stumbling block. Perhaps Conan O’Brien states this best in his commencement speech to Dartmouth College graduates in 2011, stating that “your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound re-invention.”
- Communicate clearly (the Brits would like a word). When giving or receiving feedback, be clear. Doublespeak is not your friend, and can lead to miscommunication. Below is a table mocking British parlance and its actual insinuations. Laugh, then realize that clarity is key to meaningful communication between team members. Enjoy!
~ Sean Lee, Stony Brook ’18, contributing editor
About Sean Lee
Sean is a second year student at Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine and one of ASDA’s contributing editors. He is also involved in ASDA at the school level as President-Elect of the Stony Brook chapter. Born in Boston but bred on Long Island and collegiately educated in New Hampshire, he returned to dental school in New York after a hiatus of 3 gap years. Writing interests include anything from hockey dentistry to disparities in healthcare access. You can find him on the track or tennis courts, if not on the slopes skiing.