I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea – and the practice – of team work lately. Having worked in student affairs for 15+ years, I think I took it for granted that people generally knew how to develop a team. Sure, we all had student affairs bosses that didn’t work to create a team. But those were more the exception than the rule.
Now, I do a bunch of smaller things. And although the policies and practices highlight a “team”, that’s not truly actualized. It’s not to say that some people aren’t doing it. I’m certain they are, as some people just have that skillset and desire. But generally, it doesn’t seem to be a priority. There aren’t rewards for cohesion. There isn’t training on developing a team atmosphere amongst the people you recruit into an organization.
I’m a firm believer in the need to build trust and teamwork, especially between hierarchal “officers” in an organization. You need to believe in the people above you. You need to know they are invested in you. As a manager or leader, you need to invest in, support, and challenge those below you. Ideally, as a manager or leader, you’ll work to ensure your supervisees know each other and can support and challenge each other. That can be difficult - but is not impossible – when you are decentralized.
How do we reward teamwork? How do we clearly identify teams that are working cooperatively and are invested in each other? How can we better train teams – especially in part time or volunteer roles – to challenge and support each other? What guidance and rewards do we give to a team leader who goes out of their way to build a supportive, cohesive team?
I do know that every time I’ve been in a non-functioning team or with a leader who is unable, either though desire, time, or skill, to develop a proper team I have learned a little bit more of what not to do. I know I love bringing people together to talk about their strengths, goals, and how they can work collectively. I know that leadership means regularly checking in, questioning, and committing to helping others advance.
I’m so grateful for my time in student affairs, as it let me work with others to develop teams. It allowed me the opportunity to serve as a part of strong, functioning, involved teams. It taught me teambuilding – how to bring people together. I hope I can impart that gift for others.