Try to think from a “team” mindset

By Matt Hutchison, Columnist

There is no I in team. What we can accomplish together is greater than what you can accomplish on your own.

Humans are social animals, and the benefits of teamwork are intuitive. But teamwork hasn’t always been a popular concept; different generations have different beliefs about the benefits of teamwork. It seems that our generation favors teamwork, yet has difficulty maintaining the relationships required for teams to be successful.

I think this difficulty is heavily rooted in the nature of social media, which is why I think it’s important to limit the amount of time spent on these platforms. If you want working as a team to be both enjoyable and successful, you can’t just want teamwork: you have to adopt a team-oriented mindset for the success of the group. If you’ve worked in teams only to find them fall apart, knowing your SMART goals is a solution.

The acronym represents a method for structuring goals. It forces you to consider if your goals are Specific, Measurable, Agreed-upon, Realistic, and Time-bound.

Specificity is key. What are we trying to accomplish? “Solving a problem” is not specific. What can specifically be done to solve this problem?

It’s also necessary to ensure that the goal is measurable. The important questions to ask yourself are how will I know, not feel, that we are being successful? How will I know when we are failing? There’s a reason that grades are based on points. They are measurable.

The group must also agree on the goal collectively. Discussions about the goal must take place and everyone must contribute their honest opinions before a compromise is made and each member agrees to enacting the goal.  The goals also have to be realistic. The team may have great goals, but if they are not within the scope of the team’s abilities or the team lacks the resources to achieve them, then they are not realistic. In this case, the team has to start smaller.

Finally, the team’s timeline is important as it holds the team accountable by keeping things from stalling.

The ultimate lesson is that when working in a team, you can’t simply think about your goals in a vacuum. You have to make sure that your and your team’s goals are compatible.

But this process does have a caveat. The most difficult aspect is that every member must want to see the team succeed and be willing to make compromises for the health of the group while maintaining their own personal values. Team thinking does not mean members should fall into the rut of groupthink — the essence of teamwork is to promote constructive dialogue and to have an agreed-upon decision-making process. The R in SMART is violated when a team doesn’t acknowledge that each member of the group is a unique individual.

A conflict that our generation seems to face is the inherent difference between online social interaction and face-to-face social interaction. When we write we often express ideas differently than when we speak — curated text can easily be written, edited and designed to create an ideal presentation of an individual personality.

This is the opposite of face-to-face interactions where imperfection is the norm, faults are exposed and vulnerability is de facto. The online world teaches us to avoid transparency and honesty; successful team members must be comfortable with admitting faults, failures and vulnerabilities. We’re all human and these sides of ourselves should not be hidden.

This leads to my most important point: a successful team mindset is based on trust. Given the widespread amount of ill will on social media platforms, it is reasonable that people start to feel mistrust if their social presence is rooted in their profiles. It can be surprising to see how empathetic people can be and how much others want to help in face-to-face settings and within healthy teams. However, if teams are formed with the same mindset that many have when curating their online identity and authentic personalities and flaws are ignored, problems are bound to arise.

Matt is a junior in Media.

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