NUMBER 793 • 26 JULY • The ten c's of teamwork
Teamwork is more than a philosophy. It is an event. Teamwork either occurs or it does not. Believing in it is not enough. It has to be put into practice in order to make a difference. As seen in the world of sports, a team does not achieve teamwork just because it has the name. Teamwork occurs as the result of training, practice, and hard work. In the helping professionals, teamwork includes a number of specific professional behaviors that are discussed here as the Ten C's of Teamwork.
Everyone knows that communication is essential in all human organizations. The statement, “I think we have a communication problem here,” is frequently heard when problems emerge among people working together. Teamwork includes communication because all members of the team share their information, their ideas, and their points of view with all other members of the team. Communication includes skills in sharing and receiving. Teams work hard to insure that all team members have the information they need to do their jobs.
Cooperation is the second C of interdisciplinary teamwork. The word cooperate means to operate together. When team members are cooperating they look for ways to support and complement the contributions of others. Coordination is another essential component of a functioning team. For as we work together, we order our contribution in such a way as to maximize the effectiveness of each other’s work. Closely related to cooperation and coordination is the team concept of collaboration. Again the prefix co- provides the meaning of “together.” Collaboration means laboring together. When we say “we collaborated on a project with someone else,” we mean we actually worked side by side in completing the task. Interdisciplinary teams professionals sometimes work independently and coordinate their respective activities and at other times work side by side. In both conditions, communication and cooperation provide the foundation. The result in either case is consistency since all team members share common goals and a plan of action allowing them to work effectively both alone and together.
The team's plan of action is achieved through a process of confronting problems, compromise, and consensus decision making. The members of effective teams recognize that problem identification and problem solving is one of the fundamental responsibilities of the helping professions. Thus, team members are willing to express their concerns regarding problems and to engage in a democratic process of discussion, compromise, and consensus decision making to determine the most effective means of solving the problem at hand. Admittedly, this process is time consuming, but that which you achieve at the end is a plan of action that all team members can support and enthusiastically carry out.
The last of the Ten C's of Teamwork are caring and commitment. They are listed last because they often emerge from the interactions that occur among the team members as they work together. Of course, helping professionals care and feel commitment before they become members of interdisciplinary teams. If they did not, they would not have chosen a career in serving other people. However, teamwork produces new levels of caring and commitment to one's team members. In the process of working closely with other professionals who share your same values and goals and support your efforts, you are able to experience a depth of professional relationship that is extremely satisfying and meaningful.
The Ten C 's of Teamwork can be just a bunch of words or they can be realities that provide the foundation for our work together.
Garner, H. C., (1989) Building teams that really work. The Child and Youth Care Administrator. Spring 1989 pp 73-74