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14 December 2020

No, not everyone has an inborn skill for Teamwork. Sometimes you also have to learn it

Many times people underestimate the value of Teamwork, taking it almost for granted. In fact, teamwork is not always an inborn skill, but one that can be acquired over time through experience and a lot of practice

Team working

Hands up who, during a job interview, has heard the question “Do you like teamwork and collaborating with other people?”

The real answer, however, is not as obvious as the one we usually give to our interviewer. The common reaction, in fact, is to start thinking about the many times we had to work together with other people, and to get back to certain negative memories about moments when cooperating was really hard or even impossible, due to a lack of harmony between the two parties.

It wasn’t by chance that I used “had to” few rows above, as within the working environment we don’t always have the freedom to choose who to work with. Indeed, we are often joined by a colleague who, on the basis of their skills and experience, is selected by others (most likely recruiters).

So, to the question “do you like to work in a team?” what do we answer?

Most of the time, the answer is a resounding “yes“, but the truth is that many omit they prefer individual work, firmly believing that “if you want something done, do it yourself”. Others, instead, just respond too superficially, maybe because they don’t have experience working in a team, or because they think it’s not such a crucial factor in their day-to-day working life.

In this article I want to debunk this myth and explain the importance of collaboration between people and teamwork in general, aimed at achieving a common goal. I will also tell you why, from my point of view, teamwork is not an option in today’s working environment.

My personal experience – In union there is strength

When I first arrived in Trueblue, in the Data Warehouse Department, we were a group of just over ten people. From the very beginning of my journey, I was supported by a very experienced and competent colleague in the field, Tommaso.

My first impression was definitely a surprise, since the team was very lively and talkative, but the thing that struck me most was the predisposition among colleagues to share knowledge. If someone came to know something important about BI development, within a short time this would become “public” within the team. For my part, I was not used to this dissemination of information, as I came from very different backgrounds.

Now, I would like to focus on this very point: the sharing of knowledge and know-how, is by no means to be taken for granted when working in a group of people.

From my own experience, I can tell you that in some work places there is a kind of jealousy of one’s own technical and customer knowledge that leads to a certain custom: “what I know is a treasure that I should never share with others”. Within these environments, you often find people who are used to mind their own business only, convinced that sharing knowledge would do them harm. This is the kind of workplace which you need to keep your distance from.

Returning to my experience in Trueblue, as I mentioned earlier, I had never been accustomed to such a collaboration between colleagues and I immediately realized that the modus operandi I had used until then would not work within this group of people, which at times looked more like a family, rather than a corporate department as we are accustomed to imagine it.

Therefore, I started putting myself out there and slowly realizing that it was much more stimulating to work in an environment that encourages sharing and collaboration among colleagues. Hence, I began to make myself available to others in case they needed to investigate new features of Business Intelligence products. Even during development phases, it was always possible to acquire new knowledge by working just like a team, which backs up when faced with a problem to be overcome together.

Teamwork – All that glitters is not gold

Man is a social animal, led by nature to the sharing of thought, speech and knowledge. Let’s just think about the advent of the Internet and its benefits in terms of information sharing.

Obviously, however, opinions in a group of people can be conflicting and sometimes it happens to clash between colleagues because of possible misunderstandings. In fact, we all have our own personalities, which are not necessarily compatible with those of others.

Personally, it has happened to me several times to work with people who are very different from me and from my way of working, but this should not be seen as a negative point, on the contrary, and do you know why?

Because we need to understand that there is not necessarily a right way and a wrong way, but that we should learn to take the best from both sides. To tell you the truth, differences can be of a different nature. For example, everyone works at a certain pace, I often complete my tasks slowly because I need to be sure that the work I do is precise (for this reason I have to go over it several times), while others do things more quickly.

My way of working leads me to be more precise than others in certain respects, but this can often lead to missing some project delivery deadlines (so both the positive and negative aspects surface). On the other hand, those who work quickly are unlikely to miss any deadlines and will always be on time with their project deliveries, perhaps at the expense of the quality of their work.

The fact of working in a team makes it possible to compensate for these differences by getting the best out of people for the same end goal, effectively overcoming all the negative aspects of individuals. In other words, team working makes it possible to enhance the strengths of each individual.

Highlighting the negative features of colleagues does not lead to any results. On the contrary, what we should learn to do is to emphasize the positive aspects of each individual and make the most of them, employing team members in tasks that enhance their qualities and skills.

On top of this, this is a great opportunity for each of us to observe the other members of the team, focusing mainly on their strengths and what they do best, and trying to imitate them in that sense, with the purpose of improving.

Man shall not live on bread alone, but on team working, too

To conclude, in the modern work setting, knowing how to mesh with a team of people is essential because most companies have realized the real benefits of teamwork.

This is why each and every one of us, within any field, should be committed to collaborating with other people. For better or worse, teamwork has become a part of our lives.

This implies that we must question ourselves, as we cannot assume that our thinking is necessarily correct. In reality, we can either come up against those who have more experience than us and are better trained on certain issues, or we can deal with people who need to grow professionally, and in this case we become coaches ourselves. This means that in some moments we will have to learn from one person, in others we will be there to train another, and all this mutual exchange will create a chain that will keep the work of the team efficient throughout.

At Trueblue, in the Data Warehouse department, people collaborate every day and we meet, either face-to-face or remotely, several times a day. Our day starts just like that, with a team session where each of us summarizes their planned activities for the day.

Each project is actually shared by two or more people, usually from the same team, but the management of the project itself is delegated to people outside our division. That’s why it becomes fundamental for us to collaborate not only with colleagues with a technical profile, but also with those who have a management profile or, once the project is completed, with the Customer Service. All the people involved are part of a bigger picture and each of them, with their skills and qualities, combines with the others to form a big puzzle that represents our great Company, Trueblue.

Gerardo Rossi – BI Specialist

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