There’s a famous quote about teamwork by philosopher Aristotle that says,
“the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”
It suggests that the work produced by teams is better than if that same work was completed by individuals, and that a special quality emerges when cooperation and collaboration occur.
This is particularly true within the health and disability sector which are built on the positives that strong teamwork brings. Accommodation teams and health care teams bring together people with different skills, abilities and talents in the pursuit of a common goal – the best possible care and support for residents and clients.
Teamwork is essential in these settings because if the team does not work effectively or consistently, resident and client needs may not be met, and the quality of support will suffer. Here, we list down four reasons health and disability sector teams need to pay attention to teamwork to ensure they are providing the best possible care and support.
1. Enhances the ability to meet needs
When working in the disability and health care sector, no one person can perform their role completely independently and through the course of their career will rely on the work of a broader team, to achieve certain goals and outcomes for residents and clients. When this happens, it is essential that the team can come together, co-operate and work towards a common goal. Shared, effective teamwork then becomes a crucial element in ensuring the success in assisting residents and clients to achieve their individual goals. Having better teamwork and cooperation contributes to greater consistency, maintaining standards and improved decision-making, resulting in improved quality and greater satisfaction amongst residents and clients.
2. Improves responsiveness to changes
When health and disability teams work will together, they can become more responsive to changes, especially with more eyes and ears on board to collect and decipher information. In addition, knowing what each member is capable of and what their personality is like will lead to the development of trust and understanding, thereby empowering the team to adapt and respond to changes in a quick and effective manner. This is crucial in an accommodation setting or in a person’s home, where changes can be subtle or prone to be missed, if the team does not communicate well.
3. Reduce chances of errors
In a team, any necessary knowledge and information about the resident and client will be shared amongst the members to facilitate support planning. This enables each team member to have a better understanding of the person’s support needs and serves as a cross-check on each other’s work, thereby reducing the chances of errors during support. With constant communication, everyone should be clear about their own and everyone else’s roles, leading to better coordination of support.
The benefits of effective teamwork are clear but not everyone is skilled or has the confidence to work well within a team. As part of this blog we have pulled together some advice on how to improve your teamwork skills and become a killer collaborator. After reading, you’ll no doubt see why, thousands of years later, Aristotle’s words earlier will still ring true today.
Because an organisation of any size cannot operate smoothly and successfully when people work alone. Success requires departments internally and stakeholders externally to engage, debate, share skills, exchange knowledge and integrate resources to get the job done. While teamwork skills are incredibly important in the workplace, that doesn’t mean everyone has them. Maybe you’re a natural introvert, or you may prefer to take a back seat when working with others or perhaps you have spent many years working remotely. These are all valid reasons for why you might want to improve your teamwork skills, and here are a few ways to ensure you’re the best collaborator you can be:
Commit to dedication
High performing teams are absolutely focused on the end result, committed to the result they’ve agreed to, and will find innovative solutions to achieve this. The dedication of every team member counts, so whatever your role, show that you’re committed, even in the face of change or adversity, and always be ready to assist others.
Be governed by goals and live by purpose
If you’re new to working in teams, or wanting to improve your collaborative skills, remember to always keep the person's goals and organisational purpose front of mind. If all your work aligns to this and you can remind your team of this throughout the duration of your work, you can be sure you’ll make valuable contributions, and help others do so too.
Learn to listen
While teamwork requires a solid amount of idea and strategy generation, an important component of teamwork is also listening; knowing when the contributions of others need to be heeded. Improving your listening skills and seeing different suggestions as valuable ensure the best ideas are surfaced, tested and implemented. You’ll also assist in boosting the morale and confidence of those you’re collaborating with, making every team member feel like they’ve been truly heard and considered.
Improving your teamwork also requires you to know how to combat negativity. International speaker and leadership consultant Graeme Joy coined the term “idea assassins”, identifying those who are quick to list reasons why you won’t achieve your goals. Joy says the difficulty with idea assassins is that they often have something “pertinent and valuable” to say about what makes others fail. Their advice can be vital to success, but the challenge is to take this information and analyse it, without it becoming a hindrance to your work, project or team.
The best teams aren’t made up of people who look, think, act or lead in the same way. Why? Because you’d end up with a group who are likely to agree quickly on most ideas, rather than debate and challenge them to find the very best solution. When considering how to improve your teamwork skills and better understand why collaboration is important, consider that the most successful teams look for diversity in the below areas:
Having a variety of personality types on your team helps being differing perspectives and ideas to projects and problems. For example, a traditional Type A personality may present the big ideas initially, while a conventional Type C personality might spend time quietly analysing and finessing the proposed ideas. Combined, you’ll likely get a team that has considered many approaches and strategies, and will likely find better solutions.
Skills and experience
It’s unlikely that an individual alone possesses the breadth of skills and experience needed to complete every task your department or organisation demands. Aspiring to have a range of skills and experiences will allow for a greater range of ideas and processes to be tested, where team members can draw on past and seemingly unrelated experience to brilliantly solve the task at hand.
Engaging different work styles to collaborate starts with acknowledging that there's often more than one right way to get the job done. Maximising benefits when working with people who have different approaches to tasks requires patience and respect, so ensure that these are always present, even if the work styles vary immensely.
While it might seem unconventional to have members of the customer service team present in a marketing strategy brainstorm session, consider this: who spends the most time with your organisation’s customers? And while it’s not standard practice to have members of IT in a sales executive meeting, asking yourself: who customises the sales software used by the team nation-wide? Where relevant and appropriate, consider including members or different departments, and of varying levels of seniority to your meetings to gather a holistic view of issues and information that you and your team may not have otherwise had access to.
Teamwork should be an exciting part of every role you undertake, whether you’re just starting out as a support worker or you’re a new team leader or manager of a large team. Being open to constantly improving your teamwork skills will help you not only get the best out of your collaborations, but likely open up opportunities that you never even imagined, propelling your career in truly rewarding directions.