In past blog posts I’ve talked briefly about the importance of knowing the purpose of a work team and the Responsibilities of each team member. I want to discuss that further because it’s such an important component to developing solid teamwork and your overall Organizational Development.
During World War II, my dad served aboard a Navy hospital ship, the U.S.S. Dogwood. Anyone who has had the opportunity to tour a Navy ship—whether it’s an active-duty ship in port during Fleet Week and holding tours, or a museum ship set up for daily tourist groups—has seen how small each section of the ship’s interior is and how each compartment is packed with equipment, supplies or both. In order to operate in such tight spaces, everyone on the ship has a specific job and specific duties and must know when and where to perform them.
My dad was a cook aboard the Dogwood, and because he had grown up working in his family’s small bakery, he was specifically in charge of baking breads and pastries. Other cooks in his section handled different tasks depending on their skill set and level of experience, with some preparing different parts of each meal, some handling food prep like peeling potatoes, and some responsible for cleanup. No one stood around looking lost—certainly not for long! The section leaders made sure that everyone had an assigned task, that they understand the task and that they were able to perform it.
Now, a team within a civilian office environment rarely needs to operate as efficiently as a Navy crew. The requirements for an effective team, however, are still there. Nothing is worse than being thrust into a new department without a clear understanding of one’s responsibilities.
Team leaders have an obligation to make sure new members know their roles and responsibilities on the team and how that applies to organizational development. Also, the new members themselves should step up and ask, if they’re not certain what their responsibilities are – ideally by asking the team leader or the senior members of the team. It’s not a bad idea to assign a new member to work alongside an experienced member of the team, particularly if team leaders aren’t available for questions at all times.
When new team members and team leaders alike take an active approach to meshing with the group, team building progresses that much faster. New members can shift from getting familiar with the day-to-day tasks, to developing the mutual trust and respect that help teams bond and achieve together.
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