Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Teamwork is something both students and professionals struggle with. As much as we’d like to think working with others gets easier, the truth is that even college graduates have to work in less-than-ideal teams. For this reason, we’re giving all our readers a special Saturday blog post about what we’d like to assume Communication Studies students excel in: group work.

As students interested in advertising, we sometimes forget the teamwork skills we learn in our classes apply to our future workplace as well. An advertising agency is typically made up of six major departments: Account Service, Account Planning, Creative, Finance & Accounts, Media Buying, and Production. Communication within each department is key, but even more important is communication between the different departments. Account Service includes the account executives, account managers, and account directors – all who are responsible for communicating with the clients. If these account people do not communicate with each other or with other departments, the client will not get what they asked for. Furthermore, Account Planning must communicate with Creative so they can create an ad that lines up with the client’s wants and needs. Finance & Accounts, Media Buying, and Production are involved in the process later on, but they all need to be on the same page to create an ad their client approves.

The final product relies so heavily on teamwork that employees must know how to successfully work in groups. In order for the team to be successful, all members must understand and recognize the shared purpose they are working towards. In an advertising agency, the goal is making the client happy. In a class setting, the goal is making the professor happy. The goals really aren’t all that different. In the classroom and the office, a well-balanced team has individuals with unique skills and different opinions. When individuals bring different perspectives to the table, creativity flows and innovative ideas are developed. However, those challenges can sometimes introduce conflict in the group. When challenges arise, successful groups are able to diffuse these disputes by communicating as a team and collectively solving the problem. One thing that makes this possible is trust. Members must be able to trust each other so everyone is held responsible for his or her own work.

It is when these components are abandoned that productivity deteriorates and goals are not met. Mark D. Kent says that the average team achieves only 63% of their strategic plans due to five reasons: Lack of Commitment, Absence of Trust (which we mentioned above), Avoidance of Accountability, Fear of Conflict, and Inattention to Results. While these are all common reasons why teams dissolve, our experience has shown the Lack of Commitment and Fear of Conflict are most prevalent.

Lack of commitment is a problem for many groups. Who hasn’t been in a group that carries the weight of a slacking team member? Clarity on issues such as deadlines, member roles, and individual assessments must have ongoing attention from each group member in order to succeed in a group project. Team members should establish a code of commitment, such as a list of rules or requirements, to ensure each person is invested in the success of the team.

However, this can be hard to do if everyone is afraid to speak up. Far too often we see groups comprised of overly passive members, unwilling to voice their opinions due to fear of conflict. When individuals avoid conflict, all ideas pass through the process of logical reasoning, even the dumb ideas. Allowing the final say to belong to whoever is the loudest doesn’t mean the best ideas will be chosen. To be afraid of conflict is to silence your own self, which is detrimental to the group as a whole.

This is often defined as groupthink. Groupthink is when a group becomes so inwardly focused on the end goal that they begin to ignore alternatives and outsiders. According to Oregon State University , a group suffering from groupthink might be overestimating its invulnerability, collectively rationalizing decisions, stereotyping other groups, censoring themselves and others to maintain unanimity, and self-censoring information from the group. However, groupthink can be avoided with clear communication and acceptance between all team members. If members agree to be honest with each other, all ideas can be voiced and the best one will be found.

The dream of teamwork is to find a group of people who churn out quality work without hating each other by the end of the project. It can be hard to accept anything less than this, even though it is rare. With the tips pointed out here, hopefully we will remember that teamwork makes the dream work.

teamwork makes the dream work

12 thoughts on “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

  1. I agree that teamwork is essential to every company and/or project and the most important aspect is communication. A team is only productive when each member is willing to step up and help each other. Part of this includes knowing when to ask for help and being willing to accept help when offered. I like the term “group think.” It really represents the need for a team to pull together through the process of “Brainstorming” sessions.
    A few metaphors that represent team work:
    You can’t have a car run on three wheels.
    One person doesn’t win the football game.
    There’s no “I” in team.
    Susan Willetts

  2. As a Communication Studies major, teamwork is so essential. Like you mentioned, we work in groups throughout most of our Communication classes, but the teamwork doesn’t stop there. Quality teamwork is needed in every day life, especially in Communication related fields. I feel that sometimes students loose sight of this because teamwork can be hard, but it is necessary to remember that the need for group work never ends.

  3. While in college, I have realized teamwork has become of extreme importance, especially in my Communication Studies classes. I have been fortunate enough while I have been at UNCW to be a part of great groups in my classes. I like how you included the pyramid of the five reasons why groups do not achieve what is initially hoped for. All of those five reasons are extremely important when conducting research, or simply just working together to get a finished product. I believe teamwork is a skill everyone needs, because like you mentioned, “…we sometimes forget the teamwork skills we learn in our classes apply to our future workplace as well.” It is extremely important for us as students to realize these skills we are learning in college go much further than just the classroom.

  4. Since being a Communication Studies major, I quickly learned that teamwork was extremely important. I have been lucky enough while being at student at UNCW to have great group members. After working with others on important projects I have learned skills in college that I have used and will continue to use outside of the classroom. I have realized in the work force that I will be working with others throughout my career and we will always have something different to bring to the table. I like how you used the pyramid and explained the five reasons why groups may not achieve what they had hoped they would. I also like how you mentioned “In order for a team to be successful, all members must understand and recognize the shared purpose they are working towards” sometimes while working with group members we forget the main purpose of what our goal is but if every group member comes to an agreement and have a set of goals that everyone hopes to achieve this will help make the project successful.

    • Courtney,

      Great point. Every group I have worked with has been different, because we all have different working styles. I think if everyone agrees on the same goal, despite differences in working styles, the group communication will be more effective. Thanks for the comment.

      -Caroline R.

  5. When I was in high school, I always despised group work because I always seemed to be the only group member who cared enough to complete the project. Throughout those less than perfect group situations, I can clearly understand how the five components listed in the pyramid can completely destroy any hopes of having a successful group experience. I will be the first person to admit that I used to struggle with trusting other group members. However, since attending UNCW, my experiences with groups have been much better, especially regarding group projects within the Communication Studies major. Throughout having positive group experiences, I am now able to more confidently place my trust in others. In addition, I have realized that effective group work can ultimately lead to higher quality products. In addition, I have come to realize that the skills I am obtaining as a result of working in groups will only help the development of my future career in advertising. Group work is essential when preparing to enter the work force. Daily tasks would not be able to be completed without effective and efficient group communication. Engaging in such a large amount of “teamwork” throughout my journey as a Communication Studies major at UNCW, I feel that I will be equipped to make my “dream work.”

  6. In IMC our most recent blog post was to respond to Seth Godin’s blog about brands “breaking the chain” when it comes to retaining consumers. In my response I told a story of a time when the customer service branch of the online brand lost my business. Group work is in everything we do. The product caught my attention, the price was reasonable, the brand was recognizable… all of these parts of the brand worked together to gain my business and in 8 short e-mails the customer service representative lost my business. When it comes to group work its very important for each individual member to understand and share the brands goals and motives. Had I spoken to someone else in the company who had a clearer mind on the overall result of keeping my business, they may have handled the situation differently. Teamwork is everywhere and even if an entire nation wide brand is on the same page, one person can mess up and lose consumers.

  7. This article rings very true to me and makes plenty of good points about the nature of teams and the way teams work in a business environment. As a Communication major, our biggest asset is to be able to work in teams; something that is a lot easier when you realize how teams work, which this blog touches on. Roles, communication, accountability, and being able to speak openly to people are how people are able to make each other better on a team. This is true for any team; sports, school, marketing, etc. Team chemistry is of the upmost importance to operate and get things done, and studying Com should prepare us to catalyze whatever teams we are part of going forward.

  8. There will always be disagreement within a group the key is learning how to deal with different communication styles. This may not solve every problem a group encounters, but it will help to understand where other group members from. Hopefully this better understanding will assist in the problem solving process.

  9. In taking COM 200 this semester, I have found out how important teamwork is to the communication studies major and how important it is in the job atmosphere. Knowing how to work in a team is essential to being successful in a job. Teamwork can help find successful outcomes to problems and other things that come up in your job and in your life; that sometimes an individual just can’t figure out on his own.

    • Curtis,

      As a senior having had the opportunity to work in many groups, I now find it odd to work on something by myself without any feedback or opinions to consider. I’m glad you pointed out what teamwork can help do in finding creative solutions to problems, because I have seen it happen first hand. Thanks for the comment!

      -Caroline R.

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