The Trials and Tribulations of Working in a Team

For my degree I have taken part in various team work experiences, but the biggest have been the GlobCom projects. GlobCom is basically a Global Communications Project, it’s where students from Universities across the world are put together in teams to pitch for a Global PR brief. I am currently in my second year of participating in the project and definitely have mixed feelings about it, however it does demonstrate the trials and tribulations of working in a team and more specifically a Global and virtual team very clearly.

Working within a team is standard for PR practitioners and there are very clear roles that people assume. There’s the natural born leaders, the people happy to do the donkey work and the coasters who basically do nothing. Belbin has his own rather more scientific descriptions  of the types of people in a team, from Implementers the people who turn ideas in to reality to the Plants who come up with the creative ideas. Of course there are several types in between and Belbin bases these roles on the personalities of certain people and the types roles they lend themselves to, there are the 3 types: Action, People and Thought orientated roles. These different types of people and roles provide a balanced working team, although sometimes an imbalance will occur and this is often the time that trouble will arise.

Working in a face to face team is considerably easier than a virtual one, but in this digital age virtual teams are becoming common practice especially within Global PR agencies and international organisations. This means that we need to get used to the workings of virtual and Global teams, the technology that is used and possibly most importantly the different cultures of our team mates. For English speaking countries such as the UK, America, Australia etc it is easier to overcome any hurdles as they have the benefit of a shared first language, but where English is a second language it can be harder. Patience is an essential for these situations, this is also a must when dealing with cultural differences that may arise and the minefield that is time zones.

Working in a virtual team will have all of the same traits of working in face to face team, however the problems that may occur will be heightened and often harder to rectify. In a survey created by RW3 Culture Wizard in 2010 some key points were uncovered including:

“The top five challenges faced during virtual team meetings were insufficient time to build relationships (90%), speed of decision making (80%), different leadership styles (77%), method of decision making (76%), and colleagues who do not participate (75%).”

These 5 points are all things that I have encountered in my experience participating in GlobCom. The first time I took part I was the Global Team Leader which meant being right in the thick of all of the problems and work load, it was difficult but a good and valuable experience. This year I have taken a step back and I’m enjoying working within the team and watching how it evolves and works. The use of social media has made building relationships quicker and easier but the speed of decision making, different leadership styles and methods of decision making are all issues that are beginning to emerge. These are things that aren’t going to go away, but with the right leadership, and patience from the team, they are issues that can be worked through.

Working in teams is something that everybody within the communications field needs to be able to do, whether you’re a worker or a leader. As virtual teams become more and more important to organisations, practitioners need to learn some key skills to aid their ability to work in these virtual Global teams. Practices like strong leadership and structure, clear rules and conduct for team members and importantly to be actively considerate and sensitive to cultural work practices are all essential. One of my favourite demonstrations of the latter are the HSBC adverts, they show the importance of being culturally sensitive when working in a Global context. There are texts on both working in within a Global teams and a virtual ones, but personally I believe the best way to learn how to work in these types of teams is to role up your sleeves and do it yourself.