By Tammy Potosky
Some people think of teens working in teams and just cringe. When I think of teens working together, I think of all the possibilities that can come from the opportunity of working together. I think about the:
- teamwork that can happen
- creativity they bring with them
- leadership skills that can be nurtured
- interpersonal communication skills that can be developed
- conflict resolution experience
- critical thinking skills that are developed
- collaboration they learn
- strengths, skills and support that are shared
There are so many other opportunities that await these young people when working in teams that will benefit them for their entire life. Learning to work in teams is a valuable skill and asset any person can benefit from.
As new teams are being formed, it’s important that there is a level-headed adult coach to monitor the team. An important part of the coaches job is to ensure that the team is following the guidelines of the program/assignment, supervising them for safety purposes, guiding the team if they seem to get stuck or sidetracked to get their thinking back in the groove, keeping them focused on the project at hand (which can get difficult with a team of teenagers at times!) and most of all, it is the coach’s responsibility to ensure that the environment is positive so that they can work well as a team – whether conducting team building exercises, team building experiences (fun stuff – it really is necessary), having heart to heart discussions, coaching individuals on ways they can work better with others or just having an open, constructive group discussion.
My teams have been great and I’m so proud of their efforts but I am most proud of the experience that they offer each other and to me. This is what I’ve observed:
Creativity – through brainstorming teens are the most creative group of people coming up with a variety of ideas and sharing them (no matter how bizarre they may seem – hey, some are quite good and are viable options!). Their creativity leads to some very creative solutions!
Leadership – throughout the process they experience leadership in a variety of ways. I believe that a real leader is someone that not only “leads” the team but motivates, encourages, inspires and works side-by-side with the team.
Communication – is number one in teamwork! Without effective communication there is chaos and animosity and the team will work against itself. Learning to communicate as a team is critical to the success of the team.
Conflict Resolution – in any team, conflict is bound to surface and when you get a group of teens together and each wants to express their ideas, well you know what happens. Whether the conflict is regarding an idea or solution or a personality conflict among the members of the team it has to be resolved in order for the team to work well together and to be effective.
Critical Thinking – the ability to evaluate complex issues and to arrive at a feasible solution; then to put plans in place that the team agrees upon – all I can say is “Wow!”
Collaboration – the way the team comes together to work and achieve the goals. Sharing what they know with each other; being comfortable enough with each other to state that they don’t know something (which is even hard for adults!); sharing their limitations and helping each other to learn new things.
Strengths – each team member has their own strengths that they share with the team; they are not shy about sharing their abilities and offering the team the necessary support of each other.
Support – the camaraderie teens can show can be so heartwarming. Seeing them come together when times get tough, encouraging each other, letting each other know that it’s okay if someone makes a mistake, easing a team members nerves before a performance/presentation.
This is not to say that coaching a team is a piece of cake. There are definite challenges and stressful situations but hopefully the team can overcome the challenges and learn through the experience, making their next team experience a positive and productive one. The benefits a teen gains now will stay with them their entire life – help make it a positive experience.