teamworkWe’ve all heard the old…very old…saying, “There is no ”˜I’ in team.” As a youngster growing up in rural Georgia, I was constantly chided by my elders… “Don’t always be talking about yourself; pay more attention to others.”

There are good lessons to be learned from both of these statements. Yet, time and again, we read about or see examples to the contrary in our workplace or even (gasp!) in team sports.

The modern-day work environment doesn’t do a whole lot to help the situation either, especially for those of us who work in public relations and find ourselves communicating more and more via social media platforms.

Social media interaction isn’t exactly a team sport.

I have yet to come across a “group tweeting” assignment! So, the challenge rises of how to encourage teamwork in an environment where each member of the theoretical “team” is in his or her workspace interacting one-on-one with someone…somewhere.

I wrote about this myself a short time ago in a piece subtitled “We All Play in the Same Band.” I also try to instill the “we’re a team” ethic in my PR Concentration students at Curry College, all of whom came of age in the “social” era…or should we say “anti-social” era???

Great ideas and great programs come from the combined efforts and energies of individuals focused on the same end goal.

One of my favorite career memories is of a (much-earlier) Army Recruiting Command public affairs office where one of us would float an idea for a promotional campaign and the other four members of the team would chime in with their thoughts.

We worked in an open-space environment, so this usually meant we wound up standing in a circle essentially yelling at each other. Folks from other departments would hear the commotion and tentatively poke their heads into our office to see who was being killed! We blithely assured them we were “planning.”

I know it sounds counter-productive, and that particular style probably wouldn’t work for everyone.

But it did for us and out of those sessions came some very cool activities that helped our organization meet its recruiting mission including “US Army Night at the Red Sox,” basketball clinics with Boston Celtics superstar Larry Bird, and hockey clinics with Boston Bruins legend Bobby Orr.

The “lesson learned” here is that individual ideas absolutely are vital. I can have a good idea. You can have a good idea. And if those good ideas are shared with others and combined with others, we can have a great idea.

“Teamwork” is a contact sport…you come in contact with your colleagues, put your thoughts and ideas into play, pass off the “ball” to another for refinement, and, in the end, you “score” with success for your client or employer.

Play ball!!

Image: 드림포유 via Flickr, CC 2.0

Kirk Hazlett

Kirk Hazlett

Professor at Curry College
Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, holds the position of Associate Professor, Communication/ Public Relations, at Curry College. He also is a member of the Public Relations Society of America's Board of Ethics and Professional Standards. Kirk has 35+ years' federal government and nonprofit organization PR experience, followed by nearly 10 years' undergraduate- and graduate-level college teaching experience. Some of the organizations he has counseled include the Blood Bank of Hawaii, Medical Area Service Corporation and Boston Harborfest. He blogs at A Professor's Thoughts.
Kirk Hazlett