There is something enriching about working with people, a set of myriad brains and talents that bring life to an idea. Of course, the challenges are inevitable but overcoming the challenges that stray along working together is a sign of progress. As Charles Darwin said, “it is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” Having been at AFS India for the last decade, I have had the privilege of working as a volunteer, teammate, and a team leader, and this month’s editorial draws from my invaluable experiences at these various stages.

At AFS India, right from the beginning, we encourage volunteers to work in teams and learn the ethics of teamwork by actually practicing it. Undoubtedly, it turns out to be hard to crack the surface of the challenges at times, but it also increases their opportunities to grow and learn manifold. Ironically, the most charming and difficult part of a team is its diversity and dynamism. Each one in the team comes from a different cultural background, has different academic and professional experience, and a different set of values. Amidst all this, the success of the team, the project, and the individual lays on the indispensable set of ethics of teamwork, like:

  • Collectively interpreting team’s goals: Many studies have found that this often turned out to be one of the most contentious issues while working together in teams. People coming from different backgrounds and experiences tend to interpret the team’s goals in their own ways, however this can be dealt with right at the brainstorming stage. The purpose of the project and the clear goals must be interpreted in the same colour and tone by each one in the team.
  • Learning to learn from each other: One of the most positive traits that we can voluntarily imbibe while working in a team is to learn from each other, irrespective of our designations and roles. At AFS, we encourage every volunteer to express their interests in various departments and work with different people in different teams simultaneously, thus learning new skills from them and coming out with added skillsets.
  • Empathy: Efficiency and empathy make the most desirable combination. Especially in today’s world, while our brains rack the whole day, we need to put our hearts on exercise and sense emotions that make us humans. Perform, observe, and empathize in every team and place you are a part of.
  • Acknowledge diverse opinions: In a team, there will never be a dearth of opinions on anything. It matters to put your opinion  on the table as much as it matters to respect when others put theirs. The process of decision-making should not be bound by the competition in looking at whose opinion won or lost, it largely depends on widening our own horizons and supporting the most pragmatic opinion post a healthy team discussion measuring the pros and cons.
  • Transparency: In decision-making or work relationships, it is of excessive importance to practice and value transparency. While working in teams, transparency can pump in immense trust and security at every stage, symbolising significant progress within the team. Transparency accompanied by humility, accountability, and honesty can build a team with a solid foundation.

We all strive for personal and professional milestones in our lives. Being part of a team can build a strong sense of confidence and self-esteem, create an atmosphere of healthy competition, and create strong working relationships that support us to be a better version of our own self.