OBSERVATIONS ON TEAM INTEGRATION

S.E.A.R.C.H. is a cooperative of biologists who like to solve conservation challenges, so it was a true pleasure to team up with Cattails Environmental, Norman Ecological Consulting, and Benchmark Ecological Services for a recent project.  The teams joined forces to delineate wetland features along a 180-mile stretch of West Texas.  Anytime teams come together there is a period of storming, norming and performing.  Here are a few of my observations on team integration from the field that increase performance.

Own your strengths and weaknesses – Everyone has strengths and the best teams build upon those.  When teams come together, there may be limited time to get to know each other tease out individual strengths.  I suggest you own your strengths.  Put them on the table and use them to make the team better.  Likewise, you need to know and own your weaknesses.  Your weakness may be another person’s strength so tuck your ego away and acknowledge it.  It may be an opportunity for you to cross-train and learn something new.

Divide and conquer – Once you have identified how to utilize the integrated team’s strengths, divide up responsibilities to maximize them.  For example, Benchmark’s team came with a buggy (a two-seater ATV).  They were great at covering miles as long as no locked gates blocked their path.  S.E.A.R.C.H., Cattails, and Norman were on foot and could navigate heavily gated areas.  Norman was gifted at plant identification.  S.E.A.R.C.H. and Cattails had experience with logistics and the communication skills necessary for large projects.  Divide and conquer.

Communicate honesty – When doing field work there are days when you get blasted with challenges and you can get physically and mentally wiped out.  Communicating that you are exhausted and need a lighter field day may be a blow to the ego, but it is wise.  When you are exhausted you can make mistakes, be more likely to suffer an injury, and/or be slower and less efficient.  It is a brave biologist who admits they need to call it quits and return with a rested mind and body. 

Have fun – Look for opportunities to get to know the person behind the safety vest.  Learn names.  Share a meal.  Look for ways to help each other out.  Do some pre-field work yoga.  It is more fun in snake gaiters!