Why did I decide on this career? Was it because I could not do anything else so I thought I could teach? Was it because I really had no better idea or no better opportunity?
No, that wasn’t how it happened and I know that wasn’t how it happened for most of you. Instead, I decided I wanted a career in academia because I love students and wanted to contribute to the body of knowledge and application of that knowledge in my discipline.
Upon reviewing our recently revised Mission Statement some of the same ideas are present. The Mission Statement says: “The University of North Florida fosters the intellectual and cultural growth and civic awareness of its students, preparing them to make significant contributions to their communities in the region and beyond. At UNF, students and faculty engage together and individually in the discovery and application of knowledge. UNF faculty and staff maintain an unreserved commitment to student success within a diverse, supportive campus culture.”
How will we achieve this mission? There are many diverse answers to this question. Some would say resources, more money, more time, more personnel, more faculty, and more staff development. More of many things would make it easier to achieve this mission. “More” seems especially pertinent at this time of budget constraints.
My answer to achieving the mission is somewhat different, however. I think the best way to successfully achieve the mission is through teamwork.
There are many examples and descriptions of teamwork:
We all saw great examples of teamwork as we watched the Olympics. Remember beach volleyball, relay swimming, gymnastics, and basketball. What happened to the Jaguars on Sunday? They usually demonstrate teamwork.
Michael Jordan says in his 1994 book, entitled I Can’t Accept Not Trying, “There are plenty of teams in every sport that have great players and never win titles. Most of the time, those players aren’t willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the team. The funny thing is, in the end, their unwillingness to sacrifice only make individual goals more difficult to achieve. One thing I believe to the fullest is that if you think and achieve as a team, the individual accolades will take care of themselves. Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”
A Japanese proverb says, “A single arrow is easily broken, but not ten in a bundle.”
Woodrow Wilson, twenty-eight President of the United States said, “I not only use all the
brains I have, but all I can borrow.”
All of these quotes describe aspects of teamwork and make important points.
Through years of experience and lots of mistakes, I have developed a model, the Essential Elements of Teamwork, which is included in the program: I would like you to refer to the illustration.
In order to be effective as a team in academia and health care, an essential skill set is necessary. It begins with core skills of critical thinking and competence. As academicians, we are all committed to critical thinking. In this model, critical thinking means to thoroughly analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and reconstruct in the process of mental discernment. In other words, reasonable, reflective, responsible, and skillful thinking is used to decide the proper course of action. It is the scientific method applied to the ordinary world.
Competence includes the knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors needed to perform a role. It involves the desire to grow through experience, and to learn and adapt. The competent person accomplishes more than is expected.
Affective skills necessary for success include behaviors a little harder to measure - care and courage.
Caring is a demonstration of sincere empathy and mutual respect. It is not just being nice to one another. The team commits to help members grow. Sir William Ostler said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” People are moved more by emotion than logic. I believe that is true in many fields but especially mine.
Courage, another important element, begins by looking within. One must acknowledge weakness and ask the hard questions. It inspires commitment to make things right. Vision and accountability are required. Martin Luther King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
There are two bonding skills which glue the team together. Communication is at the center of these elements. Communication is critical if teamwork is to be effective. The message must be simple, focused, and credible and seek a response. The goal of communication is action. It is not to dump information on people but rather to give them something to feel, remember, or do.
The ultimate outcome is collegial collaboration. This requires working together with shared objectives and commitment. Members are there for each other and trust is implicit. I find that collegial collaboration strengthens teamwork. It results in respect among members, role clarity, effective conflict resolution, and greater responsiveness to needs, and increased accountability. It is the kind of team we really need! Can this be one of our differentiators among the universities in the state system?
How important are teams? Simply said, the team’s outcomes are greater than anyone’s individual outcomes. Here is an example from aviation. Fouche and Helmreich (1985) studied the effects of fatigue in errors made by flight crews. Fatigued crews made fewer errors when they had flown together for several days than rested crews who had not spent time together. It was not that fatigued teams did not make mistakes. They actually made more mistakes. Other team members compensated for them, however, and prevented the errors.
Other examples from healthcare readily highlight the importance of teamwork. Research results indicate that teamwork results in improved patient safety, higher quality of care, decreased costs, reduced conflict, increased staff motivation, reduced staff turnover, and increased patient and staff satisfaction. These are outcomes to which we eagerly aspire.
The academic world is focused on individual achievement and recognition. The focus is on the PI; tenure is awarded to an individual. Members of the research team are encouraged to secure their own grants. Co-authored publications are not as valued as single authored articles. Service to the program, department, university, and profession barely reaches the radar in merit or promotion and tenure applications. Let me tell you, however, it is hard to turn a theory into world changing technology without an environment that rewards team thinking and behavior. We need the genius of the individual and the power of effective teamwork!
The only reason I stand before you today is because of teamwork. I would have never gotten through a Ph D program while working with children without support from my husband, family, friends, and co-workers. My dissertation chair and other team members gave me what I needed to succeed in the research. And on it goes from there.
I was given responsibility to start new programs, build new additions, raise money, and continue a research agenda. I had colleagues with the ability to think critically and they were competent, caring, and courageous. We learned to communicate well and developed true collegial collaboration. In Woodrow Wilson’s words, because of borrowing others’ brains, the programs are strong and more relevant. The College is named and I continue to work at scholarship, collaboratively. I am much smarter and more effective because of all of you.
As we move forward at UNF through challenging times, teamwork is crucial to our success. We will get through the SACs accreditation, together. We will face our financial woes, together. We will make good decisions about programs, personnel, and equipment. Making those decisions using the model I have outlined makes the job tolerable. The weight of the scenario is not totally on one person. We can be more secure using the team’s expertise to make these tough decisions.
I encourage you to work as a team, rather than standing only by yourself. As Michael Jordan said, “If you think and achieve as a team, the personal accolades will come.”
I want to thank so many of you that made this award possible. President Delaney, President Hopkins, Provost Workman and the Academic Affairs staff, UNF Vice Presidents, and fellow Deans…thank you for this honor. Our community partners, I value your belief in our College and thank you.
But it is the Brooks College of Health faculty, staff, and students that really deserve this award. I would never be on this podium without you. To the Associate Dean, School Director, Department Chairs, past and present, Pam Niemczyk, Dean’s office staff, faculty, staff, and students, please accept my gratitude for working with me. We are strongest together and our success is why I am here before you today. Please stand so you too can be honored.
Once more from Michael Jordan, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships”. We have talent and intelligence. It is the teamwork that will make the difference. Let’s go forth united as a team and face the challenges and opportunities that come our way.