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Science Matters: Being an Effective Team Member

As effective team memebers, scientists can help their organizations and laboratories continue to do the important research necessary to improve lives well into the future.

by Diane Barker
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Each year, scientists around the globe use their talents, educations and work experiences to positively impact the lives of their fellow human beings. On a daily basis, scientists individually improve the effects of medications and surgical procedures, advance the capabilities of communications technology, and develop methods for improving the environment.

Yet, without the help of a team, scientists would be ineffective in all of these research and development areas. Even so, many scientists forget the importance of being part of a team and neglect to develop the skills—good communication, the ability to listen, dependability, and commitment— needed to be effective. By focusing on improving those soft skills, scientists can help their organizations and laboratories continue to conduct the important research necessary to improve lives well into the future.

Develop adequate communication and listening skills

On a day-to-day basis, scientists must communicate with one another in order to achieve their goals of continuous scientific advancement. Yet, many scientists feel uncomfortable in situations where they must work with others, preferring instead to focus on their own, singular research. In order to improve their interpersonal communication skills, scientists should strive to form relationships with members of their team so that they recognize their colleagues as human beings, as well as scientists. With improved communication, research teams will not only be able to better support one another, but will also be able to combine their talents and knowledge in order to achieve superior performance within their organizations.

However, scientists will never be able to communicate adequately with one another if they do not learn and utilize the necessary skill of listening. Each team member must be willing to set aside his or her own personal goals and objectives at times, in order to hear their teammates’ ideas. Typically, better and more creative ideas are obtained through the combination of various personalities, ages, outlooks and past life experiences. One scientist alone will never possess the breadth of ingenuity that a team possesses. By listening to teammates, scientists will not only improve their on-the-job performances, but will also be able to advance scientific principles and objectives. With strong communication and listening skills, scientists will be able to join team members as they seek to change the course of science and change the lives of future generations.

Optimism and enthusiasm – two undeniable traits of successful teams

During the course of an entire year— even within one week—scientists will likely encounter a variety of struggles, disappointments and failures. However, with an optimistic attitude, they can overcome their adversities and also use negative situations to improve their lives within and outside of the lab, as they continue to accomplish their goals and create new objectives for the future. That same optimistic attitude will allow them to face all types of conflicts and inspire their fellow scientists to stay focused and persevere.

By displaying positivism and enthusiasm throughout the workday, individuals motivate their team members to approach their daily routines in the same manner. An optimistic attitude is certainly contagious, while enthusiastic people tend to elicit positive emotion from others, leading them to accomplish goals they thought were unattainable. Through the combination of optimism and enthusiasm, scientists can lead team members toward previously unreachable goals, despite the state of the global economy, a lack of resources, or a deficiency of employees.

Dependability and commitment will inspire others

While an optimistic attitude can improve the outlooks of others, scientists who are dependable and committed to common goals and objectives are more trusted within their laboratories and organizations. In order to receive trust from team members, scientists must show that they are committed to their teammates and to the overall goals of the team. Dependability reflects commitment at all times. If scientists are willing to work extra hours and devote their energies to the goals of their teams, their colleagues will respect their efforts and recognize their passion for their careers, as well as the advancement of science. Dependable, committed team members will gain respect and trust, while also leading less committed individuals to strive toward obtaining the goals of their team. Even though team members will not always view issues in the same manner, they will be able to attain common goals through the implementations of two virtues— dependability and commitment.

Establish goals and embrace change

Before scientists can develop medical treatments or create new technologies, they must have previously established goals they hope to accomplish. By working together to accomplish these pre-established common goals and fulfilling them, scientists can establish unity within their teams. Effective team members will strive to execute the common goals of their team in order to motivate their fellow team members to do the same. Unified, goal-oriented teams will contribute positively to scientific achievement.

Along with establishing and implementing goals, teams must also be willing to accept and embrace change. During the course of a workday, goals may shift according to demands, scientific findings, and advancements within the scientific community. Effective team members possess the flexibility to tweak their goals according to changing demands and expectations. Change should be a positive motivator rather than a hindrance. By establishing goals and accepting change, scientific teams can positively influence research efforts well into the future.