How to work successfully as part of a team

As an actor and director, I am acutely aware of how much I rely on my team – the lighting designer, the prop-maker, costume-maker and the set builder.  When I work as a director, I’m totally aware of how much I rely on the script, on the actor breathing life into a character, on the stage manager and backstage crew.

Actors and directors can’t do anything on stage without their team and it’s exactly the same in most workplaces. Working as part of a team is an integral part of getting the best outcomes from the project at hand. It’s hard work. Teamwork requires personal awareness, good communication skills and an ability to negotiate and be flexible. While some people in the team may have a higher profile or greater responsibilities than others, all members need to communicate, cooperate and perform their part to provide an effective working environment.

One aspect of a successful team is when the team members choose which facet of their personality is appropriate to the circumstances. We all have different facets of our personalities and we decide which one we will to show ‘to the light’ or to the environment we are in. This doesn’t mean we are ‘acting’ or false. It’s just that one facet is suitable in one set of circumstances and another facet is suitable elsewhere.

For example, we don’t communicate in the same way to the people we work with as we do in the kitchen or lounge room at home. Both facets are authentic to us, we just need to choose which one is best within an environment.

When actors are working on a production we’re encouraged to leave our problems at the door when we enter the rehearsal room. This allows us to be ‘in the moment’ when we are working. We try to bring our professional facet to the workspace. It’s the same in the workplace. Think of the impact on the office environment if we gave unfettered and free reign to our sorrow, bad temper, excitement, fear or dreams. As actors, we do this by reminding ourselves of the focus at hand – we ask, what is my purpose here? What do others expect of me? These questions are also very useful in helping team members focus in the workplace.

Another vital aspect of teamwork is mutual understanding. For example, when creating a performance an actor may not have any affinity with another actor who is playing the role of someone they are supposed to love. Or at the opposite end of the spectrum, our character may have a murderous intent, anger and hatred towards another character. Does that mean that is the way it is in reality? No, of course not. You don’t have to be the best friend of everyone you work with. You just need to get on with your colleagues as part of the team. This comes down to a mutual understanding of roles, mutual respect for the people and their working style, and focus on the overall outcomes for the team.

The process of demonstrating the difference between who you are at work versus who are at home is a little like the creation of a character. When a writer develops the narrative for a character, the environment and circumstances in which the characters find themselves have an impact on the way they respond to others. When an actor is working to understand a character, they often flesh it out using and highlighting a tiny facet of their own character.

Working in a team is the same – if we understand that the environment we are working in has an impact on the way others respond to us, we will be more effective within that team. When working in a business environment if we bring our ’professional facet‘ to the encounter we are not acting or being false – we are still ourselves, we are still authentic – we are just doing what is best for the team.

For more information on how you can train to work successfully in a team, visit NIDA Corporate.

Lyn Lee
NIDA Corporate Course Manager and Training Consultant