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Dirty Dozen: Teamwork: Cooperation Makes it Happen

There may be no “I” in “team” … but there is an “I” in “planning,” “cooperation,” “leadership,” and “achievement.” These are all facets of an effective team.

All members of an aircraft maintenance team must be aware of regulatory requirements. According to the Joint Advanced Materials and Structures Center of Excellence (JAMSCE), at least one person in the repair process must understand these regulations and make sure that work done on an aircraft is done accordingly. Any lack of understanding of the structural detail, or deviation from the approved data, maintenance and repair instructions, or regulatory requirements can lead to unacceptable maintenance procedures and a defective repair. In other words, if a team leader does not understand the regulations, he or she cannot be an effective aircraft maintenance team leader.

The first step in effective teamwork is the formulation of a plan or common goal to reach as a group. This goal, more often than not, should be to perform aircraft maintenance in compliance with regulations. According to the Education and Training Unit (ETU), the group needs to have a shared vision of what they are striving to achieve, as well as clear objectives for each individual.

You must build a team that executes based on shared core principles and proven systems that work. Clarifying this goal is essential to laying the framework for expectations of all team members. Part of this clarification should be to stress overall output quality rather than individual glory. Are people on your team making decisions based on the "greater good" or based on their own benefit? If a team member is only there for his or herself, this will affect the team dynamic negatively.

If a leader builds a team according to a chaotic process, chaos will result. Each team member should be fully qualified for their role and should understand how to function as a team member. If a leader or team member doesn’t understand how people think and act in a team setting, the full potential of the team will never be realized.

Cooperation and leadership
An effective mediator or team leader needs certain skills in order to achieve credibility and results. This person needs a proven record of success in mediation or negotiation, clear thinking in identifying the real problems and offering practical solutions, and the ability to gain the trust, acceptance and co-operation of conflicting parties. He or she also needs to be knowledgeable about the employer’s organizational structures, and to be tactful and diplomatic. A team leader with strong character will be able to lead any team members who disagree toward an agreement.

All leaders and team members need to keep their eyes open for problems in group dynamics that can lead to conflict. According to ETU, signs of this include colleagues not speaking to each other or ignoring each other, contradicting and bad-mouthing one another, and deliberately undermining or not cooperating with each other. If a group has any of these, teamwork will be hard to achieve.

Jesse Boland of TeamBuildingInformation.com says that if the leader in a group ignores such problems, attitudes of the team members will only get worse. This leads to a decline in productivity and a breakdown in communication. In the worst case scenario, good people then quit and those who stay become more apathetic.
Commitment to the process is the most valuable trait a team member can have. People with high integrity can stay committed to the core purpose of your team. Teams with integrity stand firm in the face of adversity and can work together to find a solution.
Boland says that the reasons teams fail boils down to several key factors: ego, lack of skills, insecurity, personality, and lack of defined goals. These factors can block a team's success and can make it uncomfortable for members of a team to work together. Those who can rise above any pettiness that occurs in a team framework should be considered for extra training and promotions.

Sometimes it becomes necessary to get rid of the people who undermine the team’s success. In order to maximize the results of a team’s efforts, winners need to be developed and kept, and losers need to hit the highway.

“As you get rid of the boneheads, more good ideas will pop up, less drama will ensue, and you'll find the real core performers,” says Boland.

Personal satisfaction and fulfillment occurs when teams feel comfortable, and people are able to be themselves. This is when a productive and stable team can emerge.

Important behaviors in achieving teamwork include a commitment by team members to share information, express positive expectations about each other, empower each other, promote good morale, and resolve potential conflicts.

Teams must be given the skills they need to cope and perform in difficult situations and the confidence that they have the team leader’s trust to succeed. Even failure can lead to future success of the team. When a group works together toward a goal and cannot achieve it, it can then use that example to build on in the future. A team can bond over what worked and what didn’t and use that to move forward.

According to Boland, individuals at all levels of responsibility want to feel important and to feel confident in their talents and abilities. They want leaders and management to trust them and to take responsibility for the outcome of their actions on the job.

Recognize each other’s strengths, work together toward a common goal, and learn from each other along the way. This is the core of building teamwork in the hangar.

For more information visit www.teambuildinginformation.com, www.jams-coe.org, www.etu.org.za, and www.greyowl.com.

This is the fourth in a series of articles on the Dirty Dozen. The Dirty Dozen was developed by Gordon Dupont at Transport Canada. They are critical factors in the area of human factors and safety; they are complacency, lack of knowledge, lack of teamwork, distraction, fatigue, lack of resources, pressure, lack of assertiveness, lack of communication, norms, stress, and lack of awareness.