2 November 2007

Will you be my Buddy? The Importance of Teamwork and the Buddy System

"People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society."[1]

We have all seen it in job postings, “Must be able to work well in a team environment”. How important is it that we be team players in the workplace?

In sports it is easy to see how working as a team is the way to win the game. How many of us as we are anxiously watching a hockey game during the playoffs are yelling at the television set, “They’re all over the place! Get your act together guys, or you will never win the game!” It is the same principle in the office. I believe that working as a team will not only increase productivity, but will give each of the team members a feeling of accomplishment, working toward a common goal, but if you are “all over the place” then nobody wins.

Meeting Together as a Team

In any company large or small it is important for staff to meet together and communicate with each other. If you work for a large organization it can be even more important as size alone can make communication difficult. The different areas of your organization are all playing a part in getting a job done and in order for that to work smoothly you need to communicate with each other so each of the team members are aware of what will be required of them.

The team model from one of the offices I worked in was the best I have seen especially when it came to the Assistant. They recognized the importance of the Assistant in accomplishing their goals.

We had regular team meetings and in each Department one Assistant was assigned the Team Leader role to represent the Assistants in their group. The meetings included Administrative Assistants, the Office Manager, team leaders from the service areas: the Mailroom, IT Department, Finance, Reception etc. Each team leader was responsible to talk to their team before the meeting to find out what items they wanted brought up, what jobs were coming up and what assistance would be needed. Were there any newsworthy items from their group that they wanted to share, recognition or accomplishments to brag about.

At the team meeting each Assistant would bring their items forward and put the Mailroom, IT Department, Finance etc. on notice of these upcoming projects and needs. The service areas would take note of times they would be needed and could then report back to their team members so everyone would be aware and be prepared.

The team leaders from the service areas and the Office Manager would report to the team new office procedures or software that was upcoming that we needed to know about.

After the meeting each Team Leader was then responsible to pass the minutes of the meeting to their team members. We were then up to date on what each area was doing and if we were having a down time we could offer assistance where we knew the workload was heaviest.

Whether or not you have an opportunity to have team meetings, it is important to communicate with the service areas in your organization and it is always important to communicate with the assistants you work closest with.

The Importance of the Buddy System in the Workplace

We all remember in elementary school going on field trips and being assigned a “buddy”. On those field trips we were responsible to keep track of our buddy and to look after each other. It is the same in the office. When we are working as a team we will look after our team members. Here are some ways Administrative Assistants can work together as a team:

  • Pay attention to what others in your team are doing. Can you pitch in and help when someone is swamped? It is always appreciated when someone can get that photocopying job done while another person sends a fax for us, giving us the needed time to complete that urgent transcription
  • If you need to take an unplanned day off your team members can help by:
    o changing your Out-of-Office Assistant in your email account and/or your voicemail (most voicemail accounts can be accessed from home and you can change the message yourself to indicate you will be away)

    o making sure incoming mail, courier and faxes are looked after

    o offering assistance to the professional whose assistant is away. Letting them know that either yourself or someone will look after anything that needs to be done

    o when you are away it is important not to deadend your voicemail or email Out-of-Office Assistant. If you are not going to be in, always refer the caller to one of your team members (or to the receptionist). Just because you are off that day, doesn’t mean your company is not open for business. Sometimes your phone number or email address is the only contact that person has to your organization.

    o Always check with your team members and work out a strategy for covering for each other

    Some organizations have the advantage of having floater assistants to cover vacation periods, if you do not then it will be important for the assistants to cover each other while on planned days off as well as unplanned days off. If you read my article on the floater assistant you will see the list of dos and don’ts I suggested to make this more productive for everyone. These dos and don'ts would also be beneficial for team members who were replacing each other.

    The Administrative Assistant plays an important role in any organization and I believe any company that recognizes that will enjoy the benefits from a staff who feel appreciated and acknowledged for the part they play in accomplishing the company’s goals.

[1] - Vince Lombardi, http://www.vincelombardi.com/about/quotes4.htm, (accessed November 2, 2007)

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