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Self-care and development

Five Ways to Contribute to an Interdisciplinary Team

If you want to be part of a great interdisciplinary team (IDT), then you must play your part by being a great team member! In the third in a series, Strength and Conditioning Coach Jason Tee suggests some top tips to guide your contributions to an IDT and to help you to become a respected and well-regarded member of the team

An interdisciplinary team (IDT) is a team comprised of individuals with specialisms in different areas of participant development. Collaboration is key, and every member of the team must play their part to achieve success. These tips can help you consider your role within the team and how you can make a positive contribution.

  1. No one cares what you know, until they know that you care.

Teams only function when there are healthy relationships between the team members. Team members are much more than their primary role within the team (e.g. nutritionist or psychologist). You have a secondary role to support the individuals (participants and staff) and the team, which ultimately requires you to build your social capital by getting to know the person, not just the professional.

Above all else, be respectful of other team members’ views, especially when you disagree and have opposing views. Debate about ideas but maintain relationships.

  1. Integrity is doing what you say you are going to do.

IDTs work well when each team member delivers in their area of expertise. Following through on your actions and commitments is crucial. Team members will quickly learn to rely on you, provided you are reliable. To achieve this, do what you have committed to do, do it to the best of your ability, do it on time and do it with a smile on your face.

  1. Context over content.

Just because you have expertise in a particular area doesn’t mean you have all the answers.

Accept that teams develop their processes and procedures based on what works in their context, not because they don’t know any better.

Always seek to understand why teams do what they do before proposing new solutions. When you do propose solutions, make sure they fit with the team’s current situation and the existing resource and constraints that the wider team are working within.

  1. Listen to understand and communicate to be understood.

Jargon, and the different lenses that professionals from different disciplines use to look at problems, often lead to a breakdown in communication, as well as misunderstanding and even disagreement in the team.

High performing teams have a few simple steps that all team members can take to overcome this problem:

  • Listen to understand, not to respond.
  • Communicate to be understood. Think about what you want the listener to understand when you are deciding what to say.
  • Develop shared language: finding labels that all members understand in the same way greatly simplifies communication within the team. This helps especially when time is precious, and the team are under pressure to deliver.
  1. Be brave: your opinion matters.

Don’t just go with the flow! It is important to maintain respectful professional relationships within the team, but simply being ‘liked’ and agreeable doesn’t progress the goals of the team. Be willing to speak up, challenge assumptions and offer an alternative opinion.

Speaking up creates space for other team members to share alternate views; add to and further develop your initial idea. Having all the views on the table allows decisions to be better informed. After all, having the best idea or potential solution in your head won’t help the team!

More on Interdisciplinary Thinking

This is the third part of a series on interdisciplinary thinking with Strength and Conditioning Coach Jason Tee


Related Resources

  • The Value of Interdisciplinary Thinking

  • How to Establish an Interdisciplinary Team

  • How to Build a High-Performing Team


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