Interprofessional teams and collaboration continues to be an evolving and complex concept (Bittner, 2018; Kowalski, 2018). Knowing oneself and understanding “who we are” as individuals and leaders is a vital precondition that can no longer be taken for granted when developing effective interprofessional teams.
Without individuals who know themselves enough to be confident to speak up when necessary, a team cannot achieve greatness (Rogers, 2017). To ensure safe and high-quality patient care, all interprofessional team members must know themselves and be flexible, trusting, and able to function with confidence to effectively speak up and collaborate across disciplines (Bookey-Bassett, Markel-Reid, McKey, & Akhtar-Danesh, 2017; Homeyer, Hoffmann, Hingst, Oppermann, & Dreier-Wolfgramm, 2018). Gronow (2018) added that with the rapid pace of change and level of ambiguity in health care, interprofessional teams must adapt quickly to prevent patient harm. When one member of a team is not civil or behaves inappropriately, his or her lack of self-awareness can have a profound effect on the level of psychological safety and may hinder individuals from speaking up. In addition, when a member of the team lacks self-regard, her or she may go silent and not have the confidence to speak up even if an error is made. Creating opportunities for team members to develop as individuals and promoting interprofessional learning are essential to effective collaboration and team adaptability.
Knowing Oneself as an Effective Team Member
Before team members can assess their own abilities, they must first understand the conditions that create effective team members. The core competencies for interprofessional practice provide guidance on values and ethics, roles and responsibilities, and communication and the importance of teamwork, yet fail to identify specific team member expectations (Interprofessional Education Collaborative, 2016). The Table provides four resources from beyond health care to identify factors essential for effective team members (Belsten, 2012; Lafasto & Larson, 2001; Lencioni, 2016; Rogers, 2017). All four identify soft skills involving emotional intelligence, personality, and attitudes essential for effective teams.
Four Resources on Elements of Effective Team Members
Unlike profession-specific knowledge and technical skills, knowing oneself falls into the category of soft skills often underrated in team trainings. One aspect of our role as educators is to assist individuals to grow their self-awareness and to reduce their blind spots so they can identify strategies for self-improvement. Many tools are available to assist educators with an objective assessment to grow individual emotional intelligence and to understand different personalities or workstyles. When the soft skills and tools are applied in teams, communication, civility, and performance improve.
Example of How to Grow Knowing Oneself When Teaching Teams
An example of how to apply knowing oneself to team building can be found in a training program provided for interprofessional teams within federally qualified health centers as part of a Health Resources and Services Administration grant. This year-long team-development program brings together teams of participants, including physicians, nurse practitioners, physician's assistants, behavioral health specialists, dentists and dental hygienists, medical assistants, front-desk receptionists, patient navigators and a variety of other operations, and financial staff all working within the same clinic. The participants focus on developing the soft skills associated with team building and then apply their skills to a team assignment intended to improve quality metrics and patient satisfaction outcomes.
Each team member begins the program by completing two individual self-assessments: the Emotional Intelligence EQ-I 2.0 and the DiSC Workplace profile. These two tools have been researched extensively and have high reliability and validity. The Emotional Intelligence EQ-I 2.0 is based on Reuven Baron's model for emotional intelligence (Multi-Health Systems, Inc., 2018) and assesses 15 competencies related to self-regard, self-actualization, emotional self-awareness, emotional expression, assertiveness, independence, interpersonal relationships, empathy, social responsibility, emotional problem solving, reality testing, impulse control, flexibility, stress tolerance, and optimism. Wiley's DiSC Workplace profile assesses four styles:
It also provides information regarding how these styles work most effectively as teams.
Together, the tools provide rich information to help individuals identify their blind spots and areas for further growth to be effective team members. Each tool includes an extensive detailed report on the individual's strengths and potential challenges at work, with a list of strategies for self-improvement. Each participant is also provided with a 30-minute debriefing coaching session on his or her results to support the identification of two priority areas for growth.
One exercise to demonstrate enhanced self-awareness is the “Four Corners” brainstorming, where individuals work in small groups with others who have the same workplace profile to identify strategies that solve a problem. Each group uses a flipchart to identify as many strategies as possible within a 4-minute time frame that allows each style to become apparent. On completion of the brainstorming, a 20-minute large group debrief is conducted where the facilitator helps participants examine the diversity, value, and benefits each style contributes to a team and to have empathy for the blind spots and areas for growth. Following the exercise, each team is given time to assess the styles of their team, identifying potential strengths and barriers to success.
Throughout the rest of the training program, concepts related to emotional intelligence and the different workplace styles are blended with team strategies to help the clinics improve outcomes for their patients. The tools provide a common language and objective way for team members to give each other feedback, to improve communication, and to hold each other accountable. Team members report that by knowing their own emotional intelligence and workplace style, they can manage their own emotions in a more effective and resilient way. By knowing the workplace styles of the members in their team, they report greater levels of trust and easier communication with those members who have been challenging and defensive in the past. Team members acknowledge that by applying these new skills, they are better equipped and more accountable to speak up and ask questions that are vital for improving patient-centered care.
Interprofessional teams begin with self-awareness as an essential element of team-building education. By encouraging all members of the interprofessional team to know themselves better, the emotional intelligence level of the team improves, resulting in higher levels of civility, resiliency, and collaboration. Together, the team is nimbler to adapt to future change, and quality and safety for patients improve.
- Belsten, L. (2012, May-June). Everyone is a leader. Web-based international conference presentation for the WBECS (World Business Executive Coaches Summit). .
- Bittner, C.A. (2018). The importance of role clarity for development of interprofessional teams. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 49, 345–347. doi:10.3928/00220124-20180718-04 [CrossRef]
- Bookey-Bassett, S., Markel-Reid, M., McKey, C.A. & Akhtar-Danesh, N. (2017). Understanding interprofessional collaboration in the context of chronic disease management for older adults living in communities: A concept analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 73, 71–84. doi:10.1111/jan.13162 [CrossRef]
- Gronow, T.M. (2018). Do no harm: A case study of interprofessional healthcare team adaption in response to adverse events (Master's thesis). Avaliable from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global database. (UMI No. 2029208451)
- Homeyer, S., Hoffmann, W., Hingst, P., Oppermann, R.F. & Dreier-Wolfgramm, A. (2018). Effects of interprofessional education for medical and nursing students: Enablers, barriers, and expectations for optimizing future interprofessional collaboration—A qualitative study. BMC Nursing, 17, Article 13. doi:10.1186/s12912-018-0279-x [CrossRef]
- Interprofessional Education Collaborative. (2016). Core competencies for interprofessional collaborative practice: 2016 update. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://aamc-meded.global.ssl.fastly.net/production/media/filer_public/70/9f/709fedd7-3c53-492c-b9f0-b13715d11cb6/core_competencies_for_collaborative_practice.pdf
- Kowalski, K. (2018). Creating interprofessional teams. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 49, 297–298. doi:10.3928/00220124-20180613-04 [CrossRef]
- LaFasto, F. & Larson, C. (2001). When teams work best: 6000 Team Members and Leaders tell what it takes to succeed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Lencioni, P. (2016). The ideal team player: How to recognize and cultivate three essential virtues. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass.
- Multi-Health Systems, Inc. (2018). Emotional quotient inventory 2.0. Retrieved from https://www.mhs.com/MHS-Talent?prodname=eq2
- Rogers, M.G. (2017). You are the Team: 6 simple ways teammates can go from good to great. Ceder City, UT: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Four Resources on Elements of Effective Team Members
|Lafasto's and Larson's (2001) Six Factors for Effective Team Members||Rogers's (2017) Six Bs or Virtues of Being a Team Member|
Working Knowledge Factors:
Openness (the basic ingredient)
Action orientation (experimental mindset)
Positive personal style
Experience (relevant to the objectives & role)
|Belsten's (2012) “Everyone is a Leader” Model for Social and Emotional Intelligence||Lencioni's (2016) Three Essential Virtues of an Ideal Team Player|
|Involves having emotional intelligence to balance all three in teams:
Leader within (i.e., knowing self, values, beliefs, etc.)
Leader in front (i.e., taking charge or facilitating change)
Leader from behind (i.e., providing support and resources)