Since my summer in the WVU Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway (ISPP) dietetic internship is primarily focusing on the Institutional Food Service, Production, and Management rotation, I thought it would be fitting that I talk about the importance of teamwork. The importance of teamwork has been proven to be effective in today’s fast-pace foodservice organizations. The use of teams has become an unavoidable solution at tackling some of the pressing challenges that managers face in the food industry. Whether it be from finding ways to reduce costs or to increasing overall sales, all of these issues usually impact more than one department and can benefit from a multi-perspective approach.

The companies or organizations that use teamwork and team-based activities will be better prepared to make necessary decisions to adjust to supply and to meet customer’s demands. Yes, individual employees can make a difference to an organization, but no single person has enough knowledge, creativity, or experience to tackle some of today’s complex problems. Remember, two heads are always greater than one.

Several foodservice systems look to managers to influence teams whenever and wherever possible. Essentially, a team is a group of individuals who operate as a unit for an assigned goal. Teams differ from other work groups because they typically have performance goals to achieve. Team members usually feel some type of accountability for working together to achieve these goals. So, teamwork is the actual state of acting in a collaborative and cooperative effort to create positive results for the achievement of one common goal. For example, my group at Taziki’s Mediterranean Café had one of our group members drop the Business class. So, instead of panicking or blaming each other for common mistakes that we might have made that next day, we worked as a group and everyone helped each other at their designated stations. And it even brought us closer together as a team because we know that all 3 of us rely on each other, as well as the management of course too. And to be honest, I think that we’re performing even better as a team now because we were somewhat forced with a fight or flight situation.

Part of a manager’s responsibilities is selecting team members who skills complement each other. Now, this particular situation the management did not have the choice to choose their teams. But the College of Business and Economics did have the choice to choose the students taking this class. Here is a list of complementary skills needed for teams:

          Technical expertise

          Problem-solving skills

          Interpersonal skills

Technical expertise is a core competency that every team needs. The type of problem that will be assigned to a team dictates to a certain extent what expertise you will need to bring together. Skill in several areas may be needed, depending on the problem at-hand. For example, if Taziki’s Mediterranean Café was researching a new menu item to offer to customers, a team of dietitians, food prep specialists, servers, operations personnel, and marketing specialists would supply the necessary blend of experience to ensure a thorough analysis of what customers want, rather than just a team made of one of these groups listed. Using the knowledge and skills of a cross section of an organization will strengthen the likelihood of a team reaching its goal.

Problem-solving skills are needed by teams to identify the root or underlying cause of a situation or challenge. These skills are also needed to identify potential solutions and trade-offs. Initially, a team needs to have at least one member with this capability. As the team progresses, more team members should develop these important skills.

Interpersonal skills is the third and final category of team skills. Members who communicate effectively and facilitate a group process are critical to the success of a team. Team members who possess these skills help produce an environment of directness and confidence that allows the team to flourish and make progress towards their goal.

Balancing all 3 of these skills is essential f or a manager to consider when working with a team.