Influence and Teamwork

Elías ViverosOctober 30, 2020Strength and InfluenceHelping Hands

"The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.” - Vince Lombardi

Influence and teamwork are very similar concepts. Are we aware of what such concepts mean in our lives? Most of us are vulnerable to being influenced by the people around us. This also has a significant impact on the way we work as a team. Some people are more susceptible to the opinions or suggestions of the people around them, influencing their perception on certain topics, while others only take these suggestions as a point of reference toward their own decision.

The influence that people exert on a person while they are working as a team can be positive, since looking for different points of view can give a broader view of the way to reach a goal. However, influence has a negative side; criteria for making decisions can be distorted, which generates confusion and bewilderment. For that reason, it is important to find a balance between the two extremes.

At the end of 2015, I participated in an activity that helped me understand this clearly. My mother and I were invited to participate in a project called “Lives in Action.” Lives in Action is a little known project that belongs to the church that I attend regularly. The project is carried out approximately three times a year in various countries in South America. The organization is in charge of finding a city that has needs in some respect (lack of clothes, food, medicine, or medical or psychiatric attention). Once a city is chosen, invitations are sent to people who want to volunteer for the project, in addition to medical professionals who are willing to provide care for free. After that, the organizers are in charge of announcing the project to people in the community, distributing invitation letters, or posting on social networks.

The project usually lasts a week. The participants stay in a city school, which is requested from the local authorities. During the project, medical professionals carry out physiotherapy, pedagogy, family clinics, and dentistry, among others. Another group of people organize play activities for the children who attend. Another group of people organizes and distributes used clothes that were previously donated by local authorities, family, friends, teachers, among other people close to the volunteers who attend the project. During the project, a large quantity of medicines is also distributed; this is possible because leaders of the organization request money from the city authorities, explaining that said money will be destined to purchase medicines for the project. Without a doubt, the leaders do an excellent job when it comes to collecting clothes, obtaining medicines and donations. Of course, donations do not come from a single person or organization, but are the result of the goodwill of hundreds of people willing to collaborate for a good cause.

My mother and I were specifically involved in the area of ​​medical care. Despite the fact that neither of us are medical professionals, the leaders told us that we would be in charge of receiving the people who came to consult with the doctor. Every time a person arrived for medical attention, we wrote down all their personal data, to keep a record of the people benefitting. Besides that, if the doctor needed to prescribe some medicine to the patient, we were in charge of finding the medicine in one of the warehouses, and we made sure that they were the right ones. Even though we were designated to help in that area, if one of the leaders needed help somewhere else, we were willing to help.

During the project, I noticed a detail that I had never noticed in any other activity. Compared to other experiences, each activity was perfectly organized, in terms of time and the roles that people played. All that week, there was not a single discussion that distracted people's attention. There was always someone who gave suggestions to improve the service. Participants gave their opinion without fear that someone might be upset. The attitude of the team leader stood out; he had the situation under control. He was willing at all times to listen to suggestions. He had great leadership ability, remaining calm at all times, but without losing control over the group.

What also caught my attention about the leader was that he had a great ability to positively influence the other participants. Every time he noticed that a person was feeling discouraged, he went and talked to the person, helping him or her to overcome difficulties.

A specific moment when I noticed this was when, during a medical care day, a large number of people began to arrive, more than usual. I was one of the people in charge of recording patient data and organizing it while they waited to be seen by the doctor. At one point, I began to despair, as I did not know if I was going to be able to collect all the data on time. The leader, who was supervising the activities, noticed what was happening to me. He immediately approached me, began to calm me down, and gave me some tips based on his knowledge, in order to speed up the task I had to perform. He explained to me that getting desperate wasn't going to help anything, but the only thing that would get me was to get confused and get stuck without doing my job well. After talking for a few minutes, I became calm again and was able to continue what I had to do. I collected all the data on time, and that day was a complete success.

At every moment the leader transmitted a positive energy and motivated us to continue working for others. This leads me to believe that influence is essential when someone is leading a group, as it serves as a tool to encourage those who feel confused or discouraged, and you can give suggestions that help them feel better.

All these factors, as well as the leadership and the group in general, contributed to everything being successful. The people of the community were delighted with the attention received, and with the kindness with which they were treated. More than 70 families benefited from medical consultations, psychological attention, medications, and coats, as well as games to entertain the children.

Working as a team is when great successes are really achieved. It is very important to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each member, so that each one plays a role based on their knowledge, and to create a good atmosphere and good relationships among the members, so that everyone will feel part of the group and will want to row in the same direction. When working as a team, the skills of the members are united and their efforts are strengthened; the time required for the tasks decreases and the effectiveness of the results increases.

Every time someone asks my opinion about teamwork, that project comes to mind. This activity completely changed my perception of the importance of organization and teamwork. It changed the way I see leadership, and the most important aspects that must be taken into account when seeking to achieve a goal. I think that for something to be successful, both the leader and the group must bring the best of themselves. They must point to the same path and, despite the difficulties that may appear at some point, continue forward. This way of working, in which all the participants are responsible for the goals, is the most assertive for any type of organization. This is not only because it is easier to meet the objectives but also because it is the best way to retain talent and create a pleasant environment.

Lives in Action was an experience that changed my view of leadership and working as a team in several ways. I realized that it is essential to have a good leader, because that is the basis of success. In addition to theoretical knowledge, the leader must have certain virtues that will guide him or her in making good decisions. These virtues are prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. The task of the leader is not so easy; he must be able to communicate well and have a capacity for integration. Communication plays a leading role because it allows us to transmit what is inside us as we feel it. And integration allows efficient actions to be carried out jointly and without disconnections.

It is impossible for a group, no matter how disciplined, to function correctly if it does not have a leader who indicates the correct steps and strategies to achieve a goal. Also, we must not forget that, when a group is working, the people involved should be willing to receive suggestions. Personally, I am motivated every day to search for new opinions, new suggestions to be better; I think that is the only way.

Elías Viveros is a 17-year-old from Coronel Oviedo, Paraguay. He likes to travel, visit new places, and learn about new cultures. He loves to watch sports, especially tennis. Elías also likes to read articles about science.