Friends Forever

Or not.

As Rainmakers Candidates, high school students participating in our Rainmakers Internship Preparation Program (RIPP) will be entering new territory – doing things they have never done before. One new situation they will face is working on a self-directed, accountable team.

That may sound surprising to individuals who know that there are many teachers who encourage and build teamwork into their classroom procedures. However, team dynamics in school and in business are very different.

In the high school classroom, every person on a team can get an ‘A.’ That’s because in schools, students are judged against a standard of performance instead of against each other. As long as a student knows Algebra, does well on the tests, submits homework, participates in class, and behaves appropriately, he or she can get an ‘A.’ So can anyone else in the class. There are no limits on the numbers of ‘A’ grades a teacher can distribute. Ultimately, one person’s ‘A’ does not take anything away from another person’s ‘A’ grade.

But in businesses, teams don’t function under those very generous conditions. There might be only one managerial position open and a tightly defined amount of money in the bonus pool. Only ONE person will get the available promotion. Not everyone gets the same amount of cash rewards in their bonuses. That makes every person on the team a competitor with every other person on the team.

This more demanding paradigm completely changes the way people relate to each other in the workplace.

In fact, in the workplace, there is a distinct hierarchy of perks to be earned: titles, salaries, bonuses, offices, company cars, parking spaces. This competitive norm significantly ratchets up the level of pressure among employees, especially when they are on a team that needs to work together cooperatively and effectively.

Team members have to balance competition and cooperation, which is often quite challenging. Situations such as this can be friendship-altering [even life-altering] for better or worse.

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the competition, adults in the workforce rely on every single team member to do his or her job and do it well. Anything less than 100% effort by each member of the team might result in failure on a particular project. Failure on a project can lead to decreased revenue (income) for the company, which can lead to less money available to pay workers, which can lead to job loss for large numbers of people.

Sooner or later, every worker winds up being assigned to a team that includes one or two people who don’t know what they are doing or who know what they should do but don’t do it. And much like teachers in school, it is often hard for managers to discern who is doing the job and who is simply ‘riding someone else’s coattails.’

Because even one under-performing individual can have a negative impact on the company’s performance, managers in most of today’s companies insist that team members be accountable to each other and have made ‘peer reviews’ a part of year-end evaluations of every worker. A worker evaluates every other worker on the team and is evaluated in turn by every other team member. These ‘feedback loops’ help keep everyone accountable to everyone else. Individuals who are not doing as well as they should be doing find out from these reviews specifically what they need to do to improve.

These employee reviews are called ‘peer’ evaluations and most of the time, the completed evaluations are given to managers who review everyone’s scores, decide if an employee needs additional training or support to improve, and add the results to the individual’s formal annual performance review.

To ensure that our Rainmakers Candidates will know how to conduct themselves within a work team and understand how to give and receive constructive criticism as a team member, all our participating students will have the opportunity to work on accountable, self-managed teams, evaluate their team members, and develop appropriate strategies to respond to critical evaluations (good or bad) of their own performance from their team members.

So, Teens, If You Are Reading This …

Know that in the business world, few workers get to pick their teammates. Teams are constructed based on the project that needs to be completed and the knowledge or skills each individual brings to the team.

Conversely, in high school academic classes, teachers assign teams or students elect their teams — often creating teams that include friends.

High school students often think that having their friends on a team is better than working with strangers, but in work, having friends on a team is often very problematic. If your friend isn’t working as hard as everyone else, would you have the courage to give the boss negative feedback about his or her performance?

Similarly, in RIPP, Rainmakers Candidates may be put on teams with people who may or may not be friends. Either way, team performance has to be the team’s number one goal. To ensure that happens, and to ensure that Candidates understand the process, each person on the team will evaluate each teammate in writing. That can often change the relationship between friends.

It is important that our Rainmakers Candidates know how to hold someone accountable in a way that will actually improve that person’s performance. And to make it even more confusing, every person on the team should NOT be doing the same thing. Every person on the team uses their own unique skills to advance the work of the team as a whole.

That also means that every worker needs to understand and appreciate that all human beings are different and contribute to teams in various ways.

Check out our sequence of activities on our Sequence of Activities Charts. CLICK HERE.

Learn more about how to launch or manage a Rainmakers Internship Preparation Program in your local high school. CLICK HERE.