Working in teams is critical to the role of a McKinsey consultant and can be challenging at times. Please think about a time when you found it a challenge to work together with another person or other people in a team. 1. Briefly describe the situation and the person/people you worked with. When I joined my current research group, I started by working on a difficult project with a postdoctoral fellow. He had been working with the research group for some time, but had trouble making breakthroughs due to various technical difficulties, as well as his ongoing commitments with other projects.
Our adviser asked me to take lead on the project because of the time constraints that my partner was facing . This did not come easy because my partner was a senior colleague and personally initiated our project. By losing the leadership position, he felt as though he had less recognition and it gave him a sense of failure. Because of such, working with him was very challenging at the beginning. 2. What specific challenges did you have in working with this person/these people?
From the start of our collaboration, major challenges were thrown my way from him, including his refusal to communicate, non-cooperation at work, the trivialization of my contributions to our research in front of the supervisor, as well as sabotaging my own job. 3. Describe the key things you did to overcome these challenges. Recognizing the extreme harm of disruption and the importance of good teamwork to the project’s success. I studied the causes of the problems and developed a facilitating strategy to empower our collaboration.
I had to interact with my partner to decide the best course of action that I could have taken to work out our differences. I found that the major reasons for my teammate’s negative behavior were the lack of recognition, his prior failures that were causing passive emotions, trust issues because of my inexperience in the field, and pressure from our supervisor. In response, I approached him with multitudes of acknowledgment of his contributions and creativity in his work. I also applauded his success from time to time. This opened the door to building rapport with him, and his enthusiasm gradually started to return for the project.
Whilst I was gaining the trust and respect of my colleague, I was sure to maintain the highest quality of work and open the door for exchange with regards to exciting results and new ideas to help this part of my task. As the leader of the group, I stood side by side with him to share in the pressures from our supervisor, and worked together to solidify not only our project, but his as well. 4. What was the outcome of this situation? Because of my interactions with my fellow researcher, I successfully built a strong collaboration with him by winning his respect and garnering his support.
The relationship that followed proved to be extremely effective and our combined brainstorming and constructive teamwork became highly efficient in overcoming all research obstacles that were in front of us. By the end of our term together, we had accomplished a series of experiments with striking scientific findings. Our work was recognized by a publication in a leading journal (Nano Lett, impact factor 9. 85) in which I was the first author. This paper was also highly evaluated by the entire Nano-biotechnology field. At the same time, my colleague finished his second project with success and published the results in one of the top journals.
When our projects concluded, because of the above gratifying results though our collective collaboration, my teammate was able to receive another postdoctoral position working with the most renowned Nobel laureate Professor Steven Chu at the University of California at Berkeley. Before he left for Berkeley, we had essentially become best of friends. In retrospect, of my struggles in overcoming the teamwork challenges that came before us, all of the efforts that I made in bridging the troubles were quite worthy and meaningful.