I spend eight hours every day, Monday to Friday at work. Given the nature of my job as Front Desk Operations Manager and Host Family Program Manager, I have seen almost all of my I-House colleagues every single working day in the last year. This is my team.
Don’t get me wrong now, European fellows and friends. I know what you are thinking. I can reassure you: after almost six years in the US, I have not yet lost my Italian culturally innate suspicion towards the local rhetoric of the “amazing,” the “yay” and the “team building.” I am still one of you, though, as a matter of fact, I am not anymore.
In this country, which is becoming mine in ways I am not always completely aware of, I see that team building is a science. There are classes, events and workshops planned to create that “bonding feeling.” All of this is unheard to the European ear where the “team building” effort is usually left to one’s own initiative and individual temperament. I always sincerely believed in the great power and benefit of nurturing a good team feeling but, in America, I have become familiar with the art of creating and managing it. Well, fellows Italians, I have news for you: this team building can actually work!
There is something great in being a team and something heroic in the team building effort as it can come with frustration and disappointments, but also with joys.
A group of people working at I-House somehow comes together every day to help each other, help the residents, and work as a team.
This does not mean getting along all the time or having all your coworkers become your best friends. But it certainly means finding a civilized, efficient, warm, and maybe even a fun way to be in this together every day. A way to feel we are all “pulling the boat in and out of the water all day long,” as in the Italian saying. The challenge is doing it without losing sight of what we help to achieve all the time: helping smart students to find their way in Berkeley and provide them with many interesting opportunities to build amazing memories and intercultural skills while studying abroad or far away from home.
So when, several months ago, we started planning small staff events at I-House as part of a bigger Campus Catalyst Project, I gladly joined the organizing committee led by our Admissions Director Ryan Jones, curious to see how this could work out. I loved it more and more and through simple coffee hours such as the ones our residents enjoy each week in the Great Hall, I learned more about the people I say hello to every day.
Last Monday I volunteered to host an Italian coffee break for my coworkers in I-House, complete with Cappuccino and Italian pastry. The opportunity to share some of my background via Italian food gave me great joy, and made me again realize the importance of the team feeling.
“The Catalyst program was intended to be the start of a much-needed change in each campus unit,” says Ryan. “At I-House, our focus has been on creating new avenues for togetherness. Our staff coffee breaks have been one piece of this effort and the enthusiastic team of staff have really modeled the kind of teamwork and camaraderie we are trying to build. Most I-House staff members spend a minimum of 40 hours under this dome and it’s important that this be a place where we all enjoy being.”
I always wanted to believe that being positive is inevitably contagious.
Creating more opportunities to see coworkers as multidimensional individuals with families, love affairs, kids, kids’ schools and teachers to deal with, pets, sick relatives, financial problems and broken cars, can actually make the difference in a work place. Especially at I-House where compassion, learning and understanding should be our top priorities.
This is not your usual job and people at I-House are not your usual people. We want to be and we need to be the I-House team. And I want to believe we came a bit closer to that, thanks to our staff coffee hours.