Team Building

One of the major topics of this section of reading that stood out to me was the section on team building. This is because I have been part of a great many team building exercises throughout the years, and have even been on the other side where I made the team perform team building exercises to improve their performance on numerous occasions. During my time as an intern in the Residential Leadership Community, I was tasked with putting together a team, and then in turn, building that team to help them create their own teams in their halls afterwards.  Through this experience, I first started them out with team building icebreakers at the beginning of my meetings for the first three weeks, to give them a few ideas of icebreakers, but also so that they felt more at ease with each other and so they could learn to rely on each other. Then, we spent our meetings problem solving and helping each other figure out how to solve problems on each other’s halls. In doing so, I catered to multiple needs of the team to perform well, efficiently, and cohesively. This was so important because the team needs to be able to rely on each other for the team members to not become overwhelmed. The closer a team is to each other, the more secure and capable they feel, and they start to feel as if they will be held up by a safety net of their team members in the case of a failure. This fortifies a team member’s mentality and they begin to perform better through the psychological response of having some freedom to make decisions that may be a little more risky, but may bring more turnout than the safe option, as we had seen from the last section of reading from Levi chapter 9. This doesn’t mean that the groups will take just any risks, however, just that they will still be mindful of risks and take those that aren’t too incredibly risky, just some here and there. This is so important because teams need that trust to be at max capability, and you can only do this through effective team building over time.

In the future, I can take advantage of this mindset as well. Before reading this chapter, I knew that team building was important, but through reading and thinking about the reading and connecting it to past readings did I realize the true importance of it. Without team building, the team will take a long time to reach the status of a tightly knit team, meaning that until they do so, they won’t be doing the best work that they can be. In positions of leadership, I will be able to help make decisions that build my teams well, making sure that they feel comfortable, and can provide feedback if they feel something might need change without being too worried. I will make sure that the culture of the team is such that the team is constantly in team building activities, which can even be as simple as getting lunch together with your team. I will also try to do some cross training. This is because in my field, people need to be masters of many different programming languages, so knowing how to do multiple things will be very useful to both them, as well as the company.

Team Conflicts

In the fourth unit of reading, we read sections on many different aspects of leadership and working on teams, from decision making and conflict management, to problem solving and creativity. One of the sections that specifically caught my attention was the section on conflict management. Within Levi chapter 7, the author explains that it is actually important to have conflict, and that a lack of conflict may be indicative of a bigger underlying problem, such as a domineering leader, getting caught in the routine, as well as unhealthy agreement. This last part especially was interesting because it tied in with the abilene paradox, which is when group members just keep agreeing with something even if they don’t truly believe in it themselves to appease the others in the group. This is a clear time in which the group is trying to minimize or eliminate conflict, even though the apparent inclusion of conflict would be more beneficial. Some of the benefits include finding novel ways to solve the tasks at hand, better creativity and decisions, as well as enhanced commitment to the organization fueled by their former drive in their conflict. This is so important to understand for a team because often times, they continue on working together without really having any conflict, which hurts their problem solving, but also means that the team cannot become as close as it has the potential to be. There are many ways to resolve conflict, and if a team knows how to deal with each type of conflict effectively, they will be able to weather even the toughest of challenges.

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I can see this especially within my personal experience as a leader within the RLC. When our group was in its storming phase, we disagreed on many different ideas, from how to name each of the halls, to how to structure the classes for the freshmen. Through this phase of disagreement and butting heads on almost every issue, we were able to think critically and solve the problems to come up with the best possible solution. Without this phase, we would have just continued on agreeing with the first idea we had, which might not have been the best idea to go with. This was actually something I really struggled with in the beginning. As a very non-confrontational person, I was not really able to give my ideas to the group well, but I found myself growing into the role more as I found things that I believed were so vital that I broke out of the pattern of just agreeing with the others ideas to keep them ‘happy’. I realized that in reality, they were not going to be incredibly hurt if I disagreed with them because I did have a good team, but also because part of disagreement and conflict is getting your idea across and explaining it in a way that convinces others to follow through with it. In the future, I am planning on becoming more confident in order to follow through on sharing my ideas. I also think it would be a good idea to learn how to handle conflicts better so as to become a better moderator when I am placed in a leadership position. While conflict is a good way to get things done and solve problems quickly, it can also hurt efficiency and breakdown ties between team members if it carries on too far and gets too heated. Therefore, in order to become the best leader I can be, and to be a helpful moderator for future conflict, I will learn what I can about all the different types of conflict.

Emotional Intelligence

For the reading this week, we read about the importance of emotional intelligence and what kinds of things are able to be seen in a team that is emotionally intelligent. Emotional intelligence is described by Dr. Annie McKee as the ability of an individual to “accurately read and understand the needs, motivations, beliefs and desires of others”. This is so incredibly important in a team because without these qualities, the team could quickly fall apart and go into another storming phase. An example of how something like this would play out is if a person on the team is just having a rough day or is feeling sick, so they seem grumpier than usual. With proper emotional intelligence, a team should be able to fall back and try to help their teammate out so they can get through the day and work to the peak efficiency that they can reach in their state. Without emotional intelligence, however, the team member would be completely oblivious, and things they normally do may start to irritate the other person, leading to hindrances in the production cycle. This can also be seen in an interview with Dr Daniel Goleman, who says that emotional intelligence matters more than IQ. Through his research, he has found that while IQ determines what kind of job you can get and hold, it is your emotional intelligence which tells you how well you will do in your career. This makes perfect sense because to move up the ladder and become more successful in your career, you have to have the motivations as well as the social capabilities to become a leader. A good leader will be able to tell how others are feeling at any certain moment, and can adapt their leadership style to be more accommodating towards them, but they will also have the ability to understand their own emotions, knowing when to keep going and when to take a step back and try to catch their breath to work better later on. With emotionally intelligent leaders and workers, a business will be able to flourish due to a more creative, talented, and productive workforce. Because a major part of being emotionally intelligent is knowing yourself really well and knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, I foresee myself looking back at my strengths quest again to understand my strengths better so as to be able to make the most of them, and make sure I can find ways or people to help me handle my weaknesses. I will also try to be much more observant of the people around me, as well as how they are feeling. I feel like while I am already a very empathetic person, as my strengths reflect, I could always do better. I also believe that these kinds of things do come with a lot of practice, so I fully intend on making use of my newfound knowledge and experience to further hone my leadership skills, as well as my basic interpersonal skills to a much deeper level.

Working in a group

imageAs stated in the reading, we see that there are a few stages of group growth: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. The first stage is the forming stage, where the group gets together and starts to get to know each other better. This is always the first stage, because teams and groups have to start somewhere. This is how our group started when I was in the leadership team of interns in the RLC. Our process was slightly different from the usual as we were all good friends before we were in the group, so we already knew each other very well, but being put in a group together was a little new, so we formed our group to work as a team, rather than just as friends. Then, we went on to the next part of the process, which was storming. This happened because even though we were all good friends previously, we had never actually worked together, which was a completely different experience from what we were used to. Initially we had some trouble working with our advisor, who was the interim director for our community. As a group, we all agreed on one thing, but our advisor would have different ideas for the direction of the community. We had to learn how to work with her well so that we could help the community succeed. We also had a little bit of storming within our team, but this was very light because we were such good friends already. We found that sometimes the members in our team were slightly behind schedule due to classes getting in the way, but we quickly figured out that in order to succeed, we would have to trust our teammates, and pick up some of their work when they had other matters to attend to. With this mindset, we were also able to focus on our own tests when we had them, because we knew that somebody was there to come help us when we needed it. This was really only possible because as good friends, we already had high emotional intelligence for each other. Next we moved on to norming, where we got more in the groove of things, and were working more efficiently together. We made it to the council meetings we created, and we were able to create norms for the group, which included hanging out 30 minutes before the council meetings, and going out for ice cream or DX afterwards. After this, however, we found that we had to restart the cycle again when we finally got a director for the RLC, and we had to get used to working with a completely new person, so after reforming, restorming, and renorming, we were finally back on track. In the performing phase, we were a great efficient team, working together to solve each other’s problems, and forming great social bonds in the meantime. Because of this, although we had to adjourn at the end of the year, we still hang out all the time and work as a team on many different things. From my amazing experience as an intern working with my intern team in the Residential leadership community, I’ve learned so much about the ins and outs of working on a team. I also learned the importance of the forming stage in group development, because being friends with someone and working with them can be very different. I will be able to apply my new knowledge to other groups that I join in the future, and will be able to work through the obstacles better. Knowing about the storming phase, I will also probably be less put off if the group seems to be having some trouble mixing and working together, because I know that if we work through the storming phase, we can get to norming and performing, where we will be able to reach our goals efficiently and effectively.

Teams Vs. Groups

One of the main things Levi talks about in Chapters 1 and 2 of his book is drawing the distinction between work groups, teams, and self-managed teams, where each step has increased autonomy with groups having the least and self-managed teams having the most. Work groups are typically given a manager by upper management, teams are also typically given a leader by management, but the team is more interdependent and is coordinated by the leader. A self-managed team on the other hand, chooses the leader by a decision made by the team, and coordinates tasks as a team, instead of being coordinated by a leader. The self-managed team, in my opinion, seems to be the most conducive to problem solving, as there is input from many different sources, and there is greater chance of the leader being able to facilitate the most efficient idea being carried out. In the field of engineering, however, this can be a slightly grey area.

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Freshman year, I used to be part of the TREC lab, which is a research project here at Virginia tech which works on semi-autonomous robots for multiple different tasks. Within this lab, there is a professor who oversees the project, and who provides different tasks for the students to complete. This makes the overall system a work group, because there is one person in charge who makes all the decisions, and the students carry out the tasks given. He is ultimately in charge of the design requirements and had the final decision for new ideas. There were also grad students under him that lead a scrum, which is a meeting and leadership style where the leads tell the members of the group what things must be done for the next week, and then each person takes their tasks and finishes them one by one. This is where the hybridization occurs, because even if a task seems simple, there are many ways to carry it out in engineering, and so there are teams to carry out certain aspects of each project. The overseeing graduate student is appointed by the professor, but the actual solution of the problem is left to the students to solve. Due to this, we see that a lot of the smaller problems have very interesting solutions that might not have been thought of otherwise. Given how successful the team aspect of the lab works, I feel like it would be very useful for the team to try out a more team-oriented vision for their leadership to keep the project successful and working efficiently. This would one, take some pressure off the professor who is leading the project, but would also allow the students to throw out some out of the box ideas that may be very useful to the project itself. In learning about the differences between teams and groups, I will suggest a change in the leadership structure. I will also strive to increase the use of teams and self-managed teams within my own life due to its long-term success.