All entries for February 2014

February 21, 2014

Of economy of actions

In tune with the rest of the team exercises, the 'leadership challenge'today afternoon also came with its own lesson. The one of managing a rather complex task inside a short time period where you don't even have all the information about it was, well, challenging. The unique challenges were added onto by the fact only the leader knew all the information that was available and needed to communicate this effectively onto his/her team-members. As we know, no team was successful in the challenge but as Paul pointed out, teams have actually done it in the past and I was wondering what they could have done different.

The idea I have hit on is this:Simply put tobe economical in your actions.

Let me explain this one. To meet the main requirements of the challenge, it was necessary to choose which path to take to reach them. This would have involved not only choosing the most important things that needed to be done but also choosing not to do certain things which would have been lower down on the priority list and then ensuring that the team worked optimally in getting these tasks done. This would translate to the leader doing two things effectively: (1) prioritisation of tasks (2) delegation of tasks.

1) Prioritisation
The leader has to identify the key tasks ASAP while also identifying the ones that would go lower down on the priority list. This would involve a mental map of things that need to be done, retaining a sufficient level of detail while at the same time ensuring that the detail itself does not become overwhelming. Having done this, the leader than proceeed to prune all the detail to reach the core of the problem.

2) Delegation
Delegate the duly prioritised tasks to the team members so that the team can benefit from the combined human hours of the team as a whole. Though the exercise was for only two hours, given that each team had 5-6 members it would translate to 10-12 human hours in each team. With optimal delegation this could have been made better use of. Does anyone think that they could not have finished the task in 10 hours? While I do speak of an ideal situation, I believe the team if it performed effectively could generate enough work equivalent to around 5 hours of individual effort.

So the bottom line looks something like this: a lean operation of the team ensuring optimal performance.

Maybe someone who has another crack at a similar exercise could further develop and implement this thinking and generate some feedback. Till then, general discussions and comments are welcome.

Of knowing when to step back

The treasure hunt exercise thought me something very important about leadership. The leader of the team I was in, stepped back in between the exercise and let others lead the team. This was possibly the most important learning I had from the exercise as I realised that a leader does not always have to ensure that he/she is seen at the forefront of activities a team is doing. It is perfectly fine to step back as long as an overall view of the performance of the team in reaching the objectives set for it, is kept. What this has done is introduce me to a style of leadership that I was not familiar with. A leader, does not literally have to 'lead' all the time in order to be effective. I believe identifying such situations and being decisive about where to step back and when to step in and direct the team is highly important. Kudos to Vincent for opening up this entire line of thought in my head!

Can we develop a process for leadership?

Yesterday's discussion led me to reflect on whether it would be possible to actually formulate a process for assuming leadership that could encapsulate most of our reflections in class over the past two weeks. This does make assumptions of the nature of the task and of its relative simplicity and/or complexity however. However, I believe the idea itself can be developed with discussion among people. Comments and thoughts welcomed.

  • understanding the task

  • the group can be utilised to augment learning of the task

  • developing a vision

  • understanding the team

  • team building*

  • delegation of tasks

  • monitoring or reviewing progress

  • actively engaging team members

  • updating goals and vision in tune with progress

  • repeat

*Depends on the situation. For long term projects, team building exercises can be crucial in my opinion and should be practiced. A camaraderie or a chemistry and trust between team members could be crucial to a successful outcome in the long run.

February 20, 2014

Whatsapp acquisition

I know this is off topic, just sharing an interesting thought with everyone. To add to this picture, $19b is more than the GDP of almost 90 countries.

Putting $19b in context

Having your head in the future

The discussion today, added on to a discussion that happened last week, has emphasised on the importance of having a vision for the future. On a personal note, this is something I have never set much stock by, preferring generally to work towards achievable short-term goals. However, the importance of setting a target for the future, even if it is difficult to reach, has dawned on me.

The difference seems to be the very fact that having a view for the future motivates the people involved to move on from simply fulfilling short-term goals and push further for more. Now, equally important is the need to break the long term goal into short-term deliverables as well, in the absence of which there is the likelihood that people might be daunted by the long-term goals and fail to achieve anything. The role of a leader therefore is not restricted to just having a vision for the future but also in breaking it down into short term achievable goals that the team can work towards. However, he/she must also ensure that the team keeps sight of the bigger picture for the future. Tough ask, isn't it?

February 18, 2014

Ensuring an even footing

I have been off the blog for a while now because of other commitments, so apologies in advance if some of these views are rather dated.

The topic I would like to expand in this post is of a democratic style of leadership. It was pointed out to us in a reflective session last week that people respond to feeling valued. If their opinions are valued and if they get valid feedback on them, even if the ideas themselves are not implemented, everyone will contribute to their best abilities.

This probably has to do with a feeling of self-esteem which being able to contribute brings to the team members. I also have the idea in my head that this is possibly an effective way of managing discordant team members as well - give them space to express themselves in a way that is best for the team. So it is all making maximum use of the energy that makes every person function.

Thoughts and comments invited.

February 12, 2014

Will leadership emerge in our classroom exercises?

So day 2 of the Leadership and Excellence module is now over. We have had 3 occasions to work in groups, two of which had a leader who was selected beforehand. However, I feel that we should ask ourselves this question. Do we need to, given the nature of the team-exercises we are doing?

Let me explain further. The exercises we have done till now have had several things in common: (1) the time-frame; they have all been short exercises, the longest being almost an hour long. (2) they are all "safe" exercises as Paul pointed out in the first session as they are being conducted in a classroom environment (3) most of the teams do not know the capabilities of everyone in the teams.

In this context, how limited is selecting a leader? Does he/she make a huge difference to the performance of the team? How much value can he/she add? My take is that, even if left alone a team faced with such a short time-frame will have some person(s) emerging as a leader just to coordinate the efforts of team. To ensure that everyone's contributions are being taken into account and to ensure the team is progressing towards achieving their objectives. I say so because in all the exercises till now, the leader has been a rather nominal figure. Now I am not taking anything away from the people who led, but according to me, the team would have performed at a similar level even without a leader. The only difference that I can imagine right now is the few minutes at the start where a leader, if present, would divide work among the team quickly and efficiently. A leaderless team might consume more time over this initial allocation of duties.

Thoughts and comments invited.

How important is empathy to being an effective leader?

Hey everyone.

So this is my first warwick blog post. Hope this sets at least some of you thinking. So today's exercise (as a part of the Leadership & Excellence module in WMG) had us all trying to define what leadership is. To me, this was an opportunity to look into myself and examine what the term really means to me and then to reconcile my view with those of my team-members'. I hit upon (do forgive the expression) something interesting while doing this.

The question of empathy and how it is important to a leader. The definitions we were looking at concerned leadership that set and achieved goals, that garnered support and inspired performance over and above simple compliance from a group. That motivated a group to reach their goals and monitored their progress. None of the definitions explained how this might be done. By being an effective leader? Well, who is an effective leader?

Well I have some questions to pose. Is an effective leader emphatetic? Is it not important to understand those who are being led? To understand what each team-member is capable of and to unearth capabilities within them that might be latent/dormant. Does an effective leader empower one being led to find what they truly love, to develop themselves while contributing to the goals and aims of the team all this while? According to me, the answer is yes. I also believe that self-development can become a powerful incentive to the people in the team. Who wouldn't love to work for (with?) someone who will help you improve yourself?

That is all i have to share for now. I invite any comments and/or feedback.

February 2014

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Most recent comments

  • Thanks a lot for the comments Jaat and Kleanthis. I would like to suggest a few things as well. 1) W… by Abram Kakkozha on this entry
  • Exactly Jaat…and we could connect the work environment with this..or other factors where have impo… by Kleanthis Katsikas on this entry
  • Kleantis, It's true the followship needs to be very actively involved as well, but the trouble I had… by Shujaat Alikhan on this entry
  • Prioritization and Delegation should be done in a parallel manner I believe, such as Prioritizing ea… by Shujaat Alikhan on this entry
  • According your thoughts how these two teams achieved to finish this task on time…I want to add som… by Kleanthis Katsikas on this entry

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