Follow–up on Leadership
Workshop Tutor: Mary Sage
Here's a summary of how I've been getting on
In the last session we looked at the intercultural dynamics and possible conflicts involved in leading teams. In today's society, we're often asked to work with individuals from all kinds of working backgrounds, which results in the clashes of working style discussed in the previous blog. But an even more interculturally connected society can lead to clashes in cultural values.
We began the session with an ice breaker, introducing ourselves and the origin of our names and what they mean. Then moved into groups of 3 and 4 to play a simple card game. After we had read and understood the rules we were given, we were asked not to talk and only communicate via gesture and writing. The winner and loser from each table then moved clockwise and anticlockwise around the room respectively from each table until everyone had a chance to play with everyone else. The lack of verbal communication soon became an obvious frustration when it became clear that there was definitely confusion among the different tables about the rules.
After we finished, it was then explained to us that there were deliberate differences in the rules and because of this we could draw out parallels to real life experiences where cultural differences lead to similar confusion and frustration. Examples included moving to a new country where you don't speak the language well, differences in relationships and differences in local traditions - especially concerning meal times and what is accepted as etiquette and being polite. From this, we then discussed how these differences were usually resolved. In terms of the game we played, usually the majority decision was applied, so this involved finding a common understanding through our gestures. Much the same as what would be expected when communicating on a level that gets around any language barrier. This also raises the idea of tolerance and understanding. In a democratic leadership, the majority opinion should be taken forward even if this goes against your initial opinion.
From the workshop exercise and discussions that followed, the main take home points for me were the importance of establishing a common ground between the members in a group you lead. Despite differences in cultural and working style a middle ground can always be negotiated in order to clarify goals and establish what is expected from everyone which is often the reason for most tension in a group.
As part of my studies, role as a PGSSLC and personal experiences I will continue to communicate effectively and be specific and clear in instructions. In particular, I will try to be more proactive, engaging more on the facebook group and in class to promote discussion of problems experienced on the course which I can then forward to tutors. So far, conversations on the facebook page have prompted further discussions, even to the point where students are now confident enough to have written their own letters of concern to be forwarded through us as representatives. My academic group work remains successful, although I would probably benefit from learning techniques that will help push for the most out of the least active members. For example, better delegation of work and encouragement of personal accountability through the establishment of clear ground rules. Nonetheless, I look forward to the next session.