All entries for March 2012

March 12, 2012

Follow–up on Leadership

Session 3.

Workshop Tutor: Mary Sage

Here's a summary of how I've been getting on

This meeting was split into two halves, firstly a couple of role play exercises, followed by two talks from people involved in industry and entrepreneurial leadership. To begin with, we split ourselves according to preference into two groups to perform role plays aimed at getting the most out of everyone in a group (especially the most quiet) and negotiation of deadlines to resolve conflicts. In order to follow up on one of my action points posted in my previous blogs, I joined the role play exercise to get the most out of everyone in a group. At random, we picked positions within the role play - either as group leader, group member or observer - which came with a description of what to act out in the exercise. As group leader, I had to conduct a meeting between a group of Warwick students, new to each other, and tasked with a small fund-raising project. From the description it was clear that although the team is keen and committed, the majority of members will be very quiet, one in particular will be most quiet and another will be outspoken and eager to contribute, sometimes dominating the discussion. As team leader it was my responsibility to try to get more equal involvement from everyone without coming across as too 'authoritarian' in coming to decisions or having undue influence in the final decision.

In just 10 minutes I think the overall role play was a success. To begin with, we introduced ourselves as part of an ice breaker, important in the forming of new groups. In order to encourage full participation from the less vocal members I then suggested that everyone spend a minute writing down every fund raising idea they could come up with on a piece of paper in front of them and then we would go round each member in turn so they could pitch their ideas. This is an important tool which can be used to encourage contribution from those less comfortable speaking, as well as control members who may be more vocal in discussions. Whilst listening to the contributions from each member which I engaged directly in turn, I tried to provide encouraging feedback in order to maintain and comfortable and supportive environment. I then put the ideas raised to a vote in order to democratically decide which to take forward, whilst also being able to gauge the enthusiasm and commitment within the group. Via these methods, the discussions continued, the group warmed to each other and contributions became more open. I then closed the exercise with a summary of what we had discussed and decided on, which happened to be some cake sales and a fancy dress club night in Leamington.

I felt comfortable in my position as team leader and found myself interacting as I would naturally in such an exercise. On the other hand, other members found in particularly hard to play a quiet, introverted person or even an outspoken, very vocal person, as this goes against their nature. For example, I was expecting to have to control a very outspoken person in order to let the other members feel comfortable to speak but this turned out not to be the case. Comments from the observer of the group were also positive, mentioning good use of voting and engaging group members directly in order to encourage the articulation of the ideas they had put to paper in front of them.

The main points I gained from discussion with the other group exercise involving deadlines was the importance of negotiation and balancing opinion to find a middle ground the satisfies the majority. Such negotiations and re-evaluations can occur at any point, even later into the project and it is important that those members meeting deadlines are recognised and those that fail are accountable in order to encourage ownership of tasks and not undermine the efforts of those more organised.

Following from this, we were then given the opportunity to listen to the experience and advice from two speakers involved in leadership. The first was a young multichannel manager from Boots the pharmacist, who described his first experiences of leadership when quite literally being thrown into the deep end and expected to manage a store of more than 30 employees. The main points I took from this talk, were the well structured nature of management and the guidelines provided. The importance of understanding the roles of the people you manage. As well as the importance of:

  • "listening"
  • "managing expectations"

Whilst striving to achieve targets under certain deadlines, it is important to be aware of what is manageable and how this can be achieved inside or outside of company policy and to make those in positions above you aware of this.

The second speaker was a much older, inspiring and successful entrepreneur, who had set up his own multinational fishing magazine publication from the loft conversion of his house. This was his second business, the first of which he sold for 1/10th of its value in order to purse what made him happy.

  • "be happy!"
  • "focus"

These were the two main points for success I took away from this talk, among others. In terms of leadership he explained how he disagreed with "throwing people into the deep end" as this encourages failure and reiterated the fact that in positions of leadership you will have to give people a "bollocking" from time to time. Authority and mutual respect are essential to successfully managing people. Especially if you don't like the other person, because they will no doubt have the skills that compliment your own. To summarise:

  • know yourself
  • become the people that inspire you

These are the main points I took from this session and hope to implement to my future career.

As part of my studies and role as a PGSSLC, being proactive and engaging has proved successful. Students have been comfortable to come forward with issues and even simple tasks like getting the work room printers fixed (especially on deadline days) will hopefully encouraged confidence among the others in our roles as student representatives.


March 04, 2012

Follow–up on Leadership

Session 2.

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.


March 2012

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