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May 14, 2012

Final Entry on the Leadership Scheme

Final Presentation & Thoughts

The final presentation night was a really valuable opportunity to gain a further and final insight into the thoughts of the other group members about the Leadership scheme and round the experience as a whole. Introducing ourselves, our background and why we wanted to join the course. Followed by what we learned and what action points we will take with us into the future.

Studying for an MSc in Biotechnology, Bioprocessing and Business Management I wanted to demonstrate application of the skills employers value. This is the reason I decided to take part in the Warwick skills portfolio award and naturally the Leadership scheme as a further opportunity to make the most out of my time here at Warwick University.


My Project

As an elected member of the PGSSLC representing the views of the students on my postgraduate course, it is my responsibility along with two other students to encourage our class mates to bring forward issues about the course that concern them and then forward these to the relevant staff in order to improve the overall student experience. Therefore, from attending the scheme I hoped to understand what type of leadership style suits me, and the best approaches for getting the most out of the people I represent.

What I learned about Leadership

As highlighted in my presentation and many of the others, Leadership works on a continuum. Different circumstances call for different styles of leadership from authoritarian, autocratic leadership, which involves little democratic decision making, important in military roles and positions which hold responsibility for the safety of others, such as my ski instructing experience, where the leader is the most informed to make the best decision. Through to the democratic and delegative, laissez-faire leadership which is often best suited to academic group work and involvement of everyone as a whole. The personality type indicators were also an area of the scheme which attracted a lot of interest. There was discussion of how accurate these tests were and whether labelling ourselves was conducive to leadership and group work or restrictive.

In my opinion, of course answering a set of questions in a way in which you wish to be portrayed will return answers that you expect, but an honest as possible reflection will return an insight or 'framework' that you can base your understanding around and develop the strengths and weaknesses which make up the skill sets within group work. As a co-ordinator and team worker, these are characteristic that naturally reflects the common perception of leadership and as a resource investigator, it justifies my reasons for pursuing courses such as the leadership scheme. Understanding the different types of preferred working styles also helped me to ease the tension between individuals I clash with in groups and improved the efficiency and delegation of work.

As a leader I would like to be:

Understanding and show empathy to others. Take the time to get to know people in order to draw the best out of them. Be inspiring, warm and strong minded and decisive when needed. Basing decisions on principles, system, overall impacts and rational assessment of outcomes. Plus, strive for harmony and a supportive environment where followers know I respect their values.

In order to achieve this, listening, focus and managing expectations are some of the most valuable advice I would pass on from the guest speakers we had and take forward into the future.

Project Development

To encourage the participation of even the most quiet students in the discussion of course concerns, we set up a facebook page and promoted the use of anonymous feedback forms. Plus, by being more proactive and engaging on the facebook page and in class, I helped to promote better discussion and confidence in ourselves as representative to the point where students were happy to have written their own letters of concern to be forwarded through us as representatives. Overall, as a PGSSLC I wanted to make a difference, even if small, to improve the student experience for this year and next. As a result of our discussions and work, we helped to improve the feedback time for essays and seminars (if only a little) and most notably introduced a Pastoral Care Tutor, which will be appointed before the start of the 2012-2013 intake, as a direct result of feedback from our course students and the development of skills learned on this course.


Future Action Points

Looking back at my original action points:

  1. I would like to learn effective techniques to get the most out of even the most quiet people.
  2. I would like to implement the understanding of my preferred leadership style and Belbin roles to my continued academic group projects.
  3. To further my understanding and empathy with others I will try to spend more time with individuals with course concerns.

I believe I have been successful in addressing them and developing a leadership style which reflects how I would like to be portrayed. As one of the guest speakers advised, be happy and strive to become like the people you admire. Therefore, I will continue to be compassionate and empathise with others. Taking the time to listen and get to know people, in order to adapt effectively to the leadership challenges I will face, with the appropriate leadership styles developed and inspire to bring out the best in others.

 


May 05, 2012

Final Entry on Leading a Group Project

Original Action Points:

  1. Remember that leadership styles operate on a continuum and recognise when and where the most appropriate style is applicable and adapt accordingly.
  2. Remember to get to know group members or at least their preferred roles, experience or skill sets.
  3. Familiarise and understand the task before delegating and setting ground rules which must be achievable and realistic.


From the concepts introduced in this workshop and the Leadership scheme, I have developed a further understanding of what it means to be effective in different types of leadership roles. From my experience as a ski/snowboard instructor where leadership had to be very authoritarian to ensure the safety of the children I was teaching, through to the far more democratic and delegative leadership style required for effective academic group work. Leadership works on a continuum and leading a successful team requires the Tuckman's model of group formation, namely the forming, storming and norming needed to perform.

From this particular workshop, future action points I will continue to take forward include remembering to familiarise myself with group members to understand their preferred roles and familiarise myself with the tasks set - often the 'forming' and 'storming' parts of group work which are brushed aside to dive straight into the work. The management of expectations and setting of clear ground rules is also an important aspect raised, which can help to avoid conflict and tension within groups, and the ability to adapt leadership styles to suit the situation needed are some of the important points I have found most useful and will continue to apply with more detailed reflection to follow through my final leadership blog.


April 13, 2012

Follow up on Leading a Group Project

Here's a summary of how I've been getting on with my action points

1. Remember that leadership styles operate on a continuum and recognise when and where the most appropriate style is applicable and adapt accordingly.

Having joined the leadership scheme I have further developed this understanding, becoming aware of what style best suits me and practised adapting my leadership style in role play situations, for instance, getting the most out of even the most quiet. During my academic group work I have also worked in a large variety of groups with many different skill sets and as a result have had the opportunity to learn which style is most appropriate. When there are strong characters in the group who like to actively contribute to discussion and the direction of work, I find it best to adopt more of a co-ordinator style of leadership. Then, when the group is less willing to contribute openly, a more autocratic, but fair delegation of work helps to keep the whole group engaged and involved.

2. Remember to get to know group members or at least their preferred roles, experience or skill sets.

Having worked with and got to know the majority of the class by now, it becomes easy to overlook the importance of this step. Nonetheless, it is still important to understand each others strengths and weaknesses and often the preferred roles and skill sets are volunteered at the start of such group forming stages, making the delegation of work easier and more efficient. 

3. Familiarise and understand the task before delegating and setting ground rules which must be achievable and realistic.

This is again another important stage of group work, which when subject to time constraints can become neglected. Despite this, throughout my academic group work so far, I have made the conscious effort to set aside an evening or so before the group begins work so everyone has the chance to familiarise themselves with the tasks set. This has helped to improve understanding and work efficiency and is therefore something I will try to maintain. It is also important to note that it is never too late to take a step back and evaluate the progress or relevance of the work generated, as this is where problems can be resolved instead of ignored. In terms of ground rules, the most productive has been that everyone attends each group meeting. Where the work delegated can be completed and then the individual contributions pulled together as a group, to ensure full and visual participation. 


February 01, 2012

First Entry on Leading a Group Project

Workshop tutor: Mary Sage

Date: 31-Jan-2012

Introduction

In this workshop I saw a return of some familiar faces working towards completing the portfolio award and some new. It began with a discussion on what we consider defines a project and the factors needed for a successful group project. Ideas included:

  • Leadership
  • Communication via relevant technology
  • Co-ordination/organisation/delegation
  • Commitment/motivation
  • Mutual respect/responsibility

Many of which were also relevant to similar workshops such as working in a team.

From this we then moved on to what we understood by the term leadership and what makes a good project leader? This raised a lot of interesting debate and discussion from which introduced us to Lewin's 3 leadership styles.

  1. Authoritarian - autocratic
  2. Participative - democratic
  3. Delegative - Laissez-faire

Each of these leadership styles has their respective advantages and disadvantages and the main thing I gained from this was to considered their importance as part of a continuum. Democracy of course has advantages, bringing more perspectives, understanding and experience to decision making but sometimes it is necessary for a leader to be authoritarian - in order to move projects forward and remove compromise and conflict.

Other models of leadership include Adair's action-centred leadership involving inter-related responsibilities for the task, team, individuals and Tuckman's model of group formation:

  1. Forming
  2. Storming
  3. Norming
  4. Performing

This highlighted the often neglected first stage of forming, where a group gets to know each other. Essential to improving group dynamic and efficient task delegation to members with the most appropriate skill sets.

From my past and present experiences it is often the case that groups are too eager to dive into the task and from this workshop I will take an understanding of the importance to familiarise, plan and then establish effective 'ground rules' and targets to achieve the most from my group work. Due to time restrains the use of Gantts charts to establish timescales and milestones is not always applicable to my work, nonetheless it is an important tool to bring to future extended assignments. As a result of reflection on this workshop I plan to implement the following action points:


Action Points

  1. Remember that leadership styles operate on a continuum and recognise when and where the most appropriate style is applicable and adapt accordingly.
  2. Remember to get to know group members or at least their preferred roles, experience or skill sets.
  3. Familiarise and understand the task before delegating and setting ground rules which must be achievable and realistic.

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