November 26, 2013

First entry on Working in a team

Workshop Tutor: Trudy Hillier

Introduction

WSPA Teamwork Blog

My participation in the WSPA teamwork workshop has enabled me to revisit some of the core teamwork concepts such as Belbin’s team role profiles (and where do I fit in), the importance of team composition/dynamics in addition to the characteristics of an effective team (to be elaborated below).

The first section of the workshop, has allowed me to understand the fundamental importance of teamwork – e.g. to complete tasks faster and better, to bring in new and more varied ideas as well as to enable more an efficient working processes (whereby each person works on his or her own area of strength and/or interest).

The recapitulation of Belbin’s teamwork profile allowed me to both revisit my most preferred team role of being a resource investigator, teamworker and monitor evaluator (through completing a condensed version of Belbin’s questionnaire) and understand the advantages and allowable weaknesses associated with each of the roles (table1). It would be quite helpful to also determine and evaluate the team role profile of other team members in any near-future team assignments to gauge the team dynamic and whether if any additional actions should be taken for more effective teamwork to suffice.

Advantages

Allowable weaknesses

Resource investigator

Good at generating ideas externally, e.g. through networking

Over-optimistic and can lose interest once initial enthusiasm has passed

Teamworker

Seeks to build relationships

Indecisive in crunch situations

Monitor evaluator

Like to analyse information and is usually loyal

Can lack drive and ability to inspire others (do not apply to me)

Table 1. Shows my preferred team roles and associated advantages and allowable weaknesses.

Following a brief 10 minute discussion on the characteristics of a successful team, we came up with the following: (table 2)

Sheng Shun

Weiyi Yao

Chiamaka Ikpe

Helena

Agreed team characteristics

Respect

Mutual respect

Task delegation

Respect

Respect

Listen to others

Compromisation

Proper research of the situation

Agreement of common goal

Involvement of all members

Involvement of all members

Close collaboration

High meeting attendance

No blaming

Leadership

Role assignment

Differential contribution

Strong leadership

Leadership

Communication

Regular communication

Effective communication

Open minded

Collaboration

Responsible

Role assignment

Encourage involvement

Responsibility

Flexibility

Role assignment

Willingness to work

Situational analysis (research)

Flexibility

Awareness of common goal

Table 2. Shows the views on characteristics of a successful team by each members on our table and views on the ten most important team characteristics as agreed by all table members.

Although this is not entirely new to me, this exercise nonetheless allowed me to revisit and further understand the fundamental and ubiquitous importance of respect, responsibility, communication and leadership, amongst other elements highlighted in table 2 in teamwork. Therefore it would be worthwhile to invest both time and effort to focus on encouraging and promoting these characteristics within near-future team assignments.

Finally we talked about the harsh reality of teamwork, where how there might often be cases where respect, strong leadership and clear communication, amongst other traits that characterizes a successful team do not occur during team assignment/projects. It was helpful to learn that in these situations we must adapt our behaviour that are associated with certain roles that absent from and therefore required by the team to try and improve team performance – which is presumably at its best when the sum of the preferred Belbin’s team role of all team members are evenly distributed/well-balanced. This however by no mean means that we can freely change our Belbin’s personality profile at whim, which is widely believed to be inherent and resistance to alterations.

Following the workshop, I had a much better grasp of:

  1. The importance of team work
  2. Belbin’s 9 team role profiles and where do I fit in
  3. The characteristics of a successful teamwork
  4. The importance of team composition in creating an effective team

Actions

  1. To determine Belbin’s preferred team role of each member on my Biochemical engineering group project team and take on (either by myself or by influencing others) addition actions, such as leadership or team-coordination to compensate for what we currently lack in our team for improving our team performance throughout the entire project – which will be evaluated in the next blog.

  2. To encourage and promote at least 3 characteristics from Table 2, Column 5 in the biochemical processing teamwork assignment, and evaluate how it has affected our overall team performance.

  3. Take the opportunity to absorb and exhibit at least 2 behaviours associated with other Belbin’s preferred team roles (current focus is in leadership and team coordination) and attempt to mitigate the two allowable weaknesses (shown in table 1) – to be evaluated in the next blog.

  4. To determine Belbin’s preferred team role of each member on SSLC and take on (either by myself or by influencing others) addition actions, such as looking at the big picture or to facilitate greater degree of team communication and collaboration, where applicable to compensate for what we currently lack in our team for the next meeting – which will be evaluated in the next blog.

To write a follow up, go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/skills//blog


November 20, 2013

Follow–up on Leadership

Workshop Tutor: Mary Sage

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

The practice of self-rewarding has indeed been implemented on several occasions and as a result, I was able to give myself more time to de-stress and recuperate within the past few weeks. For example, I was able to enjoy a great time eating home-made house dinner with many of my good friends following the completion of my 2nd essay assignment on DNA sequencing. This is swiftly followed by a relatively ‘healthy’ night’s worth of sleep in preparation for my next day. I have also been eating much more easier foods (salad boxes and university warm meals instead of the many cheese/ham/seafood filling sandwiches, which despite being cheap are not good for the general well-being of the body) since after the workshop as part of my work-hard, play-hard, eat well and sleep well reward scheme (which is centred around balance). The friend’s gathering part of the reward system however partially breaks down in cases where I simply signed up for too much work due to insufficient time and energy (something that occurred mainly within the last 7 days) – and represents a major area that I must address immediately so that I can apply a greater balance to my university life (to be discussed in the next blog).

  1. The SSLC meeting (which was to be schedule on the 19th Nov at the GLT4) was organized with a moderate degree of efficiency, with the doodle poll being sent out a week earlier on a Monday. Despite having prepared the issues to be discussed during the meetings, I overlook a few other elements such as inviting certain faculty members to the meeting for discussion about course-related problems. An informal meeting must also be carried out before the next official meeting so that an Agenda can be drawn to inform the faculty members of existing issues. During the meeting I was able to ask each member including Timothy, Chris, George, Kathryn about the issues which they are experiencing, while attempting to moderate the flow of the meeting. I have adopted more of a team-worker personality during this meeting as I saw the potential of our SSLC secretary Kathryn of leading the discussions in a good and logical manner. During the meeting I also brought in my own issues and perspectives on those of others so we would have a very information and idea-driven discussion. I however have not yet found a way of motivating the SSLC members and this is definitely an idea which needs to be addressed in the future (and hopefully more my next blog).
  2. My issue of being critical to other people’s opinions on some occasions has been resolved to a great extent, as I have learnt to become much more co-operative, more considerate and less critical in listening to other people’s thoughts. Thus, I successfully built on nearly each of the SSLC rep’s ideas and opinions on the problems discussed (such as Warwick feedback forms, timetable completion and clarity for coursework titles) and together with their own thoughts, we were able to come up with an efficient plan to address these problems (e.g. by contacting relevant administrators). However, I was also quite assertive (though the level of my assertiveness has dampened slightly by an overriding feeding of tiredness) in expressing my own opinions after careful thought with regard to each of the aforementioned issues and asking other members on their perspectives on the same issue. However I know that I still need to improve in my ability to: 1. Drive the direction of meetings (through the use of a more leadership like personality), 2. Prepare and plan meeting more comprehensively, 3. Control the flow of meetings for any future SSLC meetings through more proactive engagement and energy so I could motivate the members even more (to be implemented and discussed in the next blog).

WSPA 2nd blog with new revelations and action points

There appeared to be 2 major focus within the last workshop – Belbin’s personality profile and the concept of differential assumptions made by each individual/groups of individual which subsequently determines the actions or reactions they create.

Having completed Belbin’s personality profile online prior to the workshop – I personally find it slightly interesting and rather inconsistent that I fall under the best suited roles of a specialist/shaper/ Resource investigator/Completer finisher/Monitor evaluator (top 5 in order of suitability) from completing the online questionnaire and shaper/resource investigator/plants from looking at team-role description (where I also choose specialist as my suited likely team-role).

After reviewing both sets of results, I am convinced that I am most well suited to become a shaper, complete finisher and resource investigator (top 3) – the main reasons being that:

  1. I now thrive on challenge and pressure – thought I often find extreme pressure to be a very bad and counterproductive thing and possess the courage and drive to overcome (as well as having overcame) many obstacles. Although I am not liable to offend others in most cases, I am somewhat prone to provocations (this especially applies when my competences and skills are questions).
  2. I have always been dedicated to the task at hand in a very meticulous, painstaking, conscientious and in some cases, anxious manner. I am also somewhat of a perfectionist who always seeks to do my best for every task – but that consequently means I somewhat set myself unrealistic goals and expectations and often feels bad for not being able to achieve the objective set. I am also inclined to worry unduly (especially on matters involving studying, love and other positions of responsibility) as well as to be reluctant to delegate work onto others.
  3. Through experience and introspective reflection, I learnt to become enthusiastic and communicative as well as being able to explore new opportunities and develop new contacts – despite the fact that I am not a true (although I am often perceived to be an) extrovert. I do often become over-, or well over-optimistic and can lost interest in certain things quite quickly once the initial enthusiasm has passed.

In addition to what has been discussed, I also possess some features which belong to the team-worker, monitor evaluator and plant roles, such as:

  1. The Positives: being serious minded, strategic and discerning, see all objectives, co-operative, perceptive, diplomatic and disciplined.
  2. The Negatives: too preoccupied with own thoughts (occurs in situations where I am facing a unusually large problem, being it personal, academic or work-related), failing to inspire others (in some situations) and somewhat inflexible (especially with regard to my working schedule).

 Belbin

Having reviewed Belbin’s profile – I believe that it would be extremely helpful for me to implement action points that revolves around bolstering my strengths and nullifying or converting my weaknesses (see end).

However I would like to move away from Belbin’s personality profile and delve into some more fun – the card game which formed the predominant part of the second focus. The rules of this game are as follows:

  1. Each person will read and learn the set of rules regarding the card game which they must play on each table (which accommodates groups of 3-8).
  2. No form of verbal or (word associated) written communication is allowed throughout the entire game.
  3. Each game must decide a winner and a loser – the winner and loser of each round moves anticlock-wise and clock-wise respectively across to different tables.
  4. The game subsequently repeat itself, until done (which is after a few rounds).

Following game completion we were first asked to describe it using one word and subsequently questioned about the meaning of the exercise. The word which I chose for describing the game was ‘adapt’ as I realized during the second round that the rules for each table was made to be different on purpose to test our collaboration and non-verbal/word-based written communication skills (immediately after one person let me know that club, and not spade is the dominant suit on their table + context we are in = everything else made sense I guess). I was also intrigued to subsequently learn the purpose of this exercise – which is to understand the differential assumptions adopted by different individuals within a team and also, how members of each team manages to determine the same ultimate rule despite their initial assumption of the rules are different: through effective communication, compromise and mutual understanding.

Thus it would also be useful to implement action points to emphasize on the effect of effective and mutually supportive teamwork under conditions where everyone’s assumptions or expectations, etc, are different.

Following the 2nd leadership workshop as well as my first SSLC meeting, I have decided to implement the following action points for my 3rd blog. Given what I have learnt so far, these action points will not only span the field of leadership, but also personality judgement and team-work improvement, and include (to be complted in 1-2 weeks):

  1. To improve the processes of planning/preparation, implementation and controlling of the SSLC meeting next week by having an informal student-only meeting before the formal student-staff meeting (so an agenda can be created) and also by inviting at least 2 members of faculty staff as well as 1 member of the WSPA or WSLA personnel to the meeting.
  2. To best judge the personality types of 2-4 members from SSLC and/or Enactus project consulting meetings and describe their likely weaknesses and strengths.
  3. Mimic, practice and acquire the strength possessed by those who I observed (a continuation from action point 2) as well as to improve 2-4 of my own strength while negate/convert 1-3 of my own weaknesses (can be selective).
  4. To create a greater work-life balance, which I desperately need now through occasionally rewarding myself (2-5 times a week): e.g. to go to leisure events that aligns with my interest such as karaoke, piano lessons and language classes, sleep more (>6 hours at least and ideally 8 hours/night), (so I could enjoy life a bit more without the constant work and extreme stress involved).
  5. Be more assertive and flexible in terms of my leadership styles within the next team meeting, with the aim of having 1) greater control so I could 2) drive the direction of the meeting in a more specific and efficient way as well as to 3) involve and try to motivate the more shy team members to express their own thoughts and opinions.

November 04, 2013

First entry on Leadership

Workshop Tutor: Mary Sage

Introduction

My participation in the Warwick skills leadership award workshop 1 has enabled me to better understand not only my personality, but also about Adair’s model of action centred leadership, which appears to be central to this workshop.

The session started with the usual introductions from all 17 participants (I myself included) but with a unique twist: we were asked to organize ourselves into 2 circles, where one person from each circle (inner or outer) are partnered. Each person was then given two minutes to introduce themselves, the leadership scheme which they are on and explain the reason for why they decided to participate in the leadership award to their partner before moving along to the next position, where new introductions begin. I suppose this icebreaker did allow me to meet some pretty cool souls (and by that, I mean people) such as Keito, Sannah, Rachel, Alice and Alessandro, though I was a shame that I was not able to remember much about anyone’s introductions in detail when I was asked about it towards the end (probably due to tiredness and a lack of effort)!

That being said, as the current chair of the MSc Life sciences SSLC, main motivation for participating in this workshop includes to learn more about myself both as a leader and as a team-member for I believe that such valuable skills will be extremely important for my personal and professional development.

We then moved onto the ‘meat’ of the session, where Adair’s model of action centred leadership and Myer Briggs personality type indicator was introduced in chronological order. Although the former topic was not entirely new to my understanding, it was still quite helpful in reminding me of the 3 key areas of attention and the 8 leadership functions to which a good leader must focus their attention on (see table below).

No.

Leadership areas of focus

8 Leadership functions

8 Motivation components

1

Team

Planning

Be motivated yourself

2

Task

Initiating

Select motivate people

3

Individual

Controlling

Treat each person as an individual

4

Supporting

Set realistic but challenging goals

5

Evaluating

Understand progress itself motivates

6

Motivating

Provide relevant rewards

7

Organization

Recognize success

8

Setting an example

We further delved into this topic by examining the components of motivation (one of the 8 leadership functions) in greater detail. The Myer’s Briggs personality type indicator, by contrast, was quite intriguing as it enabled me to learn and understand more about my personality. After answering a simple personality questionnaire centred on the 4 personality dimensions of MBTI:

· Extraversion vs. introversion

· Sensing vs. intuition

· Thinking vs. feeling

· Judgement vs. perception

I acquired the personality type of INTJ (Introversion, Intuition, Thinking and Judgement), which suggested that I possess an introverted intuition with an extraverted thinking. It appears, according to the subsequent INTJ hand-out, that I possess a clear vision of future possibilities coupled with the drive and organization to implement my ideas, and that I value knowledge and expect competence of myself and others and absolutely abhor confusion, mess and inefficiency, which is absolutely spot on! However it appears that as an INTJ type individual, my potential areas for growth includes to have more reliable ways if translating my insight into achievable realities and to avoid making ill-founded decisions based on limited or idiosyncratic information (which necessitate the development and expression of my thinking and intuitive preferences respectively) – which is partially true following a close evaluation of my past experiences. Other areas of growth that applies to me which the hand-out mentioned include to not be critical of people who possess different opinions to my own, to not become single minded and unyielding in pursuing a goal and to not become aloof and abrupt in situations where I am unable to contribute appropriately or to be appreciated for my contributions.

Through my recapitulation and reflection of Adair’s model of action centred leadership, I realized the importance of each leadership functions involved and that deficiency in any one function can undermine the performance of a good leader. My current weaknesses lies partially within planning, organization, evaluation and motivation. With regard to motivation, I previously was not able to select motivate people, set myself realistic but challenging goals and provide relevant rewards – but I now seek to address this issue through the implementation of SMART action points. I may also lack focus on other team-member’s opinions during team-working situations which is another area for improvement.

Much of my other action points will resolve around improving my planning, organization and evaluation skills (through practice) within a leadership context in addition to enhancing my potential areas of growth as mentioned in the Myer’s Briggs personality section.

Listed below are the initial set of action points which I have set myself for the coming weeks:

Actions

  1. To give myself 1-2 pieces of reward/week in the form of time-off or a night out/in with friends after I successfully complete all my academic objectives and extracurricular related activities including the SSLC meeting.

  2. To efficiently plan and organize the next SSLC meeting (which will be for 60-90min) for next week (date and time TBC) and to subsequently evaluate the meeting outcome by reviewing the minutes and 3 key topics of the talk to determine 2-3 measures that should follow.

  3. Acting as the chair, to focus more on the overall meeting objective, try motivate as least 2 team-members and to ask them about their opinions during the SSLC meeting in order to bring more engagement, dialogue and interaction within the meeting itself.

  4. During and/or following the meeting (after evaluation): to record 3-5 pieces of sufficient information for supporting my own opinion in regard to how each issue could and should be address, while not being too critical of other people’s views and thoughts (after they present their own reasoning).

To write a follow up, go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/skills/leadership//blog


October 20, 2013

Follow–up on Organising yourself and your time

Workshop Tutor: Time organisation P7 workshop

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

  1. Use Covey’s time organization quadrant to segment tasks into each of the 4 categories for analysis (determine their relative priority and consequently, the order in which they should be completed).

    A Covey’s time organization quadrant has been created and augmented for time organization purposes (see below).

My covey
  • Add prioritization to my weekly activities to ensure the completion of the most important tasks first, and assess the impact of doing so.

    By using Covey’s time quadrant I was able to identify and complete many important and urgent tasks - including seminar presentation, interview to be part of the one world week team and conducting the seminar practice presentation. The estimated time requirement and actual time consumed for each activity also helped me to effectively plan my actions. However, during periods in which I am extremely busy with university assignments (seminar presentation), I do tend to lose track of using the Covey’s time quadrant. This should definitely be addressed as I aim to review the quadrant more frequently next week – at least for 5 days for the purpose of planning out each day accordingly.


  • To improve my time-organization technique by bite-sizing large, complex tasks to simple ones using a combination of calendar for micro-planning and GANTT chart for macro-planning (where appropriate).

    I have made further use of google calendar by breaking down long working sessions to shorter ones that needs to be completed each day. However, during times where I am busy, I end up not being able to complete all tasks for the day…was I simply being too ambitious and planning to do too many tasks? Or was I simply inefficient? I will try this again this week by constantly keeping track of time (every 10 min) to determine my work efficiency with the help of a countdown clock and to note down when did I start and finish on each task. I will also aim to regularly change the topic of my work or take short breaks (every 60-120 minutes, unless I am on a tight deadline) to make it more interesting. I am also planning to get involved in a few consulting projects by Enactus, and hopefully will be able to make good use of the GANTT charts soon.


  • Reorganize my time-table schedules to leave at least 1-2 hours of time for contingency measures, leisure activity and sleep (when required). A sleep diary will be developed to access the overall improvement in sleeping hours as a result of this.

    The contingency measures were mainly implemented during the weekends (some measures were put in place during weekdays but they need to be specified – e.g. put onto Google calendar, e.g. an hour for doing whatever I like would be nice) – where I set aside time to rest at time (with the rest of the time spent on work done in the library), which was not what I have planned for originally. Although I did spare a bit more time in going out with a few of my course mates (this Friday) which was an improvement considering previously I was stuck either at lectures, careers seminars, WSPA workshops, society events (where I can get involved) and the library all day, every day with little room for relaxation. For next week I aim to specify the measure in more detail and/or break it up into more than 1 section each day – in a manner that represents ‘checkpoints’: the hour of ‘free’ time, what I have done during it and how it has helped me.

  • Calendar for week 3Calendar for week 4 (upcoming) - more contingency and free time left


First entry on Getting started on skills development and the Warwick Skills Portfolio

Workshop Tutor: Amanda Randall

Introduction

The P1 workshop was quite an eye-opener as it emphasised on the 3 key elements which I sought to strengthen from the WSPA workshops: reflection, learning and skills (in chronological order).

I found the team exercise on probing the concept and meaning of reflection to be as useful as it was engaging (during intra- and inter- team discussions), as it enabled me to gain a deeper understanding of its purpose.

Also interesting, was the introduction and practice of guided and systemic reflection, which allowed me to reflect more comprehensively about one of the painful past experiences which I experienced and what actions I can implement in order to avoid its recurrence.

The individual and group exercise on learning, which involved the identification of our preferred learning styles and weaknesses/strength associated with each style by filling out a LSQ questionnaire in the learning booklet hand-out followed by assessing how we can mitigate our weaknesses/improve our strength, was also extremely insightful as not only did it made me realized that I have a more or less balanced learning approach (as a scored highly on all 4 areas: activist, reflector, pragmatist and theorist, surprisingly) with a slight emphasis on the theorist category, but is also stimulated me to ponder about how I could improve my learning method – something that I never thought about much to-date.

Amanda Randall teaching the WSPA P1 workshop


I also took the liberty of reading more about the learning booklet, where I discovered the how learning was a dynamic processed made up of four unique stages (experience, reflection, conclusion and planning) in which each stage demands equal attention in order for learning to be maximally effective. This subsequently allowed me to discover my own weakness in the learning cycle: too much action and not enough reflection, and helped me to implement actions to address this issue, as will be reflected by my action points.

Finally, the skills section gave me the opportunity to reflect more about my personal skills, which I often fail to do. It made me realize that I still have much room to be improve in the areas of leadership, teamwork, communication and time management. I consequently will also combine the knowledge learnt from this workshop with that learnt in all other workshops (especially P7 and P8) in order to further improve my communications, leadership and other capabilities – through undertaking cycles of experience, reflection, conclusion and planning.

Overall I found workshop to be quite useful, simply because it had made me become more conscious of reflection and learning approaches. By using the new knowledge gained from this workshop, I am to implement 3-4 cycles of 3-4 action points over the next 1-2 months so that I can such knowledge into practice.

Actions

  1. Use mind maps for academic essay writing on the topic of antimicrobials and seminar presentation and evaluate its effectiveness.

  2. Do the VARK Question and determine area of improvements with regard to my learning approach. Design further approaches based on opportunity and results of the questionnaire.

  3. Apply 2-5 minor points of reflection (on daily events) per 1-2 weeks for and to construct an appropriate plan of action for personal development.

  4. Apply guided and systemic reflective technique each week for 1-2 major events such as seminar, presentations and big mistakes made.

To write a follow up, go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/skills//blog


October 18, 2013

Follow–up on Becoming more assertive

Workshop Tutor: Trudy Hillier (Follow up 1, Week 3)

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

  1. By incorporating both knowledge and skills gained within this workshop, apply assertive behaviour through use of approproiate oral communication and body language in the upcoming Assessed scientific presentation on Biofuel usage on 17/10.

    During my first assessed seminar presentation, my assertiveness was initially shaken due to nervousness as I was presenting my slides without any note support for the first time in 1-2 years. However, by applying the knowledge learnt from the P2 workshop I slowly regained much of my composure throughout the course of my presentation delivery, where I consequently witnessed a significant transition in my behaviour. The transition entailed the delivery of a slower but clearer and more structured speech, I was also able to smile more, make more eye contact and create more useful hand gestures throughout the latter part of the presentation. And with further experience and practice, I am confident in my ability to deliver seminars with an even higher level of assertiveness and composure. I will be focussing specifically on the manner of speech (with even greater intonation, pace and clarity to make the seminar fun to listen, which is a very hard feat to achieve) for my next seminar and will be feeding back in 2 weeks’ time following its completion.


  2. Identify situations in which assertive behaviour break down, rectify the behaviour and assess the cause of the breakdown in assertion.

    This action point has already been described in action 1. And as I see a close association of action point 1 and 2, I would like to change this action point to: Demonstrate conflict resolving or specific teamwork and leadership capabilities through the use of skills and application of knowledge learnt in the assertion workshop. So far one example includes my participation in the WSPA P1 group exercise, where I worked effectively with my team colleagues through good eye contact, body language and engaging conversation to share our individual views of the definition of reflection. The upcoming SSLC meeting and the note making & reading workshop represent further opportunities where I can further work on my negotiating/influencing/leadership capabilities. I also aim to have a better consious control of my assertive behaviour throughout each day which often breaks down during situations in which I am too stressed or tired (I can then, also rare, deviated to create passive or aggresive behaviour).


  3. Encourage more participation and engagement of passive team members through the use of assertive behaviour in the upcoming Organizing your time P7 workshop/Intro to WSPA P1 award.

    I was able to better demonstrate many learnt assertive behaviours during the WSPA P7 workshop (time organization), where I have proactively participated in and contributed to a group discussion and presentation exercise (in which we came up with words associated with good time organization) and a discussion regarding personal values. While I demonstrated many similar behaviours prior to attending the P7 workshop, I was able to demonstrate a much better control and awareness of the assertive behaviours after the workshop attendance. For example, during the presentation and discussion I was able to better control my body language (gestures, facial expressions) plus the tone and loudness of my speech. However I believe there are still rooms for further improvement, as I often do not tailor the level of assertiveness I exhibit that is appropriate to each unique situation (due to event type/people composition/my position within the event) (which also will test my ability to logically judge each situation) – I will attempt to address this in the next SSLC meeting plus the upcoming reading and notes taking workshop.


  4. To demonstrate assertive behaviour in the upcoming SSLC meeting next week and in all subsequent weeks to influence decisions and suggestions made in an appropriate way.

    The SSLC meeting has been postponed to next Week, therefore further reflective points regarding this will be made in the next blog.


October 13, 2013

First entry on Organising yourself and your time

Workshop Tutor: Lisa Faulkner

Introduction

A reflective account of the Organising your time workshop – [P7]

The Organising your time workshop has certainly been one of the most useful, thought-provoking and interesting workshops of all the skills portfolio workshops I came across so far due to its universal and interminable importance in life. After all, the time I waste through effective organization, the more I will retain for the pursuance of other meaningful activities.

The workshop has effectively addressed the techniques, advice, knowledge and tools which one could cleverly utilize to greatly enhance their study and work-efficiency. (How I see it is that the value extracted/unit of time is increased, therefore making one’s overall life more meaningful).

During the workshop we learnt about macro-planning, micro-planning, good working practice, values and their association with prioritization of certain activities, the concept of SMART in evaluating work efficiency, use of GANTT chart, COVEY’s time organization quadrant, scheduling, to-do list, behaviours associated with efficient use of time in addition to many additional tips regarding time management that were brought up during group discussions.

Through the workshop I have acquired some extremely useful and applicable knowledge, which includes but are certainly not limited to:

- Leaving 1-2 hours of free time each day for contingency measures – because sometimes plans often go according to schedule (acquired through discussion)

- The use of GANTT chart for macro-planning can greatly assist with the time-organization and management of projects (GANTT chart presentation).

- Prioritization is key when you are conducting any work – for example, I am writing about this blog now because I realize the importance of doing so for the completion of Warwick skills portfolio award, and will move on to a less important, non-urgent task when I finish. And it can often be good to complete important tasks before they become urgent, due to the additional pressure and time restrictions involved. (Value presentation and COVEY’s time organization quadrant)

- When tackling complex tasks, e.g. by using a to-do list, break the task down into simpler more manageable segments.

Image: Lisa's emphasis on applying the SMART technique when making specific objectives:

WSPA P7 Lisa

Subsequent to the participation of the workshop I realized that it is not feasible, sustainable or wise to pack tasks in calendars like sardines in a can (Micro-planning) and it would be better to employ a more controlled, risk-managed, strategic approach in planning out my day, week and months adequately by using the aforementioned tools and techniques available to me. Overall, I am extremely grateful for having attended this workshop as it has influenced the approach which I will make for the effective organization of my time.

All action points will be reviewed every 1-2 weeks as part of the reflective process and further action points made.

Actions

  1. Use Covey’s time organization quadrant to segment tasks into each of the 4 categories for analysis (determine their relative priority and consequently, the order in which they should be completed).

  2. Add prioritization to my weekly activities to ensure the completion of the most important tasks first, and assess the impact of doing so.

  3. To improve my time-organization technique by bite-sizing large, complex tasks to simple ones using a combination of calendar for micro-planning and GANTT chart for macro-planning (where appropriate).

  4. Reorganize my time-table schedules to leave at least 1-2 hours of time for contingency measures, leisure activity and sleep (when required). A sleep diary will be developed to access the overall improvement in sleeping hours as a result of this.

To write a follow up, go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/skills//blog


October 12, 2013

First entry on Becoming more assertive

Workshop Tutor: Trudy Hillier

Introduction

A chronological reflective account of the Assertive workshop - [P2]

The P2 assertive workshop was quite helpful as it addressed my previous misconception about assertion and the relationship between assentation and two other behavioural states: passiveness and aggression, through a series of engaging, fun and interactive exercises.

The workshop started with a group exercise in which we presented our initial understanding of assertion through mind-mapping and a short team presentation. Our team of 6 (Wei, SAM, Dobra, Soo, Loyla and Tina) came up with many correct and a few incorrect (mostly from me) associations: confidence, communication expression of feeling, personality, dominance, over-confidence, effectiveness, psychology and behaviour.

Our tutor, Trudy Hillier, subsequently conducted her own presentation to highlight the key features associated with and differences between each of the three general behavioural states: assertion, passiveness and aggression. A fourth behavioural state, manipulation, was mentioned but not explained. Having initially misunderstood the precise meaning of assertion, I found this section very insightful as it helped me to distinguish some of the more subtle differences between assertion and aggression.

This is closely followed by yet another team discussion exercise on determining the non-verbal behaviour (using a set number of criteria including posture, gesture, facial expression, eye contact, vocal pitch and addition add-ons such as vocabulary) associated with passiveness (team 1), assertion (team 2) and aggression (our team). Following considerable discussion, each of the 3 groups presented their findings (see below) once again. Not only did this exercise highlighted the often ignored but important non-verbal behavioural traits (through use of body language) of the 3 behavioural states, it also clarified the key differences between each state.

Group findings for group exercise 2:

Our group: aggressive

  • Posture: stiff, tensed, dominance stance, pupil constriction, facial muscle contraction (e.g. of the jaw, veins popping out)
  • Gesture: finger pointing, invasive, open,
  • Facial expression: contortion, no facial expression, red in the face, veins, becoming white
  • Eye contact: too much (glaring and staring), no eye contact, unblinking
  • Vocal pitch: higher, louder, deeper, faster, slower (with clenched teeth)
  • Change in the use of vocabulary.

Passive

  • Posture: folded arms, thumbling, feet together, forward slouch (relaxed but not overly relaxed),
  • Gesture: fidgeting, hands in pocket, fumbling, either no or too many gestures
  • Facial expression: colour change in face (e.g. red), biting your lip, being rigid (not relaxed, can be almost frozen), intense
  • Eye contact: no eye contact, keep ones in one place (looking away from the person), rapid blinking.
  • Voice pitch: high and light soft

Assertive

  • Posture: stable and comfortable, straight
  • Gesture: natural, relaxed (requires minimal energy)
  • Facial expression: smiling, neutral, no tension
  • Eye contact: constant but not glaring
  • Vocal pitch: controlled, varying

During the final group exercise on assertive behavioural practice, we reorganized into new groups of 4 and practiced assertive behaviours (verbal and non-verbal) and approaches in response to a number of pre-determined scenarios (see below). It was interesting to see that most of the team members have experienced similar situations to what has been described in their chosen scenarios, and, through the utilization of past experience and the knowledge attained from this workshop, were consequently able to identify the best course of action for tackling each scenario.

The scenarios we were given includes:

  1. You are always in charge of clearing out the bins but feel other members who share the kitchen should also do their share, what do you do?
  2. You are working on a group project and some team members are not working as hard. How do you address it in the upcoming meeting?
  3. You are trying to finish an essay for tomorrow and you want to do well this time due to your tutor’s comments about your past essays being rushed, but your friends are asking you to go out tonight. What is your response?

Even though I generally regard myself as an assertive individual, I found that, through the participation of this workshop I was able to better understand what it truly means to be assertive, and am very grateful as it will help me to confidently demonstrate the right level of assertiveness within each individual situation.

Following completion of the workshop, I decided to implement 4 actions points that are to be completed and reviewed within the next 4-8 weeks in order to consolidate and further my understanding of one of the most important and valued behavioural states: assertion.

All action points will be reviewed following 1-2 weeks after implementation.

Actions

  1. By incorporating both knowledge and skills gained within this workshop, apply assertive behaviour through use of appropraite oral communication and body language in the upcoming Assessed scientific presentation on Biofuel usage on 17/10.

  2. Identify situations in which assertive behaviour break down, rectify the behaviour and assess the cause of the breakdown in assertion.

  3. Encourage more participation and engagement of passive team members through the use of assertive behaviour in the upcoming Organizing your time P7 workshop/Intro to WSPA P1 award.

  4. To demonstrate assertive behaviour in the upcoming SSLC meeting next week and in all subsequent weeks to influence decisions and suggestions made in an appropriate way.

To write a follow up, go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/skills//blog


October 08, 2013

First entry on Leading a group project

Workshop Tutor: Mary Sage

Introduction

How to lead in a group project P8 blog 1

The P8 ‘Leading a group project workshop’ for me personally, has been well worth the investment in effort and time. The workshop was as insightful as it was fun, and presented me, alongside many like-minded colleagues the opportunity to participate in a number of interactive, entertaining and rewarding group and individual activities, where we learnt about the methods which we can employ to lead group projects effectively, the characteristics and advantages of different leadership styles proposed by Lewin in addition to the useful tools and projects that can be exploited for project management. Also mentioned was Tuckman’s model of group formation and Adair’s model of action centred leadership. The most exciting and insightful exercise for me personally was the role-playing exercise in which members of our group exhibited different leadership styles (autocratic, participative and delegative) in through action-based scenarios on a rotational basis, as it enabled us to experience first-hand the advantages, disadvantages and feelings associated with each leadership type.

Mary sage giving her lecture on leading a team project

Following the workshop, I strategically designed 4 actions points for implementation for the purpose of enhancing my leadership, teamwork and project management capabilities. These action points are as follows:

Over the next 4-8 weeks I will be recording my progress in these four areas via this blog to determine whether if I put what I learnt into practice and if I attained more skills and knowledge as a result (1 cycle of action point completion/1-2 weeks).

Actions

  1. Incorporate Tuckman's model of group formation or Adair's model of action centred leadership in the upcoming assertive P2 workshop 09/10.

  2. By using Lewin's leadership styles, apply any of the 3 leadership styles that where appropriate situations in in the upcoming Cultural awareness workshop 04/10.

  3. Endeavour to apply brainstorming techniques chart in appropriate teamwork situations as a team member of leader in the upcoming Time organizing P7 workshop 10/10.

  4. Utilize the GANTT to help managing my MSc Dissertation project (to start in April 2014).

To write a follow up, go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/skills//blog


October 04, 2013

Cultural awareness workshop experience and highlights (Warwick skills)

Ever thought about connecting with people from other cultures? Interested in becoming friends with people from all over the world? Or simply want to enhance your sense of culture awareness? If yes, then the Warwick cultural awareness skills workshop can certainly help!

Enhancing cultural awareness can also grant you additional interpersonal skills which allows you to build even better relationships with individuals who are of different cultural backgrounds, which is an essential skill in the modern world, where the concept and popularity of “globalization” and “global citizen” is on the rise!

The 3 hour workshop are separated into 5 unique segments, each of which is designed to increase your level of knowledge regarding culture awareness. See below for a simple breakdown below:

1. Students introduce themselves and subsequently communicate with one another and are subsequently lined up in the order of longest time stayed in the UK, time takes to travel home and preferred name – a great ice-breaker and warm up!

2. Next, students present their individual view on the definition of culture and subsequently work in groups to create a group definition of culture - ever thought of micro- and macro- culture? Well, different culture often exists in many more places or situations than you think (such as a culture between just couples)!


Group exercise on the definition of culture

3. Discuss in groups about the differences would you notice between different cultures? These can include university culture, corporate culture, country culture, academic culture, etc…the possibilities are endless.

4. Individual and subsequent group exercise on answering questions regarding culture, such questions include: What do you know about your name? Does it have a historical significance/where does it come from? Significance/meaning of name to you? How would you like to be addressed?

Insight: Name can indicate culture as a person can have many names in different situations, e.g. special names that exists between couples, within families, may represent a culture by itself.

5. Group activity on create an individual with their own culture, create his project assignment buddy and their culture (race, age, name, work culture, personality, interest, etc) then talk about 2 similarities and 2 differences that need to be addressed using specific solutions for the purpose of enhancing the collaboration between these 2 people through the course of the project undertaking, then present. You’d be surprised on how people can work together by identifying and contributing different personal strengths!


Group exercise 5 presentation poster

6. Last but not least…reflection of the ideal culture and the types of careers or jobs that would suit that culture, which could be very important for every career focused and aspiring undergrad and postgrad student!

Tip: Company cultures, alongside their mission and values are almost always highlighted on corporate websites!

If interested, the next cultural workshop should commence in term 2 so keep an eye out for it on https://myadvantage.warwick.ac.uk/!

By Weiyi Yao

MSc in BBBM (Biotechnology, bioprocessing and business management)


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  • Hi Wei – thank you for your initial reflections and action points. The action points are relevant to… by Trudy Hillier on this entry
  • Wow Weiyi I feel tired just reading everything you have done and want to achieve! YOu really are try… by Mary Sage on this entry
  • Hi Weiyi This is an excellent first leadership scheme blog. YOu've provided an excellent overview of… by Mary Sage on this entry
  • Hi Weiyi, I'm sorry for the delay in responding to your blog – I'm not sure how I missed it the firs… by Amanda Randall on this entry
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