“Communicationis the essence of human life” stated Janice Light in 1997 (Janice, 1997).
Indeed, communication is present in our everyday life on many different levelsfrom simply talking with a family member to saying hello to the cashier inTesco. Because it is so widespread and exists in many different forms,communication between two individuals can sometimes be quite complicated due tolanguage barriers or contrasting beliefs. Therefore, teamwork, defined as “the processof working collaboratively with a groupof people in orderto achievea goal”(Businessdictionary, n.d.) can potentially be tricky. During this first term ofuniversity, I was assigned a group project on the future workforce. Throughoutthis essay, I will be looking at what happened in the group, and how thisrelates to the more broader theories of leadership and teams : Team Roles andMotivation.
Tobegin with, understanding what occurred within the group is vital in connectingit to more extensive theories.Firstly,our group project consisted in creating a short five-minute film depicting aproblem, challenge and solutions concerning the future workforce. The group wascomposed of four girls : Anna, Ludovica, Julia and I, and of two boys : Armaanand Joe. The team got off to a bad startwith both boys being absent for the introductory meeting which took place afterour lecturer explained the project. Thus, Anna, Ludovica, Julia and I got toknow each other and bonded before meeting the rest of the team.
Anna, fromNorway, boldly presented herself as being a person who is straightforward andlikes to plan everything. On the other hand, Julia, from China, barely talked,however when she did, she was self-assured. Likewise, Ludovica, from Italy,favoured listening, and only spoke when needed. I spoke confidently and madesure to relieve the tension and stress of meeting for the first time throughhumour.
It seemed as if Anna was going to take the position of leader, whereasthe rest of girls would work with her to achieve our common goal. We startedchoosing our topic, and created a Messenger group to reach out to the missingboys. Fromthen on, the group task of making the film took place in three processes : theplanning, making and editing of the film. Joe turned up to the second groupmeeting, revealing himself as a reserved boy who preferred letting the girls dothe job. Still no sign of Armaan. Only a brief third meeting allowed us to seeArmaan, unveiling himself as extremely shy. The planning mainly took placeduring the reading week by Ludovica and I as Joe barely talked and the otherswere unable to attend the meeting.
Ludovica and I distributed tasks for theother team members to do in order to facilitate the making process. However,when it was time to bring together everyone’s information, Joe and Armaan had bothnot done it. This delayed the schedule we had all set ourselves and as aresult, Anna, Julia, Ludovica and I had to research their subjects. The film-makingitself took place at Anna’s flat. It was entirely done by the four girls. Wehad told the two boys that they should come if they wanted to, as at thatmoment Anna, Ludovica, Julia and I knew that they were not going to do anythingif they came. On hindsight, this was a mistake as it further separated thegirls and the boys in the group, leading to conflict.
Anyhow, us four girls worked reallyefficiently and well together tin the making of the film. We each had aseparate task to do. Anna filmed, Ludovica drew on the whiteboard, Julia heldthe whiteboard pens, and I wiped the board. We all collectively decided whatscene we were going to shoot and in which order the drawings were to be drawnby Ludovica. This girl-sub-team had reached the stage of team forming wherethere was not one team leader but just individuals linked together working as ateam. The editing was mainly done by Anna on her computer, whilst Julia and Itook turns in doing the voiceovers. The final report of the film was also entirelydone by the four girls even though for once the boys were present in the room.
A final viewing of the film was done by all of us and then was handed in.WhatI personally brought to the project was creativity, perfectionism and humour.Indeed, because of the nature of the project, creativity was key. Anna had alreadyconfessed that creativity was not her thing, therefore Ludovica and I steppedforward.
With Ludovica’s help, I designed the drawings that were to be used inthe film, as well as part of the script. Additionally, because I considermyself as a perfectionist, I tried to make sure that each drawing wasimpeccable, that the report was accurately written and that the overall projectwas up to scratch. Anna helped by informingme when I had done enough perfecting, aiding me in not wasting my time goingtoo far. Another important point I feel I contributed to was the positiveatmosphere of the group. Through making jokes every so often, the stress in theatmosphere diminished and work was done faster. In the end, I feel as though Ibrought as much to the process as Anna, Ludovica and Julia. Furthermore, the leadership in thegroup was fairly stable since the beginning, and I have realized, thanks toprevious experiences, that each group is different. Leadership is defined as “theact of leading.
” (MerriamWebster, n.d.) From the initial group meeting andonward, Anna always took the role of leader, telling the rest of us who had todo what and for when, as well as deciding the date of our next meetings. Thestyle of her leadership changed over time from a more bossy leader to a morecooperative leader. This format of group with Anna leading worked well as itallowed us to work fast and efficiently.
This contrasted to the group I was infor a Marketing project due at around roughly the same time of the year. In theMarketing team, there were five girls and one boy. From the beginning, therewas no communication between the whole team, only between two or threeindividuals at a time. Nobody knew who was doing what, and two girls constantlydisagreed with each other. In this case, the lack of leadership and thediffering personalities created a tense atmosphere within the group. Anothergroup project I had to complete in France further reinforced John Adair’stheory that “groups resemble individuals in that … they are always unique.” (Adair,2006) It was a project where you could choose who you wanted to work withinstead of being randomly assigned.
Therefore, by picking people I knew wouldwork well together and I could trust, the assignment flowed naturally. In thisgroup there was no need to get to know each other and discover everyone’sstrengths and weaknesses compared to the ones cited above. Each group is thuscomposed of different personalities, cultures, beliefs, making them all unique. Now that the basics of the groupdynamics have been laid, it is possible to bring them together with moregeneral concepts of what leadership and teams are. The theories linked to teamroles and motivation bear similarities with my group experience. Because teams have existed for somany centuries, multiple researchers have focused on the aspects that arecommon to each and every teamwork. One of these people was researcher RaymondMeredith Belbin. His theory, entitled Belbin’s Team Role Theory, explained thatin each group, there were nine different team roles, each making “it’s own,distinctive contribution to the performance of the team.
” (Buchanan, &Huczynski, 2017) The nine defined team roles are the following : the Shaper,Implementer and Completer-Finisher which are Action Roles, the Coordinator,Teamworker, and Resource investigator which are Social Roles, and the Plant,Specialist and Monitor-Evaluator which are Thinking Roles. In 1996, Belbinargued that an individual generally took up more than one role. (Buchanan, &Huczynski, 2017) When compared to my group, this made sense.
If the boys areexcluded from this analysis, then each of the girls naturally adopted one, two,or more roles. Anna was more of an Implementer, Co-ordinator and Shaper meaningthat she told the rest of the group more simplistic, realistic ways ofaccomplishing the task as well as informing us which part of the assignment wehad to do. Ludovica was mainly a Plant and Teamworker in that she helped bringcreativity to the project and cooperated with what Anna said. As for Julia, hermain role was Teamworker, adding vital workforce to the completion of the task.
I was a Completer-Finisher, Monitor-Evaluator and Plant due to my perfectionismand creativity. However,if we include the boys into the group, Belbin’s nine roles do not work. BecauseArmaan and Joe were rarely present and made little, if no effort at all to doresearch and complete the task, there are no roles which define them. Moreover,in most teams I have been in, there has always been an individual who lackedcommitment to the task. Therefore, I believe that Belbin should have added atenth role called Ghost, which would symbolise the person who contributednothing and was usually absent. Even though Belbin’s team role theory is aboutroles with contribution to the common project, there is often a disruptivemember who should be taken into account. Belbin’s theory is more relevant toteams in a professional context as the people in the group are being paid to doa job and must accomplish their tasks.
It is less adapted to groupwork inschools and universities as some students don’t feel obliged to participate inteamwork. Thus, for education-level group work, a tenth role to Belbin’s teamrole theory should be added : the Ghost.Mygroup also defies the general role stereotypes defined by Emma Osmundsen in Women and Leadership. (Osmundsen,n.d.)Emma states that each gender has different desirable qualities.
Women areportrayed as being more affectionate, soft-spoken and sensitive whereas men asmore forceful, aggressive and confident. In this particular case, however, bothboys in our group had neither of the stereotyped qualities assigned to theirgender. Instead, the attributes of each gender were reversed, with the girlstaking control and being dominant in the task in contradiction to the boys whostayed more reserved.
The leadership in a group is therefore not always maledominant, especially when there is superiority in the number of girls and theequal opportunity for everyone to potentially become the leader. Motivationis another theoretical concept which ties in perfectly to my group activity. Thesuccess of a group is in part due to motivation. The Oxford Dictionary definesmotivation as the “desire or willingness to do something; enthusiasm.
” (Motivation,n.d.) It was a big source of conflict in our group as the boys did not feelconcerned by the task and thus failed to contribute to it whereas the girlswere motivated and ready to complete it. Patrick Lencioni’s document The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Lencioni, n.d.)describes the five main categories of dysfunction within a team which are:Inattention to results, Avoidance of accountability, Lack of commitment, Fearof conflict, and Absence of trust. Twosub-groups within our team effectively took place due to the lack of commitmentof the boys. This lack of commitment and inattention to results in turn formeda sense of distrust by the girls towards the boys.
The conflict within the teamdue to this slowed down the process as the girls had to do more research andspend more time achieving the end goal. Motivation was thus the key issue inour group, as we were not all committed to the project. Thisexperience working as a group has helped me realize that each group is unique andneeds to be approached differently each time. Indeed, every individual hasdistinct personalities, which are not always compatible, making the initialstage of discovering each person’s strengths and weaknesses nonpareil eachtime. In every group, there will be people who are less concerned with thepending task than others, potentially creating conflict within the team. Ifthere are any perturbing elements present, I have learnt that the best way todeal with them is not to focus on their lack of motivation, but instead to tryand entice them to join in with the work, or in the worse scenario, forgetabout them and move on with the committed part of the team.
This experience hasalso made me aware of the fact that if one person does not contribute to thefinal project, it brings a lot more work and stress upon the other teammembers. Thewhole experience of working as a group was a great challenge from start tofinish. Despite our group’s multicultural background with people coming fromfive different countries, our personalities (especially the girls) reallyclicked and we all got along very well. The work was facilitated by the factthat all of us were interested in the subject assigned. Good communicationbetween four of the members in the team allowed us to finish the project ontime and our strong work ethic further facilitated this.
However, some elementsgot in the way of a well-functioning united team. As stated above, the lack ofcommitment and motivation from the boys led to the separation of the group, andtheir absence of motivation created conflict from the girls getting irritatedat them. Even so, we managed to overcome these difficulties by focusing on theend goal and not paying attention to those who would ultimately bring us down. Hence,this group project has really taught me valuable lessons when it comes toworking with groups and team in the future.
I would suggest making the firstmeeting obligatory in order to get to know everyone from the beginning insteadof having a fraction of the group getting to know each other before everyoneelse. This would reduce the risk of potential conflict because everyone wouldhave met each other already. Furthermore, I would go about assigning people totheir respective roles following Belbin’s theory through understanding eachindividual’s personality, strengths and weaknesses and figuring out who wouldbe most adapted to each task.
Moreover, having a detailed plan of what shouldbe achieved each week really helped us a lot during this last assignment bystaying on target and completing the project on time. Therefore, I woulddefinitely repeat this in future group and individual tasks to come. Inconclusion, the group project I was assigned to do at the beginning of the yearhas made me realize that there are similarities between each group and recurringteam roles that can be attributed to each member.
This life experience hasallowed me to better understand how to deal with problematic and unmotivated people.Overall, I really enjoyed it and will try and bring what I have learned intofuture projects with other unique groups and teams.