Reflection Paper Polishing
Along the semester, I found myself has changed in many aspects while learning how to be a supportive teammate and an inspirational individual. Before taking this class, I’m always curious about how a person could be influenced by an organization, a team and an individual. Take myself as an example, I found myself has changed a lot after I transferred to USC. As for me, the school definitely has a positive influence. Just like it described in the social comparison theory, people would regularly compare themselves with those around them and sometimes positive social comparison could lead to motivation. When I found out that the students are really competitive at USC, I encourage myself to become a capable person as they are. At the beginning of the semester, I took the VIA character test and my top three characteristics are kindness, love of learning and prudence. I’m not surprised by the result and as a matter of fact I feel pretty much that’s who I am. Based on my past experiences, I’m usually not the most talkative person within a team but I love to check on others and help them with their challenges. And I believe this is also my strength for always being able to develop a good relationship with my teammates.
The first time that me and my teammates get a chance to officially meet each other and have a discussion is when we are doing activities at ELC. A little different from my past experiences that me and my teammates would usually just dive into the project at the first meeting. Buad304 class provides us an opportunity to get to know each other better before actually working on the project together. And the later experiences validated the necessity of having a discussion on what we want to see and what we want to avoid in our team. To set a clear goal and specific rules can boost the efficiency of a team and reduce conflicts among teammates. During the discussion, we agreed on using logistics and reasoning when having conflicts with another teammates. Throughout the entire discussion I found myself paying extra attention to what kind of behaviors that my teammates dislike and examining myself to see if I had certain behaviors before. I think the reason I did that is because I value the relationship with teammates more than the outcome itself. Admittedly, the outcome is important, but the reason I valued relationship more is because a healthy and inspiring relationship is a foundation for a team to have successful outcomes. On the other hand, if a team have successful outcomes but the relationship within a team is toxic, then meaning of teamwork is lost and this is the least favorable situations we would like to have in our teams.
During the first ELC group exercise, we discussed about our opinions on undesirable behaviors in a team and this helps us to know each other’s’ personal boundaries and reduce the conflicts in the future. For example, one of my teammates said she dislike the type of people who doesn’t want to admit themselves for making mistakes. As she talked about this, I realized that sometimes I am not instantly aware of that I’m wrong so I would just keep trying to convince others. But when I do realize that I’m wrong I actually owe others a follow-up explanation. It’s really helpful to know others reflection on my behaviors. By knowing this I can further amend this problem on me to avoid unnecessary conflicts. Sometimes two people had good intensions but since they misunderstood each other, a poor relationship has been formed. Communicate the problem with each other and view the problem from another perspective could improve the relationship. Along the discussion, I also expressed my concerns that sometimes the group would be dominated by one or a few people and as we learned in class, groupthink is not good for building a productive team. My teammates also have this concerns so at the end we reach an agreement to have a shared leadership in our team. And we believe by having shared leadership, it could benefit our team in regard to have less conflict, and more cohesion and trust.
Later on, in the semester, as we started to work on our project, our team entered the forming stage where we are trying to figure out the structure, leadership and what types of behaviors are acceptable in our team. Since in the first ELC meeting we have discussed about all of these, we had a smooth transition into this stage. Since we decide to have a shared leadership within our group, our group is not dominated by certain a few members. Instead our team welcomes everyone to contribute their ideas and opinions and I have noticed that due to shared leadership team structure, our team has relatively less dysfunctional conflicts comparing to the other teams I have worked with previously. For example, when we are designing the survey and interview questions, we work on this together. Everyone contributed ideas into discussion. When there’s similar opinions we would incorporate them together, and whenever we have contradictory ideas, we would be using logics and reasoning to convince each other, instead of a few people in our group to make decisions for all. Admittedly, we still have conflicts throughout our discussions, but they are functional conflicts which could help our team to reach a better performance level. Shared leadership has not only help us to achieve a better result, but also respect every team members’ right and chance to share opinions. In my past experiences, usually a few people in the team would make most of the decisions, and some shy team members would have less chance to share their voice and rights to make decision. Gradually, they would just withdraw from the team’s discussions, and it’s not a healthy team dynamic. Shared leadership could avoid this problem by engaging everyone into the discussions and give everyone equal power to make a decision for our group.
Although for most of the time our team get along pretty well, we still had some functional conflicts when we are approaching teamwork. This is where our team entered into the storming stage. For example, one of our teammates texts us in the group chat that he is not able to meet with rest of us for the essay peer review during the weekend that the essay was due. Although he didn’t explicitly explain the reason, we still respect the fact that each of us has life besides school. However, later on, the trigger of the conflict is that this teammate missed our internal deadline for the project. Everyone starts to stress out and text each other about his part was still empty and what should we do next. We finally decide to set another deadline between us, if he doesn’t upload his work by certain time, we would start to write his part together. We also asked another teammate who is close to him to ask if there’s anything happened to him and what can we do to help. The reason behind my reaction to the conflict is that I’m a collaborating style of conflicts handling which I tend to cooperatively identify the problem, generate alternatives and try to satisfy concerns of all parties. We assume that it might be due to external factors because he attends every meeting previously which shows his low in consistency. He’s engaging in designing the survey questions before which shows his high in distinctiveness. Lastly, all of our teammates have attended this meeting expect him which indicates his high in consensus. According to Kelley’s model of attribution, we are able to come up the conclusion that it’s might be due to the external factors instead of internal factor. It turns out that our assumption is correct, he had a competition in Berkley, and it’s the main reason that he has a difficulty to meet our internal deadline. From this experience, I learned that when a teammate has not completed his or her work, don’t jump into the conclusion immediately of due to internal factor, for example, irresponsible and unaccountable. We should also consider the possibility of due to external reasons, for instance, illness, a family issue or like this time, a competition in another city.
Talking about my role in the team, I’m usually the one who organizes the meetings, set up the internal deadline and hold the teammates accountable. For example, I always start a discussion in the group chat to hold a meeting and then ask the best time that works for everyone, lastly reserve a room for us before meeting. During the meetings, I would frequently take notes for us to check out later on for the important information of this meeting, for instance, the role assignment of the team project, the internal deadlines and what we are expected to complete for each internal deadline. Besides that, I would also frequently check on others and to see what I can help them with. For example, since I was assigned to work on the recommendation part with another two teammates. I frequently discuss with them what we plan to write about to avoid overlap and contradict opinions and make the whole essay seems like wrote by single person. I love to help others, and zest is the top three characteristic I have in my VIA character test. I think it is also my strength for able to maintain a good relationship with the people I worked with and gain trust from others. For example, one of my teammates texts us in the group chat that our project proposal exceeds only one line of two pages and what we should do to shorten the essay. Since I don’t want to delete anyone’s work, I made a suggestion to change the bullet points into a paragraph so we can limit our essay in to two pages. Whenever there’s someone asked questions in the group chat, I will try my best to answer and help others. Gradually, my teammates trust me and feeling comfortable to directly talked to me about their problems. One time, my teammate directly messages me that she is not sure if her part looks good and she want me to take a look at it. I’m happy that teammate could trust me due to my zest nature.
This led to talk about my peer evaluation process. Although I haven’t got the feedbacks from my teammates yet, based on the way we get along with each other throughout the semester, we had a good time work together. We all contributed decent effort on the team project. Since we have shared leadership in our team, each individual an opportunity to show his or her prowess in certain areas, teammates become more engaging in the team work process. Admittedly, shared leadership has its shortcoming. For example, when we are facing some challenges that we are not good at, for instance, the survival game we had in our class, we spent relatively more time to reach a consensus since all of us has the right to make the final decision and we try to convince others by reasoning which lowers the efficient of our team. And since this is our first time to try shared leadership, there is definitely something we could improve in the future. Shared leadership is that it easily results social loafing since everyone expects others would lead the team and due to that we sometimes lack a spokesperson in the class discussion. What we can improve in the future is, to clearly assign role regarding to everyone’s expertise. For example, one of us can take leadership for being a spokesperson during the class discussion while others could take leadership in other divisions.
At the end of this semester, I have set two goals for myself to improve in the future teamwork. First goal is to be more aware of what happen to the teammates. If we could be more aware of what is unusual about teammates this time, we could figure out that he has a competition at Berkley earlier and to confirm with him if the internal deadline still works for him. Then we wouldn’t be so stress out when we find out he didn’t meet the internal deadlines and we have to set a plan B of what if he cannot make it to meet the new deadline, we set for him. I guess the method to approach this goal is to generally communicate more with teammates. Along the conversation we could know much more about our teammates individually. And people would be more likely to share their plans and what’s going in their life with you. Second way is to regularly check on others when close to deadline by asking, “Is the internal deadline still work for you?”, “How’s your part going recently? Do you have any new thoughts besides the ideas you shared with us in the meeting?” And lastly, when a teammate is willing to share the challenges, they are facing with us, we need to take it seriously and try to discuss a solution and solve it together. This could positively reinforce the behaviors of our teammates and if they have further challenges, they would like to share with us again. To earlier we can identify the challenges, the earlier we can solve them.
The second goal is to be more initiative to take the role of being a spokesperson for my team. I have noticed that in the class discussion, everyone in my team tries to avoid being the spokesperson due to the fear of public speaking. And sometimes we just have to take turns to fulfill this role. I want to challenge myself to conquer the fear of public speaking in the future. Avoiding being the spokesperson is the least way to help me become a good public speaker. The way to approach this goal is to practice public speaking by sharing my opinion more often during the class. I believe I would become more comfortable with public speaking when I practice it more often.