A Journey Inside The Soul
Last fall I started my Full-time MBA program. I was assigned to a group of five members, including myself. As part of our orientation, our first exercise was to take on a ropes course as a group. This exercise helped us to know more about each other and become more cohesive as we were unfamiliar with each other and meeting for the first time. We came from different backgrounds, different cultures, and different countries, but we shared similar goals.
We had members that worked in operations, marketing, finance, and supply chain; some of us never worked in teams, so it was important for us to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and address each. We agreed as a group to make the most of our experience and try to help each other in achieving our goals. There were two sets of goals that our team worked for. We, as a group, hoped not only to deliver whatever requirements were in the program’s curriculum, but also we aimed to grow as individuals and as a group.
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It was evident from day one that each member of this team was aiming to excel and becoming distinct from other groups. Our common goal of excelling made it easier for us to find a common ground, and we felt that our goals were attainable as long as we show commitment and dedication. As any group, we had our share of positive and negative experiences that I will shed some light on in this paper. Although our group was highly functional and motivated towards succeeding in achieving our goals, there were few unexplored issues that I hope we work on in the remainder of our tenure.
This paper provides my personal reflection of some behaviors administered by members of my group and myself as well. Those behaviors impacted the functionality and the effectiveness of our team. The first part shall discuss the positive behaviors that I observed from other team members whom I believe had a huge impact on our team. The second part will be a self-evaluation of my behavior in the context of a study group, in particular negative behaviors and how to avoid them in future projects.
One positive behavior that I observed from a couple of our team members on a regular basis is taking the initiative. In my opinion, this was a significant factor in our success as a group last quarter, and it taught me how to perceive my self and others in order to identify strengths and weaknesses and how vital it is to be proactive within a group. On several occasions throughout the last quarter, those two members launched new initiatives that led to changes in the way we tackle things as a group and the way we approach problems.
This proactive behavior helped us to avoid some problems that we might have faced before they even occurred. Some problems like working under pressure when deadlines are imminent or doing repetitive work were avoided as both of those members anticipated them in advance and pointed out how to avoid such problems. Those two members’ actions were usually consistent with our goals as a group, and I believe that we helped them become proactive by allowing them to take the initiative and not squandering their efforts. Their ideas were usually listened to carefully and we allowed them to try it.
Also if mistakes were made, it was never held against them so we don’t close the window on takinf the initiative in the future, whether from their side or any other group member. It is the same concept as “reward” and “punishment” that was discussed in class; as any other behavior, proactive behavior if rewarded it will flourish and if punished or blamed it will be discouraged. The difference in our case is that the “reward” was being listened to or appreciating the effort, and the “punishment” was blaming them for making mistakes.
Although our team never had an assigned leader, but usually those members who took the initiative assumed the role of leadership by default. This was another enlightening moment for me as I learned in order to lead, I have to take the initiative and become more proactive. I believe that this proactive behavior from those members helped us enhance our performance and helped us to avoid being complacent or passive. Another reason, in my opinion, motivated us in embracing some of their ideas, is our sense that those ideas were for the greater benefit of our group and wasn’t seeking any personal benefit or gain.
Even though at times the room for being proactive was narrow, especially when we were working on tight schedules or deadlines were approaching, such behavior was evident throughout the quarter. Another positive behavior that I noticed from one of our group members is support. Support plays an essential role in the success of any group as it not only enhances the overall performance of the group, but it makes the group more cohesive and helps building trust. Each member of our group came from a different functional area or background, so it was essential to recognize that each of us is stronger in certain areas and weaker in other ones.
This particular member was very supportive to our group members, and by support I don’t mean only helping in solving problems. His support extended to helping completing tasks on time even if it wasn’t assigned to him, giving encouragement and feedback to our group members, and taking extra tasks when needed. This behavior helped in creating a sense of collaboration and made the group more cohesive. He also supported any ideas that were suggested, regardless whether they were approved or not, he showed real interest in every idea or suggestion.
Such behavior encouraged our group members to speak more openly and allowed for more contribution. It increased our group loyalty and generated trust among our group members. On the other hand, one negative behavior that I personally need to work on is not allowing other team members to express their ideas and opinions. Sometimes I feel very strong about my ideas that I shut down towards other ideas from other team members. In particular there is one team member of ours that is usually left out, so we as a team should take the responsibility for such a negative behavior.
I realize that a group works best when everyone is allowed to contribute in the discussions during the meetings and benefit from the diversity in our group by bringing in different ideas; however, this one member usually chooses not to contribute and we never encouraged her to overcome this obstacle. We tend to forget that this member is not used to working in teams, and this might be the reason she is finding difficulties to contribute effectively in our team meetings and in the decision making process.
I believe that we, as a group, allowed this behavior to develop throughout he quarter until it became a habit. According to the “Social Information Processing Model”, as part of the judgment process, Fundamental Attribution Bias is “the tendency to develop explanations that rely on the internal state of people when we focus on someone else’s behavior. ” We attributed her lack of participation to her lack of skill or ability, and completely over looked the possibility that it could be attributed to other external factors. External factors such as cultural difference or unfamiliarity of working in a team could have been the reason behind her lack of contribution.
Our failure to address those issues on the spot could have been the reason why those issues evolved and led to a self-limiting behavior from her side, which ultimately led to a lack in self-efficacy. This behavior affected her self-confidence in her ability of making significant contributions to the team causing her to disengage from team discussions and withhold ideas or opinions. Another negative behavior that I need to address is procrastination. I have a habit of putting off work until last minute.
I do not believe I demonstrate this behavior because I am lazy or because I cannot manage my time efficiently, but because I always have a sense of ability of finishing the assigned task in less time. During earning my undergraduate bachelor degree in Civil Engineering, I was used to working in crunch time and finishing the tasks right before they are due. It was not much of my choice, but due to the enormous amount of work I was rarely able to finish those tasks ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, I carried this habit with me to my group work last quarter.
I never failed to meet a deadline, but by the end of the quarter a considerable amount of work was accumulated and I had to work extremely hard in order not to miss deadlines. I could have easily avoided this issue if I had started working earlier on those projects. A huge reason for my procrastinating issue, in my opinion, is lack of self-control. Usually, I look for distractions deliberately or reasons to postpone working on the task at hand. I like to convince my self that I work better under pressure, using this as an excuse to postpone work.
Although it might appear at first that this behavior affects only me as an individual and not the group as a whole, but my tendency to procrastinate might cause my group to miss opportunities for improvement. By submitting my task just as it is due, I didn’t leave room for improvement. My work could have needed further review or it might have shed some light on an area that we overlooked, which gives us an opportunity to further enhance our body of work and make it even better. In my opinion, for our group to advance and improve we need to set some goals in order for us to reach a higher level of understanding and collaboration.
Involvement is a huge factor in the success of any group; consequently we should aim for having every member’s input in the decision making process and in the group discussions. Discussions should be managed differently to make sure every member participates. Participation from all members is vital for any group because it allows different views and ideas to be shared so we need to create a decision-making environment that allows all members to share views and ideas. We should ensure that everyone understands the objectives and the task at hand.
We also need to develop more trust among our team members and avoid using shortcuts to form our perception. The Social Information Processing Model talks about Self-fulfilling Prophecy or Pygmalion effect as a shortcut that influences perception, which is a “situation in which our expectations about people affect our interaction with them in such a way that helps our expectations be fulfilled. ” For instance, in dealing with the group member that is having difficulties in participating, if we allowed our expectations to influence how we interact with her, we will never be able to address this issue and we will maintain status quo.
Moreover, I could improve on a personal level and work on my procrastinating issue, which will eventually improve the overall performance of the group. I believe I already took the first step towards addressing this issue by recognizing it and admitting that it’s a negative behavior that needs to be eliminated. Another step, in my opinion, in addressing this issue is identifying whether I am procrastinating due to external reasons or internal reasons. External reasons could vary from time constraint to the type of job at hand, and internal reasons could be lack of motive or laziness.
I tend to believe it’s the latter, as I occasionally procrastinate some tasks that are not work related or that does not have a time constraint. Procrastination is a habit that develops over time and hence, needs time to be eliminated. Although it is true that it is not a permanent habit of mine, i. e. it comes irregularly, it still affects my performance and hinders my abilities. I started trying to reward my self upon completing tasks, in an attempt to avoid putting off those tasks for later.