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MOL Teams Class: Inspiring students to self-reflect

January 2014

Teams, like super glue and fiber, are what bind us together. There are sports teams, manufacturing teams, leadership teams, and the ever-present dysfunctional team. But what makes for an effective team? And more importantly, how does one build an effective team?

I took the Building Effective Teams class (MOL-557) in August 2013 from Dr. Dan Ebener. The class was toward the end of my program, and by this time I could see many of the pieces of the leadership puzzle fitting together – conflict, communication, strategy, etc.

Prior to beginning the week-long, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. class, students were expected to read Lencioni's The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and an article, The Discipline of Teams by Katzenbach and Smith. These provided the foundation for discussion on day one of the class.

Shortly after arriving at McMullen Hall, we regrouped into pre-formed teams of four to five students. Our class had five teams and my team had five members. We were asked to assess our status as a team, and many decided that based on the readings, we were not yet a team. To be an effective team, we would learn; take focused work to form, norm, and storm; and perform as a team. We also learned how to build trust, engage in constructive conflict, create buy-in through consensus, hold each other accountable, and focus on results.

By videotaping our group in action and examining the footage, we learned not only our group dynamics, but how we come across in the group personally. As a self-proclaimed introvert, it was eye-opening for me personally to see how much I dominated the conversation. I learned that, although much of the time I was attempting to move the group forward or restate positions, I did do most of the talking.

I also learned a lot from my teammates, who consisted of a diversity of viewpoints, age groups, cultural foundations, genders, workplace experience, and graduate degrees. We all learned that you can hear and accept someone else's position without compromising your own values.

On Thursday, our team volunteered at Café on Vine to do some deep cleaning. We worked together to accomplish some dubious tasks, like deep cleaning old freezers and shucking a truckload of sweet corn. Other teams were sent to build a sandbox, deep clean buses, and prepare homes for new residents – all in service to the community. Not only were we able to put what we learned into action, but we were able to truly give back to some of these amazing non-profit organizations.

–Susan Jameson

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