Being an Effective Team Leader

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Catmando
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Being an Effective Team Leader

Postby Catmando » Thu Aug 09, 2012 8:09 am UTC

My high school senior year is fast approaching (I've got two more weeks of summer left) and almost immediately into it the academic challenge team starts practice. We've got a new teacher heading the team, expectations will be running higher, and with three leadership positions open (captain, co-captain, and captain-in-training) it's practically assumed that I'll be taking one of those roles. But the thing is, I don't feel like I'm ready for any sort of leadership position, even something as silly as the academic challenge team. Let me explain a bit.

1. Why I feel it's assumed that I'll be taking a leadership position:
  • I'm the best player we have now. We lost our captain and co-captain to Case Western at the end of last year and our captain-in-training is going into college early as per his family's wishes. I was moderately useful in non-tournament matches and clearly dominated our team's practice sessions.
  • There are two more seniors on the team, but they're in it to look good for college and are only mildly interested in what goes on. Since the new teacher is instituting tryouts instead of a seniority-and-voting system as was used before, it's most likely the two will be relegated to the normal team cycle like sophomores and juniors formerly were unless either of them perform unusually well or talk themselves into leadership roles.
  • Our team has been whittled down to just over a dozen members, and with virtually no interested freshman coming into the team this year, people actually committed to learning and practicing the material will be few.

2. Why I don't feel that I'm ready for any such position:
  • I would have trouble keeping the sophomores and juniors in line. The juniors are a rowdy bunch who were troublesome enough last year as sophomores, but without our former captain (who kept order all right) discipline will be even more difficult. In addition, I know all of the incoming sophomores well and that will make convincing them that I am to be taken seriously when I order them to sit down and shut up even more difficult. Let's just say I'm the probably least physically imposing thing since David and even he managed to take down a giant....
  • I have no idea how the "protocol" works when it comes to most captain[ly?] duties. Learning that was the job of our captain-in-training and considering he's enrolled in classes as of yesterday we're out of luck there. Our old teacher who was in charge of the team and of passing this on is now living in Austria indefinitely and I don't think I'm going to have much luck asking him.
  • I'm going to be pretty busy this year and devoting time to learning the material myself is going to wear me out a lot. I don't even know if I'll be able to handle a normal position on the team.

3. Now all that said, as best as I can predict, I would still handle the trivia aspect better than our other members and be able to devote more energy than any of the other possible candidates. But I'm still worried that I might mess up horribly in some other aspect. The two seniors I mentioned earlier are used to doing extracurriculars and even taking leadership roles they're not very interested in, so it's very possible they would generally handle things better than me even if they are not very useful as players.

So my question to the xkcd forum is: what do I do? Firstly, should I try out to be the captain as I suspect will be expected of me, and if so how do I handle the problems I've outlined? If not, should I even stay on the team considering I feel like I'm going to be pretty pressed for time even then?

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Angua
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Re: Being an Effective Team Leader

Postby Angua » Thu Aug 09, 2012 10:28 am UTC

Don't become captain if you don't really want to. A lot of captaincy for many things is actually organisation - you have to make sure people turn up on time and all stick to the same schedule. This means that you will have to deal with people who don't reply to emails (both in your own team, and, if you have to arrange the competitions against other places, with them, though that might be less work if it's something that happens at the same time every year), people who aren't really that committed (or overcommitted to other things so they don't have much time which is also a scheduling headache), and more. This can lead to you getting frustrated with your friends, and it's a reasonable thing for you to say that you don't want to have that conflict.

That being said, if you do decide to do it, I don't think you'll have as many problems with the people that know you as you think. If they know that you are committed and good at what you do, they probably already respect you quite a bit, and should hopefully not give you too many problems. When you do have problems, remember that most of the problems would happen to everyone - they don't mean that you, personally, are a bad captain. Make sure that you are as fair as possible, and try and make sure you get the same from everyone (you don't want the juniors thinking that you're showing your friends favouritism (but don't be extra harsh on them to overcompensate!).

Power just went out, so signing off before the wifi goes.
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yawningdog
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Re: Being an Effective Team Leader

Postby yawningdog » Thu Aug 09, 2012 6:25 pm UTC

First, yes. You should try out to be captain. Even if you totally suck at it, there is a great deal to be learned from it. Lessons in leadership are worth so much more than they actually cost. Once you get into "real life" (family, work, etc.) these lessons will suddenly become very expensive. Get them now while they are cheap and I promise you will be glad one day that you did.

The second question isn't so simple. Leadership methods that work for me may not work for you. You will be asking yourself "How do I get this person to perform this task?" My method is to go drill instructor on them, but that probably won't work for you so you've got to do some thinking.

Never underestimate the power of delegation. Take one of these loud, bothersome Juniors and deputize the chief among them. You might be surprised how quickly that, once given a post herself, she will take an interest in keeping them in line for you.

Don't back down. Don't simply accept it. Own it. Lead from the front.
"I fear not the man who has practiced ten thousand kicks once. But I fear the man who has practiced one kick ten thousand times."
- Bruce Lee

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bluebambue
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Re: Being an Effective Team Leader

Postby bluebambue » Thu Aug 09, 2012 7:36 pm UTC

yawningdog wrote:Never underestimate the power of delegation. Take one of these loud, bothersome Juniors and deputize the chief among them. You might be surprised how quickly that, once given a post herself, she will take an interest in keeping them in line for you.
I think you need to be careful with this idea. If you delegate power to someone with the wrong attitude, they could start using that power to cause even more rowdiness.

You should definitely delegate some tasks, though, as that will decrease your workload and help train future leaders. You could give some simple tasks and the title of Scretary to one of the seniors who is just in it to look good. They could send out reminder emails and summaries of what happened in meetings. This only requires some organization and not any sort of enthusiasm.

One thing that I think will be helpful for you, is for you to have clear goals for where to want to lead. Trying to do leadership stuff if you don't know where you're leading is impossible. Some possible goals are:
1. Instill enthusiasm in younger members.
2. Get to X event without scrambling at the last minute (either in training or logistics).

Then you need to figure out what things it will take to get there.
For example 1 the steps could be: invite the public to some witness some event where you give out food and also do your thing, make the meetings more focused on enjoying the activity rather than being the absolute best.
For example 2: Find out what went wrong last year. Make a schedule for how prepared the club will have to be at every weeks in order to not have to cram. Try to think of all the logistics that need to happen; for each of those plan when and how those will happen.

Catmando
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Re: Being an Effective Team Leader

Postby Catmando » Thu Aug 09, 2012 8:41 pm UTC

Firstly thanks for the replies, guys.

Angua wrote:Don't become captain if you don't really want to. A lot of captaincy for many things is actually organisation - you have to make sure people turn up on time and all stick to the same schedule. This means that you will have to deal with people who don't reply to emails (both in your own team, and, if you have to arrange the competitions against other places, with them, though that might be less work if it's something that happens at the same time every year), people who aren't really that committed (or overcommitted to other things so they don't have much time which is also a scheduling headache), and more. This can lead to you getting frustrated with your friends, and it's a reasonable thing for you to say that you don't want to have that conflict.


Making sure they turn up on time for practice shouldn't be difficult; virtually everyone did last year and the ones who didn't simply weren't committed anyway and weren't going to be in there answering questions or listening either way. Making sure they turn up for tournament matches is a bit more difficult, but the teacher heading us always handles that (I'm not sure if she knows that she's apparently responsible for that yet, but if not I am going to let her know come the beginning of the year; there's no way I can round up a dozen kids from a dozen classrooms in the five minutes before we leave). The tournament schedule is pretty rock-solid each year, but I do have to handle requests for reconsiderations of missed questions (we always send in a few requests, since the few points earned can be pivotal). I'm not really worried about that.

Angua wrote:That being said, if you do decide to do it, I don't think you'll have as many problems with the people that know you as you think. If they know that you are committed and good at what you do, they probably already respect you quite a bit, and should hopefully not give you too many problems. When you do have problems, remember that most of the problems would happen to everyone - they don't mean that you, personally, are a bad captain. Make sure that you are as fair as possible, and try and make sure you get the same from everyone (you don't want the juniors thinking that you're showing your friends favouritism (but don't be extra harsh on them to overcompensate!).


Well I don't feel that most of the problems would happen to everyone--I shy away from leadership positions, so I'm a newb when it comes to this stuff, for lack of a better term. I think my mistakes would come at least as much out of not knowing what the hell I'm doing as out of things that would "happen to everyone."

yawningdog wrote:First, yes. You should try out to be captain. Even if you totally suck at it, there is a great deal to be learned from it. Lessons in leadership are worth so much more than they actually cost. Once you get into "real life" (family, work, etc.) these lessons will suddenly become very expensive. Get them now while they are cheap and I promise you will be glad one day that you did.

The second question isn't so simple. Leadership methods that work for me may not work for you. You will be asking yourself "How do I get this person to perform this task?" My method is to go drill instructor on them, but that probably won't work for you so you've got to do some thinking.

Never underestimate the power of delegation. Take one of these loud, bothersome Juniors and deputize the chief among them. You might be surprised how quickly that, once given a post herself, she will take an interest in keeping them in line for you.

Don't back down. Don't simply accept it. Own it. Lead from the front.


Well I've got some ideas for streamlining our practice process, but at best this will only make us better at the matches; it won't improve improve discipline, and I'm sorry but I just cannot believe handing power over to one of the juniors will improve the situation. I don't want to be giving them firepower; getting a smartass "You can't tell me to sit down, I'm co-captain!" response is really not what I want and exactly what I would expect if I were to do that. And your advice to "own it," to "lead from the front" is nice confidence-building, but not practical otherwise....

bluebambue wrote:
yawningdog wrote:Never underestimate the power of delegation. Take one of these loud, bothersome Juniors and deputize the chief among them. You might be surprised how quickly that, once given a post herself, she will take an interest in keeping them in line for you.
I think you need to be careful with this idea. If you delegate power to someone with the wrong attitude, they could start using that power to cause even more rowdiness.


This is what I expect from doing something like that. The juniors are not the type to take leadership positions, save perhaps one interested party who's considering joining this year (I suspect he'll try out for co-captain or captain-in-training), but he would do no more for discipline than me.

bluebambue wrote:You should definitely delegate some tasks, though, as that will decrease your workload and help train future leaders. You could give some simple tasks and the title of Scretary to one of the seniors who is just in it to look good. They could send out reminder emails and summaries of what happened in meetings. This only requires some organization and not any sort of enthusiasm.


Training a future captain is what the captain-in-training role is for, but we don't have any roles other than that for training, and I don't think our head teacher will be privy to the idea since our team is so small as it is. I don't think reminder emails would help much, since we meet three times a week.

bluebambue wrote:One thing that I think will be helpful for you, is for you to have clear goals for where to want to lead. Trying to do leadership stuff if you don't know where you're leading is impossible. Some possible goals are:
1. Instill enthusiasm in younger members.
2. Get to X event without scrambling at the last minute (either in training or logistics).


I agree about the impossibility of leading when I don't know where. It would be the blind leading the blind. I do like your goals, particularly number two. I can definitely see to it that we're not scrambling to get to matches. Not so sure about number one, but we'll see.

Actually, now that I think about it, instilling enthusiasm is going to be important this year. We lost our three best members; it will seem to the juniors and sophomores as though we're just hanging on or that there's no point at all to this. I'll see to convincing them otherwise, but I'd like to know what I can do in-group to boost the enthusiasm. I think I could convince them that with my ideas for better practice we will be able to perform better (which boosts enthusiasm on its own as long as I'm not being awful on them when it comes to practice, and I don't intend to be). I could also talk to the TLC class about recognizing our team better. Last year some bags were distributed with candy for us before one of our matches. It was nice of them to do it and I think I should see if they're willing to do it more often. I think it will make our team look forward to the matches more, rather than thinking of each match as all of them being forced to sit there for an hour while nerds struggle to remember trivia.

bluebambue wrote:Then you need to figure out what things it will take to get there.
For example 1 the steps could be: invite the public to some witness some event where you give out food and also do your thing, make the meetings more focused on enjoying the activity rather than being the absolute best.
For example 2: Find out what went wrong last year. Make a schedule for how prepared the club will have to be at every weeks in order to not have to cram. Try to think of all the logistics that need to happen; for each of those plan when and how those will happen.


I'll keep both of these in mind. Thank you.

cegan09
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Re: Being an Effective Team Leader

Postby cegan09 » Fri Aug 10, 2012 1:52 pm UTC

Seriously go for it. Leadership experience is never a bad thing and can only ever help. I bet you find that you'll fall into the role fairly well. I've always been more of a sidelines type personality, but i've forced myself into some leadership roles and it's been the best thing i could ever have done. I started in boy scouts, and currently am in a leadership development program at work. The skills learned help everywhere in life. And trust me, it will look great on a resume when you're trying to get your first real job.

As far as being an effective leader, there is no clear cut answer. You'll find a million opinions and books all claiming to have the answer, but none of them is right for every situation. The best leaders are the ones that can read the group they are in charge of and adapt to the unique personalities involved. Everyone reacts differently do different leadership styles, so it's up to you to pick the right one for the situation.


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