Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Review #1 - The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

As I've promised myself as part of my #oneword2013, I will be reading at least one book per month which is either directly or indirectly related to my work in Student Affairs.

The first of these books is entitled The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, written by Patrick Lencioni and published in 2002.  Given that most teambuilding/leadership books tend to be quite dry, I wasn't really sure what to expect when reading this one, but thought it might be worth reading anyways, given that I am now responsible for a team of student leaders for the first time as a professional. I was pleasantly surprised by not only how quick this book was to read (I made it through the 224 pages during two lunch breaks and a one-hour wait for an appointment), but how interesting it was as well.

Most of the book revolves around a fictional scenario in which a new CEO attempts to 'fix' a very disconnected executive team by identifying and addressing a list of 'dysfunctions' which prevent it from being successful. The book concludes with an in-depth review of the five dysfunctions, as well as a self-evaluation meant to allow individuals and groups to assess their team dynamics.

What I found most significant in reading this book was that even though I haven't had any real problems with my own team, I was able to identify behaviours which upon further reflection, would qualify as having a negative impact on the group.  Evidently, working in a group in which I am a professional staff member supervising a group of student leaders, I am not able to apply all the techniques that could work for a company's executive team. I am however getting some ideas for how to improve the dynamics within my current group, as well as how to help form next year's Residence Assistant team.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone working with a group of individuals, as either a supervisor or a team member.

Monday, January 14, 2013

My 'Commit'ments

Well, we are now 2 weeks into the new year and I've managed to uphold some of my commitments to date:

  • My budget is looking good and I've even managed to put a decent chunk of money towards paying down some debt last week so that's making me feel pretty good
  •  I've missed a couple Tumblr posts so far, but for the most part am posting something on a daily basis
  • I've gotten my weekly blog posts in, so I'm doing well in that sense
  •  haven't gone out running as much as I should be, but I'm planning to register for a couple 10k runs in the next few days, so that should at least guarantee that I'll get out to do some training in the meantime
    1. The Sporting Life 10k in Toronto in May
    2. The 10k Zoo Run in September
  • I've gone a little Amazon-crazy and ordered 5 books that I have had on my must-read list for a while now.  My 'commitment' was to try and read one of these types of books per month (as I can read several works of fiction in a week), but it's looking as though that number may be increased slightly once I start diving into these ones
    1. Achieving Student Success: Effective Student Services in Canadian Higher Education by Donna Hardy Cox and C. Carney Strange
    2. Women don't Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever
    3. Ask for It: How Women can use the Power of Negotiation to get what they Really Want by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever
    4. Pursuing Higher Education in Canada: Economic, Social and Policy Directions by Ross Finnie et al.
    5. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick M. Lencioni
Needless to say, I'm not perfect, but I definitely think I'm making some progress towards achieving the goals I have set out for myself in 2013.  I'm looking forward to continuing on this path and hopefully adding a few book reviews to this blog in the coming weeks.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Residence Life Winter Camp

This week, my colleagues and I took our 20 residence life staff members (Residence Assistants and Senior Residence Assistants) on a Winter retreat. This was a great opportunity for all the staff to spend time together for the first time since summer training, and reconnect as a team.  In addition to engaging the group, this opportunity also allowed the staff, as individuals, to challenges their own abilities, through learning how to cross-country ski, snowshoe, as well as participate in low and high-ropes courses.

In previous years, this retreat served as a training session, with very little programming.  Though the benefits of training mid-year are no doubt evident, we chose a different approach this year by using the session more for team-building purposes, with only one official training session (behind closed doors) in order to review our expectations for certain situations.

The reasoning behind this change was that we could use our weekly staff meetings as an opportunity to engage in mini-training sessions, in order to provide on-going training, and to fulfill identified need in a timely manner.  By using this approach, we have been able to redefine expectations for incident reporting, review concerns regarding addressing a student at risk of self-harm, as well as practice clear and concise communication with students, all within a week of identifying a need or concern.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this method will continue to benefit the staff in the coming months, and whether the added team-building will ensure a renewed bond between these individuals.