Taking the Lead

Group projects are essential to nearly every class you will take in your first year as an MLHR graduate student.  They teach you how to operate in teams, and work with different individuals that you normally would not work with.  Though many times a hassle in coordinating everyone's busy schedules (especially since every quarter I have been in a group with at least one working professional who has more outside responsibilities than the average full time graduate student) they are good for you as a student and future professional.  It is nice to interact with different students who have different ideas and experiences, but also great to interact with people you may not normally talk to, hangout with, or sit next to in class.

I will be the first one to tell you that though I have worked in a variety of teams as an undergraduate (through being involved in student organizations) I was not a fan of them in the classroom.  I was always the one who was "so busy", and my major classes really did not consist of project work.  Journalism is a solo field, and it is rare for journalists to team up on a project (maybe two journalists and that's it).  Technically, journalists do work on "teams" when you consider that your story has to go through a number of editors, but it is still very individualistic.  You give your editor your story, s/he looks over it, s/he sends it to the next editor, and so on.  The news runs on too tight of a deadline to really foster teamwork with journalists.  Anytime I was in a team in an organization, I had a designated role (Director of this or something this Chair) so I knew where my influence was on the team.

Fisher has been a different experience for me, due to the teamwork and the equal playing field that everyone in a group has.  No one is assigned as a "Team Lead" and no one's opinions outweighs anyone else's in the group.

For the most part, I am a pretty laid back person.  A lot of things that would stress out or bother the average individual don't faze me.  Anyway, that is how I approached group assignments my first two quarters.  I provided support, gave feedback, gave my opinion when I thought it was necessary, and always asked how I could contribution more to what was going on.  However, I was not the first to email everyone about when we should meet, book a space in Gerlach Hall, or divvy up tasks to individual members of our team.  I normally helped to facilitate discussion though, because nothing irks me more than wasting the first 20 minutes of a meeting with useless banter.  Yet still, this wouldn't have happened unless another person in one of my groups had not chosen to initially take the lead.

Now into my third quarter, I am starting to see the reverse.  I have THREE group projects this quarter.  As much I detested statistics I almost would rather do a chi square than have to coordinate the schedule with a whole new group of people...almost.  Anyway, I have found myself taking the lead more this quarter in my groups.  In one of my groups, I am the only full-time first-year student, and in another, I am the only first-year student.  Though I do not know the second-years very well, I do have a LinkedIn account.  From what I have been able to derive from social networking, many of them have been going to school for 6 straight years, a, have been going on a part-time basis for 3 or 5 years, and had work experience and then went back to school and are getting at that age where they are just tired of school.  To top all of that, they just got done with their master's case (which is a requirement of graduation and basically proves that you learned something in the program).  On top of all of that, most of these individuals are still trying to find jobs after graduation.  Needless to say, group projects are not on the very top of their list.   I have now found myself as the person getting the ball rolling, getting people to together, and taking those first steps, where I normally would have allowed someone else to do that.

It is not to say that I lack the initiative to do this.  One of the things I have learned in my life that being a good follower is just as important as being a good leader.  You cannot always be the one who takes charge (or may not be meant to), and it's good to share both the roles.  I am glad that I am able to step out of my "go with the flow" attitude, and switch up the way I approach my work in teams.


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April 30, 2011 at 5:51 pm
Kathleen Newell

Don't forget that being a leader also means motivating your team members to take initiative and supporting them- try to see if you can kick your team mates into gear without them realizing it! :)

May 5, 2011 at 8:03 am
Garren Cabral

I know! It's just hard sometimes being the full-time first year, because the second -years are older and have more experience, and the part-timers have a lot more experience. I just don't want to act as if I'm stepping on any toes!