Sunday, November 25, 2012

GNIE: Perils of an over-effective leader

In the previous nursing theory module for this semester, we were assigned into multi-cultural teams by the instructor. My team had a fun time doing the project, getting full marks for it. Somehow rumours* spread that I did "all the work" and my team members had a fun and easy time. Well, it was true that I had a hand in the research, powerpoint creation and script editing, but IMHO my team members also pulled their weight in that project. E.g. JK who wrote an excellent script and spliced together the videos, MM who visited the targeted centre to interview its staff and obtain brochures, and AP who made some awesome props.

I learned about the rumours from my GNIE classmate SS (who was assigned to another team) who asked me about it when I was carpooling with her to school. I told her that everyone contributed to the project, it was "not true that I did all the work". SS then asked if she could join my team if we were allowed to choose our team-mates for the next project. To which I replied, "Sure!"

When we arrived at class that day, the instructor for the final nursing theory module told us to form our own teams for the next group presentation/assignment. Immediately SS who was sitting next to me declared that she would join me. Everyone at our table immediately declared the same, including AmP, disregarding if I agree to team-up with them or otherwise. I kept quiet as I was aware that there were some in the table (especially AmP) who only "declared" to join me because they plan to be free-loaders (given their free-loading behaviour during classroom discussions and workshops) and yet want to be assured of a good grade (given the rumours of my previous team's dynamics).

As I predicted, PY (from my previous team) who is a pretty vocal and assertive person came over to our table and "suggested" to AP and myself that we should stick with the previous project team since we worked well together previously. I quickly agreed conditionally; i.e. I replied, "So long as everyone in the previous team is ok, then let's stick to the same team." After all, despite some minor issues in the previous project, the team members were generally cordial and mature about their differences. Fortunately my previous team members all agreed quickly, and thus I had a good excuse to turn down everyone else. I was apologetic to SS for backing out of my word, and thankfully she was mature and understanding about it. I linked SS to IJ, whom I was confident would lead his team to an excellent grade too.

As it turned out, it is really a blessing in disguise for SS because under IJ's leadership, their team scored 19.5 / 20 for the project. My team scored 17.5 / 20. I did not lead as well this time around, mainly because I skived during my bout of flu, and partly because I noticed that several of my team members did not seem interested in pulling their weight. E.g. When we missed the deadline to submit the project outline because I was sick prior-to and on the due date, nobody noticed nor mentioned anything. 

Yet, when the result was out, the ones in my team who complained the loudest about how we had 2 points less than the other teams were the ones who clearly did not pulled his/her weight.
E.g. HMR whose "research" returned only 1 url which he openly declared that he had not even read, called me to complain that he had expected the team to score the full 20 marks. I told him to consider that our presentation was a short 20 minutes one (the shortest and most focused presentation), we should not compare ourselves to others given the (minimal) amount of effort that our team had put in. 
E.g. PY who did not volunteer for any task and had to be assigned some superficial tasks to make it look like she was not free-loading, texted that she had expected 19 / 20. [On the presentation day itself, PY was lost in thoughts and forgot to advance the presentation slides (created by me) in the beginning.] I had to ask PY rhetorically, "Would you wanna work as hard as IJ's team just for that 2 more marks?" [PY was aware that IJ's team had lots of long-drawn meetings and rehearsals, whereas our team completed the entire project with only 1 short discussion, 3 main 1.5-to-3-hour meetings and 1 final 30 minutes rehearsal.] 
E.g. JK who skipped our 1st meeting without prior notice and openly declared that she did not even read the meeting minutes, whose original script was mostly cut-and-paste internet text (for which the other team members were glad when they received my heavily edited version which was further edited by each actor/actress as we reviewed the script) texted me, "I can't believe we only have 17.5, most of them got 19.5". To which I replied JK honestly,  "Personally, I would prefer to focus on job search than the 2 points difference. I think we can ask HS (the instructor) for a breakdown of our group's score so that we can figure out what we missed. But as I said, I would rather focus on getting a job and making money than 2 points in an assignment."  
Even AP was somewhat unhappy (influenced by IJ who was dissatisfied that his team did not get the full 100% score), but she was ok after I reminded her not to compare with others. 
Ironically, MM the only one who did her assigned research and practised her script (in the role-play presentation) was the one who replied, "Not too bad. Let's be happy." in response to my update to the team about our score. I guess having met Mr Death in the face and survived can change one's perspective of what is important in life.

Actually, I am glad that my team did not receive the full marks this time around. For sure, it may mean that we end up with a lower grade (than expected) for the module, but I believe each of us will still pass the module. What I think the lower mark may do is to force each "unsatisfied" team member to rethink about his/her role in contributing to the "lower than expected" score. E.g. I know that I had not been as conscientious as a team leader as I was in the previous project. IMHO, sometimes an over-effective leader has to step back, so that each team member can take initiative and own his/her individual share of responsibility in the desired outcome.


[Addendum on 28-Nov-2012]

My team (excluding AP who was sick today) spoke with the instructor HS in school yesterday regarding the breakdown of our scores. HS stated that a small amount of marks was deducted here and there because our presentation lacked detailed elaboration. I objected that although we did not put up a long presentation borrowing lots of Youtube videos, our short presentation was comprehensive. HS then told us that we should not compare with other teams and the team which used Youtube may not have scored well either. [IMHO, 80% of that team's presentation was from Youtube, which to me would pretty much equate to plagiarism.] HS then redirected us to tell her how much we should get and why. To which MM and HMR quipped 20, i.e. the full score, and JK agreed. [Note: I could not see PY's response as she was off the range of my peripheral vision.]

HMR cited that we put in "even more effort than in the previous group assignment". MM turned to me and asked, "Say something!" I kept quiet to collect my thoughts for a second before I raised my points. I asked HS if she had seen our written report, to which she replied in affirmative. I told HS that when  we did our discussions, we aimed to do a short and concise presentation but we covered everything in that we followed the marking rubics strictly. HS agreed to reconsider our score. At the end of the day, HS informed me verbally that she will revise our score to the full 20 marks. There is no email from her to that effect, so I will take her word for it for now. A small victory.

That said, in the same evening, the group of GNIE students who attended an Open House by a health authority found ourselves facing yet another hurdle/discrimination against us in the job market. More on that another day, I have lots to get done before dawn.


[Addendum on 05-Dec-2012]

Yesterday, on the last day of school, instructor HS informed each of my team members that she decided to give us 19 points for the project.

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