Myself, along with four other students, comprised a group whose primary duties were to provide consultation for the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) of our university. The primary question was to determine whether or not it was feasible for the university to offer qualifications in management and leadership, as well as how much this qualification was in demand. My experience with the client consultancy project saw my group of five students come together successfully as a team in order to achieve these goals. While there were issues with communication and work ethic that needed to be addressed at first, our attitudes and working relationships developed over the course of the project until we functioned excellently as an efficient working team. The following outlines our overall theoretical framework, leadership styles used, and an account of the process and problems encountered during this project.
Acting as management consultants for the CMI program, our group analyzed the existing nature of the organisation, as well as ways in which we could improve the program (or justify its elimination). To that end, our first step was to determine the current state of the program and its demand. Our philosophy of business was one of efficiency - the CMI program would not be feasible if it were not performing a sufficiently demanded service, and/or if it happened in an inefficient way (Drucker, 1954).
In order to assess the efficacy of the CMI program for our university, we utilized a systems approach to change management. Change management is the process of facilitating the institution of changes in an organisation in the most efficient way (Prosci, n.d.). One of the most important theories applied in our project was the “Five Whys,” a convenient way to discuss the possibility of changes to the CMI program using systems thinking (Senge, p. 108).
The Five Whys are as follows:
1) Why are we doing this project?
2) Why do we think the identified problem really is the problem?
3) Why do we think this is important to solve now?
4) Why do we think this proposed action would solve the problem?
5) Why do we think this action won’t make anything else worse? (Senge, p. 108)
Contribution to the Project - Leadership
Within the context of the group, my primary contribution was as team leader. It was my job to coordinate between the other four members of the group and myself, to set goals, facilitate communication and act as a facilitator for ideas and solutions (Stroup, 2011). There are typically two types of leaders, transactional leaders and transformational leaders (Farrington, 2011). With transactional leaders, employees and group members are seen as resources from which leaders can get value from in exchange for something else. This creates a cold, calculating and utilitarian view of group dynamics, where no one feels valued and everyone ends up using each other for their own ends. My goal was to be a transformational leader – these types of leaders take on a more fully involved and inspirational role in those who follow them. Transformational leaders are deeply invested in the personal and professional lives and development of their workers, which allows them to impart wisdom and inspiration to those who work for them (Farrington, 2011).
I also wished to incorporate elements of servant leadership into my leadership style within the group. Another element of transformational leadership is the ability to be available as a resource for your group members to use when needed; servant leaders need to listen, be empathetic, be aware, persuade, and commit to growth of one’s workers (Gunderson, 2002). As a servant leader, I wished to listen to the needs and wants of my group so that I could better help to fulfil them (even when these needs were communicated nonverbally). Listening to myself is also important; I must be able to understand my own instincts and reactions to events in order to better control my influence on people (Jennings & Stahl-Wert, 2004).
Awareness and empathy are also important factors to servant leadership. Instead of making myself comfortable with an unspoken understanding of leadership, I wanted to be aware of how my workers were feeling, even when they were uncomfortable: "Awareness is not a giver of solace - it's just the opposite. It disturbed. They are not seekers of solace. They have their own inner security" (Greenleaf, 2002). By being aware of my group’s anxieties and problems, I could be more empathetic to them. Listening to them and letting them know that I want to help is a great motivator, and so I made myself as open to them as I possibly could (Parsons & Cohen, 2008).
Looking at the team, I chose to factor in Belbin’s Team Roles as a method of determining who would do what. Behaviour is favored over personality in considering these team roles; I wanted to see who did things in what way, and how they would interact with each other to form the basis for my leadership style (Belbin, 1981). I determined that I was the Co-ordinator (the big picture person, stable mature), while my other team members were Plants (filled with unorthodox ideas), Resource Investigators (morale booster, networker), Teamworkers (diplomatic, able to solve conflicts) and Finishers (perfectionist, hard worker), respectively (Belbin, 1981).
In order to figure out how to best motivate those in my group, I looked again to servant and transformational leadership as examples, along with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a concept in psychology that posits the presence of five innate needs that must be met in order to be fulfilled. Forcing compliance does no one any good, and destroys morale in a group – this is why persuasion is the most important attribute of servant leadership (Spears & Lawrence, 2004).
The Hierarchy of Needs came in handy during one instance of the group project, in which one of the group members was having trouble committing to tasks. While the majority of our group was able to perform their respective tasks on time, one member was perpetually 15-20 minutes late for meetings, and would turn in assignments or give updates a day or two behind their goals, and often just when prompted. In order to address this problem after it had persisted for two weeks, I set up a private meeting with the group member, sitting them down and asking if everything was all right. I put simply (but firmly) that his behaviour was affecting the group’s efficiency and credibility with the client. The group member was lacking the final and most important level of needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy, which is self-actualization – working to each one’s full potential (Maslow 1943, p. 379).
The group member admitted readily to his problems with punctuality and work ethic, and expressed that he was stretching himself thin with other personal and professional obligations. I spoke with him about prioritizing our group project higher for the sake of the group and his own contributions, and he was receptive to that. From then on, his performance dramatically improved, and he was sufficiently motivated in his team interactions as well as his individual duties. I felt proud of this moment, as I felt I had allowed him to self-actualize with the help of my own advice and mentoring. In this way, I acted in a transformational and service role for him.
When it comes to the team working together on this project, I feel as though we worked quite well by the end. Like any group, we experienced our own sets of conflicts and an adjustment period where we needed to learn about one another. Organisational leadership requires the formation of strong relationships with one’s team members; I was meant to set the tone for their behaviour and attitudes toward one another (Stroup, 2011). I decided to frame my perspective on team dynamics on Tuckman’s stages of group development – team building involves four stages of forming, storming, norming and performing (Tuckman, 1965).
As a leader, there was only one instance in which team dynamics needed to be maintained in the face of conflict – this occurred during the “storming” stage, in which different ideas and mindsets will clash in order to set the tone for the group (Tuckman, 1965). There were two group members who were not communicating well; this is not to say they were openly fighting or arguing with each other, but they were having trouble reaching out to each other and finding common ground. As they had to work together on the data collection portion of the project, it was paramount that they have a certain chemistry with each other that was not happening. Acting in my role as servant and transformational leader, I chose to step in and speak to them. I decided to speak to them both separately and in confidence to figure out what their impression was of the other – one member thought the other was unapproachable and somewhat mean, while the other member was simply uncomfortable with the gregariousness with which the other member attempted to reach out to him.
In order to solve this problem, I chose to take them both out for dinner and drinks on an evening where our work was caught up and we were free. Being just the three of us, it allowed us all to learn more about each other more than our already-limited schedules would permit. It was during this dinner that the two men found out they both loved the same movies; they actually made plans to see a new movie they had been talking about that same weekend. After that weekend, they seemed to have a lot more in common to talk about, and the more standoffish group member was somewhat more casual in his interactions. Through this intervention, acting as friend and servant to the group, I helped to foster greater team dynamics by addressing interpersonal conflicts in a way that did not interfere with the work at hand.
In order to perform our duties as a group, we required the collection of substantial data from the client. As a result, we looked at their internal reports, memos, and statistics to determine how many CMI certifications they had given out. In addition to that, we performed research both online and around campus in order to figure out how big the global demand for management consultants was and could be in the future – this was done to potentially justify the incoming students who would desire CMIs. We performed informal surveys to the campus population, spoke to faculty in the CMI department, and looked at graduate statistics dating back 10 years. In the end, we determined that the CMI’s program was justified and served a suitably large population, but required a great deal of organisational change in order to facilitate this action.
Using the Five Whys method of systematic change management, we determined that greater advertisement and advocacy for the CMI program was required. The identified problem was an insufficient level of awareness of the university’s CMI program, despite a sufficient interest in the field itself; by implementing more resources towards advertising and awareness, the department’s resources could be used to bring about more graduates for the money being spent, and would only lead to positive outcomes for the department (Senge, p. 108).
In addition to leading the group in its own dynamics and properly motivate them, it was important to foster proper communication between ourselves and the client. We set up regular weekly meetings, keeping them in the loop with progress reports as we went, and constantly asked for feedback and questions they wished to pose to use. The purpose of this was to engender trust and give a feeling of importance to the client – we wanted them to know we were taking their needs seriously. One group member was designated client liaison, and they would field any and all questions and concerns the CMI department had when not in official meetings. The client had no problems or conflicts with the way we communicated with them, and they were more than accommodating in our requests for information and clarification. In my estimation, the client/group communication portion of the project went completely smoothly and without problems.
Conclusion Our group project, in which we acted in an advisory role for the CMI department of our university to determine the feasibility of their program, utilized a systems approach to change management. My leadership style was founded on the principles of transformational and servant leadership, as I provided motivation and inspiration for my group members. I also made sure to listen to their problems and engage with them on a servant level, acting as a resource to solve their problems so that they might develop as workers and team members. Team dynamics were maintained and addressed using transformational leadership principles, and data collection was systematic and swift. Client/group communication was ideally performed, staying organized and delegating tasks to other members when needed. Despite occasional issues with member motivation and potential communication issues within the team dynamic, solutions were quickly found and swiftly performed. This led to the successful implementation of a management consultancy project and the establishment of an effective team. This consultancy experience has helped me to understand the world of management, and the difficult and complex role that managers have, both within a team setting and in conjunction with the client to achieve goals.
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