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Reflective Essay on Working with a Team

Whilst I imagine some of my fellow students were more than a little apprehensive at the prospect of doing a presentation, I was very positive about it. While I feel I am strong in writing essays and reports, I much prefer talking about something I have researched. This is because it allows me to better express myself and my ideas and develop skills that will be vital in any future career: the ability to talk to people, obtain their attention, and establish a rapport. As such, I resolved to make sure that I put all my effort into researching, planning and delivering a first-class presentation. However, my one major concern was that it was a group presentation. Whilst organizational behaviour theory tells us that groups working together can achieve more than individuals working separately1; this depends on the team’s compatibility. As such, my biggest concern was that our team would not work well together, and our work may suffer as a result. This is Timothy Ijoyemi’s work.

The question and my contribution. Our main question was, “What is ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution), and how does it improve access to the justice system?” Our group was composed of Matt, Toyo, Jemima and me. From the very start, we formed a close working relationship, to the extent that working together felt somewhat like being in a family atmosphere, with mutual support and good humour. However, we all had different backgrounds, being from England, Nigeria, Ghana and Sweden, respectively, we found it quite difficult to work as a coherent unit. As this was one of my major concerns and an issue that I felt could harm the quality of our presentation, I realized that it was important to be as proactive and thorough as possible when completing my part of the research2. In addition, as discussed above, I enjoy this type of work and the learning opportunities it presents. As a result, I prepared for our first project meeting by undertaking a significant amount of research and creating a draft presentation.

Without wanting to sound too immodest, I excelled with the first draft and managed to create a professional and thoroughly researched presentation. As a result of this, the team elected to nominate me as team leader. This meant that I chaired the meetings, managed the diary of team meetings, and ensured that everyone’s work was progressing on track, chasing up anyone who had trouble. In addition to this, as my initial research was so thorough, there was little need for any more, and thus I ended up doing all of the research for our presentation. I also created the presentation and all the slides; conducted, timed and created all the scripts for every team member; and made any necessary adjustments. In addition, I strongly pushed for our team to take a unique approach to the presentation and go above and beyond the efforts of other teams. As such, I looked to include humour in the presentation and many real-life examples to ensure that it had an impact on the audience and was relevant to their experiences3.

To achieve this, I decided to look at the research from three perspectives. The first was to take a factually accurate and dispassionate look at ADR, simply examining negotiation, mediation, collaborative law and arbitration and how they fit into the existing legal system4. The second perspective was to think about why ADR had come to be, and thus what problems it was looking to solve and what benefits it offered to claimants, defendants and the judiciary5. Finally, I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone involved in a dispute and think about how the various types of ADR would apply to them. This led me to use my car analogy: how would the various types of ADR be of use in a car accident, and also explore such concepts as collaborative divorce6. The Strengths and Weakness of the workings of your group

STRENGTH. As discussed above, our greatest strength was that we felt like a family when working together. This was partly because we have different cultural experiences, skills, and backgrounds and work in an unfamiliar environment. This gave us all common ground to work from, with no one completely in their comfort zone. We also understood our abilities and weaknesses, which added to the sense of common understanding that underlay all our work. We seemed to almost instinctively know how to distribute tasks to each team member whilst ensuring that each task was right for them. As such, none of the team felt particularly overworked, and no one complained of being left out. Speaking from my own experience, I felt that I played strongly to my strengths by being the driving force and helping to keep the team organized. Other team members took responsibility for providing constructive feedback and building the atmosphere within the team, thus creating a productive and comfortable atmosphere.

WEAKNESS. Perhaps the main weakness was that, in the initial stages, the group was not as consolidated as I hoped it would be. Whilst this forming stage is rarely smooth for any team7, I would still have preferred a smoother start. The lack of consolidation and perhaps some issues around communication and understanding led Matt and Jemima to miss a few rehearsals. As a result, I frequently found myself calling Matt and Jemima at the start of our first few meetings to find out where they were. As a result, they both missed a third of the meetings we had, which undoubtedly caused issues around morale and the quality of our work.

In addition to this, closer to when we had a rehearsal, I found that both did not learn their scripts. This created a bit of difficulty for both myself and Toyo as we had put much more effort into rehearsing, and hence it wasn’t easy to keep the team together. Finally, as I effectively did all the research and created the presentation, I ended up doing all the work. This meant that there wasn’t much of a team contribution, which may have reduced the quality of the work and the team’s coherence. The strength and weaknesses of our presentation

STRENGTH. I felt the pace of our slideshow was good, and the presentation itself was excellent, with the audience giving us their full attention and appearing to follow and understand as well. In addition, we succeeded in making our presentation solely focused on answering the question whilst using humour and examples to help keep the mood light and the audience engaged. This was helped because we tried to be as informal as possible and made good use of body language to engage the audience. Finally, on a personal note, I delivered all my speech without relying on the cue cards. This helped with the flow of my presenting and thus helped me keep the audience engaged.

WEAKNESS. Unfortunately, Matt, Jemima and Toyo all relied on their cue cards, which hampered their body language and the flow of their speech. It also made it difficult for them to engage the audience, as they could not make eye contact. In addition, there were some technical issues which we had not foreseen. These included me having to use the laptop to change slides whilst talking and thus blocking out the projector directly behind the laptop. In addition, the entire team was a bit nervous, which may have made it appear as if we were unsure about what we were talking about. How can any weakness be overcome in the future? The two main factors creating weakness within our team were:

  • Only I truly engaged with the research, presentation and material
  • We didn’t learn/rehearse enough

Of these, the first is partly my fault because I carried out so much research on my own that it was difficult for anyone else to make a meaningful contribution after that. However, after the others saw my draft version, I felt that they immediately resolved to use that, with minor adjustments, and not to carry out their own research. Thus, they failed to create their own understanding or perspective on the piece, which is probably reflected in the final marks. To overcome this problem in the future, I would try to be more careful and gradual with the amount of research I introduced to the team at different stages. For example, instead of providing a complete presentation, I would show the team a couple of slides, and then we could look at how we can develop them and move forward as a team. I would then introduce the rest of my research gradually, at the same time as the rest of the team introduced theirs. Whilst this might not give me quite as high an individual mark, it would help the team to gain a better understanding and thus perform better overall.

The second was partly a matter of planning and partly because Matt and Jemima failed to turn up for several team meetings and did not learn their slides as proficiently as Toyo and I did. Whilst I realize that it is somewhat unprofessional to blame like this, I feel that this was a serious failing of our team and undermine our final presentation’s quality. To overcome this problem in future, it would likely be necessary to explain to Matt and Jemima that they were not pulling their weight and ask them to contribute more. Unfortunately, “confrontations involving blame and recrimination are some of the most difficult to approach, let alone solve”8. As such, approaching this subject would have required a significant level of diplomacy and tact. I must confess that my drive to perform would mean that I am not the best person to initiate such a conversation.

What you learnt about teamwork and oral presentation skills. I have learned about oral presenting that preparation, understanding, and practice are critical factors. By preparing meticulously, ensuring I understood and could explain the subject matter, and learning my parts of the presentation, I believe I have managed to give an excellent presentation and do justice to myself. Although now I really am sounding immodest! Another key learning point for me is that it is important to engage with the audience through eye contact, humour and relevance. A dry presentation that describes a topic factually will not be as well-received as one which attempts to bring the topic to life and relate it to the audience. I also learnt that I could deliver a presentation in this manner and engage people, and thus I will be more confident when approaching such tasks in future.

Regarding teamwork, I believe that my learning was somewhat limited because our group functioned more as a family or group of friends than as a work team. However, I learnt that the initial stages of teamwork are vital for building future success, as our team suffered greatly from a lack of initial cohesion and some missed meetings. Finally, I learnt that, although I can produce great work by myself, this does not always equate to team success. Indeed, whilst I believe I have performed extremely well on this module, a fact borne out by my final mark, I feel I have not served my team as well as an I could. By completing so much research at the start, I may have inadvertently demoralized my teammates and made them feel like they could not make a worthwhile contribution. In the future, I may need to give greater consideration to how my actions may affect the others in the team, even when I am doing something likely to help produce a high-quality piece of work.

References

  • Carper, D. L. and LaRocco, J. B. (2008) What Parties Might Be Giving Up and Gaining When Deciding Not to Litigate: A Comparison of Litigation, Arbitration and Mediation. Dispute Resolution Journal; Vol. 63, Issue 2, p. 48-60.
  • Gullapalli, D. (2002) A Growing Number Of Unhappy Couples Try ‘Collaborative Divorce.’ Wall Street Journal – Eastern Edition; Vol. 240, Issue 12, p. D1.
  • Mackie, K. Miles, D. and Marsh, W. (2000) Commercial Dispute Resolution: An ADR Practice Guide. London: LexisNexis.
  • Matlin, R. (2008) Keep Claim Disputes Out Of Court, If Possible. National Underwriter / Property & Casualty Risk & Benefits Management; Vol. 112, Issue 7, p. 25-26.
  • Mullins, L. (2005) Management and Organisational Behaviour. Financial Times / Prentice Hall.
  • Patterson, K. Grenny, J. McMillan, R. and Switzler, A. (2004) Crucial Confrontations. McGraw-Hill.
  • Robbins, J. (1997) High-Impact Presentations: A Multimedia Approach. John Wiley and Sons.
  • West, M. (2004) Effective Teamwork: Practical Lessons from Organizational Research. Blackwell Publishing.
  1. Mullins (2005)
  2. I did not mention this concern to the others, as I was concerned that it would sound like a criticism of their abilities.
  3. Robbins (1997)
  4. Mackie et al. (2000)
  5. Carper and LaRocco (2008) and Matlin (2008) helped my imagination here, although I also used a lot of “what if” thought experiments.
  6. Gullapalli (2002)
  7. See West (2004) for a full description of the ‘orming’ model. However, I think we never truly reached the storming stage, as the other three team members never really challenged my initial work and ideas. Thus perhaps we never really started ‘performing’ as a team.
  8. Patterson et al. (2004)

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