The Southern Roots Experience

My team, The Southern Roots, definitely brought both task and interpersonal skills to the table, which is a defining characteristic of a successful team. In fact, we hit it off so well at the beginning of the semester, I was not sure we would encounter the “storming” phase in Tuckman’s Team Development model (Levi, 2014, pg. 43). I thought we would be a powerful force right away and continue that momentum throughout the semester. Instead, like any team, we did encounter all of Tuckman’s four stages: forming, storming, norming, and performing. I learned that social relations only get you so far when accomplishing a task in a team environment. My team truly became a team after we learned to constructively negotiate roles, handle the stresses of approaching deadlines, and share mutual commitment to our facilitation presentations. I believe we ultimately created a new social dynamic that combined our unique individual talents within the context of our class work (Levi, 2014 pg. 244).

Our team faced the inevitable challenges when it came time to organize and complete project assignments for the course. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to analyze our later challenges based upon the solid and successful work at the beginning of the team development process. My team members comprised of two hard-working, outgoing females. When we first met together as a team to introduce ourselves, we immediately developed a rapport and easily engaged in compelling dialogue about our personal lives. I think it helped that we had similar backgrounds, such as our southern heritage and culture (which inspired our team name). Our conversation topics centered on our similarities, which helped us not only improve our social relationships, but aided us when it came time to define our group identity and ground rules. We also respected one another’s differences during the “forming” stage and quickly recognized each other’s strengths. Levi (2014)  explains why “developing the group is important. Time must be spent developing social relations and socializing new members, establishing goals and norms, and defining the project” (pg. 46). The course built-in time for the crucial socialization process to take place – without which we wouldn’t have been able to effectively handle the challenges and conflicts later in the semester.

My team experienced challenges in the “storming” phase, such as differing perspectives on roles, responsibilities, and timeline for our first presentation exercise. Nevertheless, conflict and confusion had positive effects on my team. Our team chose to resolve our conflicts in a cooperative and productive manner. Our challenging issues encouraged us to explore a new approach and motivated us to do better on our next facilitation project. Our team took the valuable feedback from our peers and devised a different strategy for our second facilitation presentation. Levi (2014) states that “early process conflict not only helps a team develop better work processes and strategies but it teaches the team how to manage conflicts….When these teams encounter problems in the later stages of a project, they have the skills to manage the conflict and develop alternative solutions (pg. 46).  Our new strategy consisted of revisiting our team charter. I brought up our “process” checkpoints from our team charter that were in alignment with the course syllabus. We agreed upon an in-person meeting after class each week until the facilitation presentation to discuss our areas of interest, develop a project outline, and divvy up task assignments. As a result, each member came to the meeting ready to organize, trust, and cohesively work with one another on our facilitation presentation.

I also realized that I was thinking too independently. Levi (2014) argues that “To be successful, team members must feel responsible for both their own work and the work of other team members” (pg. 65).  I did not have a sense of responsibility for my teammate’s work initially. I felt that I was only responsible for myself and was ready to perform my part in our meetings; however, I failed to realize that we all need to be responsible for one another’s work and understanding of the material because we all have one, unified goal in the end. I finally realized half way through the course my interdependence to my group members. Levi (2014) states that “In a sports team, the players need one another to succeed” (pg. 64). The idea of “mutual dependency” is what defines a team and allows them to take some type of positive action (Smith and Berg, 1987, pg. 140). My team’s ability to balance both individual contributions with team success solidified our group identity (Levi, 2014, pg. 65).

One of the highlights of this course was “performing” our facilitation presentation. The Southern Roots’ concrete social relationships and successful handling of earlier stresses allowed the team to focus on performing our task in a fluid, effective way. We each took responsibility for the quality of the presentation and each other’s part, which resulted in a streamlined and cohesive presentation. We also performed at a level where we created conditions for others to learn about ways to hold risky conversations and move into difficult conversations in the workplace. Lastly, our team used the feedback from our peers to reflect, evaluate, and celebrate our successes at the end of our presentation. Our most productive work happened at the later stages of our development, which supports the literature on group dynamics and teams.

I’m so proud of my team and can positively reflect on my group experience, which says a lot about the value this course has to both personal and professional life. Way to go, Southern Roots!