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Since starting the DMS in September I have found the workshop programme very useful. I have learnt many styles and techniques of management and from this have applied to my workplace with very effective results, also using my workplace as an experimental ground for practising my new techniques. From this, I have learnt from my mistakes and errors and rectified them to continually improve my own performance, and thus improve the performance of my department within the business.
From leaving school with four “o” levels, I started my working career as an engineer; attaining an apprenticeship at Phillips Components. After four years of completing this, along with a higher national certificate in computer aided engineering, I acquired a position of Toolmaker in the Toolroom. I then continued working as a Toolmaker for the next eleven years without ever considering a managerial position. After many years of Toolmaking I acquired the position of Improvement Technician within the Sub-components department (press shop) and after Twelve months was offered the position of Shift Leader within this department. From taking the leap from Engineering to production/people management it was recommended that I returned to college to complete a Diploma in Management Studies to gain the academic qualifications to compliment my new role.
Learning Style and Teamwork Theory
One of the first workshop sessions was based on learning style and teamwork theory. For this we completed questionnaires on learning style and the Belbin self perception inventory, a questionnaire based on individual’s team role profile.
The learning style questionnaire was designed to understand your preferred learning style and help you pinpoint your learning preferences so that you are in a better position to select learning experiences that suit your style. The results are broke down into four different styles: Activists, Reflectors, Theorists and Pragmatists. After scoring myself on the questionnaire, the results suggested that I had a very strong preference towards being an Activist, a strong preference towards a reflector and moderate preference towards Theorist and Pragmatist.
An Activist is a person who is very open-minded and enthusiastic about new ideas or experiences. They tend to act first and consider the consequences later. They tackle problems by brainstorming and thrive on the challenge of new experiences. They are gregarious people constantly involving themselves with others but, in doing so, they seek to centre all activities around themselves. With the learning style of an Activist I find it very hard work to sit down and study, I also find it very difficult reading a book as I tend to find my mind wandering off on to other activities I could be doing.
Analysing my learning style within the workplace, I would tend to agree with these results. I have a reputation at work for being very enthusiastic and passionate about my department and also about the company I work for, also preferring to physically “get stuck in” with problems we encounter, rather than sitting down and discussing them.
Within each learning style there is a set path we need to progress through in order to get the most out of any learning experience, these are as follows:
Step one, having an experience
In step one there are two easy in which we can have an experience; one is to be passive and allow the experience to happen and you needing to react, two is to deliberately seek them out in a proactive manner.
Step two, reviewing the experience
I tend to think this is the one we most often miss out on, we tend to jump this one and come to a conclusion before we’ve reviewed an experience in a none judgemental manner (with an open mind and no preconceptions). Time needs to be taken out to properly review any experience to gain anything from it.
Step three, conclusions from the experience
This involves looking at the reviewed experience step to understand and see what lessons can be learnt.
Step four, planning the next step
There would be little point in reviewing or coming up with any conclusions from the experience if we did not apply this newly gained knowledge to future events.
The Self Perception Inventory
The Belbin self perception inventory specifies nine roles for the efficient working of a team. Once the questionnaire is completed, a team role profile is then calculated for the individual and a counselling report is created. The chart below shows how I scored:
Roles and Descriptions
My profile shows that I gain great intrinsic satisfaction from the nature of work in which I am engaged. For me work is like a hobby, offering me a chance to exercise my creative disposition and achieving professionalism all at the same time. As far as the outside world is concerned, I will be known and respected for my knowledge and special skills and for the fact that I am in the forefront of most new developments.
My limitations I may have to accept apply to my administrative and managerial skills. I may have to make a conscious choice in terms of the direction of my career. A wider arena would offer broader prospects of advancement, but would also face stiffer competition, with the chance of me loosing some of my professional expertise. The alternative would be to build up my personal reputation in my own special area and carve out my own job within it.
Reflecting on my results from the self perception inventory, I must realise that to become a better team player, I must understand my allowable weaknesses from the roles I scored high in. Also I must work on increasing the lower end scores, by becoming a better co-ordinator and implementer, also increasing my team worker skills.
To start the course off, our first learning experience of working within teams was the residential activity at Dove Nest. After a brief introduction (and cup o’ tea) we were soon split into four groups and given the mine field activity to complete. This being a perfect ice-breaker to the course, testing our teamwork skills and also a perfect opportunity to get to know other students. Instantly, different individual’s personalities and trends were noticed and within minutes different traits were easily recognised as some members co-ordinated whilst others problem solved or challenged ideas. Our team decided it would be an advantage to amalgamate with the adjacent team to create a synergy were by we would attain greater power due to the creation of synthetic energy, i.e. the understanding that to join forces more than twice the power of each individual team would be achieved. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Although we did manage to complete task, we didn’t accomplish it in the fastest time.
Before to long we were soon split into other groups and given different tasks to complete with goals clearly set.
One task I thoroughly enjoyed and learned a lot from was a task where all team members had to run up a hill (about 20 metres) to a square marked out on the floor (approx 3m sq.). Inside the square was 18 randomly spaced tags pinned to the ground, numbered 1 to 18. Our task was for all team members to run up to the square, then all the tags had to be touched, respectively from 1 to 18, but only one member was allowed into the square at any one time. Once this was complete, all the team then had to run back to the start point and cross this point within a specified time. We were given an allocated time to plan the task and also only given three timed attempts to achieve our target.
Instantly we conducted a brainstorming session to assess all our different options. Then after heated debate about which ideas we thought would be the most efficient we then decided to perform what we thought would be the fastest trials. After timing each option we then chose the fastest and analysed this to see if we could improve on the practiced times.
Once we thought we couldn’t improve any more we then attempted to reach our goal. Of the three timed events, the first one was about twenty seconds overtime, the second just under, but by the third attempt we had shaved about forty seconds off our original time, also clearly beating the goal set. We achieved this through everybody committing to the teams needs to achieve the goal set, where everybody knew their place within the team, even though everybody did not agree with some of the decisions. A great sense of satisfaction and camaraderie was achieved by the conquering of this task, with all the team thoroughly motivated and geared up, ready for the next task.
Finally on day one we were given the task of running our own business, the final goal, to manufacture and sail a raft on Lake Windermere. Different roles of team members soon developed, one person accounting, another designing, whilst others negotiated with opposing teams to acquire either more money or materials. Once enough materials were obtained, the raft was ready to be manufactured. Again, different team roles were seen, as some members built the raft whilst others delegated different tasks, and others stood back, saying “that’ll never float, you’ll not get me on that”, only to be proved wrong once the race got underway.
For me, there were many learning points from Dove Nest even though at this point we had not covered these techniques at college. It was an excellent opportunity to improve my listening and negotiating skills, as well as improving my delegating techniques. The best learning experiences for me were teamwork and motivation. Working within teams were nobody knew other people’s knowledge or capabilities, or what specialities they may possess created an atmosphere were by to achieve the goals set, individuals roles had to be rapidly appointed.
I also found the problem solving activities very stimulating, probably through my engineering background. Dove nest was also an excellent starting point to the course as many students (myself included) were novices to the styles and theories ahead, thus giving everybody a perfect foundation to the year ahead. Reflecting on how each team member performed on the residential, I think it would be an excellent idea to perform a similar residential exercise at the end of the year to recognise the improvement of individual’s performance.
A great learning point for me was the workshop on presentation skills. When confronted with the task of presenting to the group I was keen to improve my ability as presentations are a key role in my position at work, whether presenting a fortnightly team brief or a project presentation to senior Management. Previous to workshop I have encountered some bad experiences in the workplace, due to inadequate planning beyond my control.
After watching the video on presentations, I came away with a greater knowledge of what creates a good presentation. The key learning points for me being preparation, content and delivery. What is the purpose of the presentation and why? Know your subject – do your homework. Know your audience, the objective being to keep them interested. A good presentation should have a suitable introduction, main theme and conclusion. The delivery is also essential, confidence being the key, keep to a specified time and remember that you are the person presenting and the effect of it is upon your audience.
I found it very beneficial to be able to watch and judge people’s presentation skills reflecting with the rest of the group on how to improve these skills, not feeling under any pressure whilst doing so; an option not available at work. The experience of having someone give feedback to a presentation allowed me to fully focus myself on the need to learn from, and understand my shortcomings, is also gave me the opportunity to scrutinise the way in which I should deliver a presentation.
As I have a learning style of an Activist, and therefore wanting to try anything once to gain a new experience, I chose to give my presentation on a non-work related matter. I decided to give my presentation on what I labelled “The Millionaire Lifestyle Weekend” – a presentation on how to live a millionaire lifestyle for the weekend working within a budget that most people would find affordable. Fortunately I wasn’t presenting until the third week, which gave me plenty of time to plan my presentation. Also gaining more knowledge on this subject through analysing other student’s presentations and making observations as to how their presentation could be improved. A key observation from myself was never apologise when presenting as this may come across as being negative. Also, try to keep the audience interested and keep within the time specified. Provide a handout for any important information, but don’t distribute until the end of the presentation.
When the time came to delivering my presentation, I was at first nervous, due to previous experiences, but after the first two slides I felt more at ease due to the environment in which the workshop was held and also due to the fact that I felt confident about what I was presenting thanks to sufficient planning and preparation. I think another added contribution was the fact that the first couple of slides grabbed people’s attention and instantly they were thinking “this looks interesting”, a very important learning point, grasp people’s attention on the first two slides. I realised that in doing this, people sit up and listen, thus giving the presenter more confidence in what he/she is presenting. I also learnt that the rehearsal of a presentation is extremely important; I practiced this presentation about Ten to Fifteen at home in front of the mirror, finding this to be a great benefit to delivering a good presentation.
Overall it gave value to me as I now know how to structure presentations. I felt, as did the others in the group that their subject would be boring for anyone else but to the contrary, as I listened to other presentations they were entertaining, informative, and all had flow to them. This tells me that if the subject to be presented is put over in the way we have been shown then the information within it is retained by the audience.
Since this workshop, I have presented to management at work and felt a lot more at ease, having greater confidence in myself by understanding the correct way to performing a successful presentation, understanding the emphasis on planning as well as delivery. I have now learnt to improve my presentation skills at work a lot more by watching and analysing others present in the workplace.
The time management workshop was also of great use to me with respect to my position at work. I am responsible for the production of nine different sub-components all used in the manufacture of a cathode, with present cathode production running at 300k per day, although due to losses on automation, with some components I have to produce 160 good components to make 100 good cathodes. I am responsible for a workforce of 45 people as well as providing assistance in other departments as and when required. I find myself in a position where I am constantly fire-fighting on a daily basis, going home feeling that I have taken two steps back rather than one step forward.
When we had the workshop on time management I was instantly keen to increase my knowledge on this subject as time at work is sparse. I found the video a great learning tool, by watching the situation with the manager who never seemed to have any time. I instantly related issues on the video to my workplace and started to understand the important factors of managing time efficiently. Learning to identify, and then change, any bad practices such as taking on too much work that I could possibly delegate out to others, or failing to plan and organise my day correctly, understanding the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.
The key points of time wasting have stayed fresh in my mind since this session understanding that I need to prioritise, delegate, plan and communicate more effectively. From watching the video, I returned to work ready to try out my latest technique. Understanding that to manage my time for that day I must spend the first five to ten minutes planning my day a head, prioritising what jobs have to be done, what jobs should be done, what jobs need not be done and what jobs I could delegate out to others. Also deciding which jobs are important, urgent, urgent and important and so on. Once I have done this, I then write a priority list in order of which jobs I shall do when, ranging from must do to least important. Since doing this on a daily basis I have found that I get through a lot more issues at work and seem to find a lot more time to take on extra tasks without the worry of not being able to complete in the required time. This has taken a large amount of pressure of my working day. Although I am sometimes still rushed off my feet, at least I’m not leaving for home with my head in a spin.
When first discussing the DMS to work colleagues, who had once been students on the course. They described the workshop sessions to me, explaining about people’s learning styles and teamwork theory and I have to admit I was very sceptical about the whole thing, not understanding about Activists and pragmatists, etc. But since attending workshop I have realised that what we have learnt is true to life and have found very useful. I do have the opinion that people who become successful managers do have that special gift and that managers are born and not trained.
My opinion is that to be successful not only must you have that gift but you must also learn the different techniques learnt on workshop and understand how and when to apply them to daily life. I have found that a lot of what I have learnt a necessity in the role I am in at work. I also realise that not all situations in the workplace are the same, as people’s attitudes and characteristics all vary, some on a daily basis, and to be able to handle any situation without causing upset to the individual or the business is a skill only acquired over time. Dealing with issues can be a very delicate and tricky art, but with the correct personality, integrity and knowledge gained from the workshop, success is a not such a fantasy as a nearby reality.
KELLET, P. (2002) Presentation Skills Workshop lecture notes
KELLET, P. (2002) Effective Teamwork Workshop lecture notes
KELLET, P. (2002) Time Management Workshop lecture notes
KELLET, P. (2002) How to Improve Your Learning Style Learning style questionnaire
BELBIN (2002) Self Perception Inventory Mk2
BELBIN (2002) Self Perception Team Role Profile