I have learned so much about being a leader and taking social initiative. I used to be purely and independent worker who would just do their part on the team and be done. I mostly worked on solo projects, so this allowed me to coast for a while. This was until I become the team leader for a major project for a real client. I had interned with the client over the Summer and was offered a full-time position. After hearing about the practicum program, my boss become interested and submitted a project proposal.
I will be honest; I went in thinking as project leader we would just create a linear process, and everyone just does their parts, and we are done. This was far from the truth and I had to develop real team skills, the team members included. This was a project that required a lot of problem solving and getting to the end result. Everyone contributed to the success of the project and that certainly would not have been the case if I kept a closed mind. Problems kept building, roles shifted, and keeping on schedule became difficult. This was a real project that caught me off guard and I needed to encourage a team culture of commitment and going above and beyond to be successful. This was unlike every other school project I had been a part of. I had to step up. Fortunately, we created a team charter that required us to stay committed and my team was fantastic, so I just needed to keep morale up and be a good communicator, something I have always struggled with. I learned that a project can be chaotic, and it is okay if it does. There is a reason agile project methodology is big these days. As an example (without getting too specific), we were originally going to throw in 2 extra major steps into the whole process when it should have only been 3 rather than 5. Our professor suggested doing it differently and our team agreed to change.
Working in teams can be tough, but when it works synergistically, it can be fantastic. For another example, we assigned roles at the beginning of the project and figured that they would likely stay the same for the rest of the semester and maybe we would make minor changes. Half-way through the semester 2 of our team members were done with their work while the technical side was struggling with new problems. Everyone agreed to help on the technical side, and we managed to get it done. As I have talked about before, I would never facilitate anyone else doing another’s work before, but we had a deadline, and we had a committed team. This removed any bottlenecks that tend to occur and kept the whole process agile.
I would attribute my success as a leader in beginning the project by establishing a team culture of commitment and ambition. A team with uncommitted team members who do not care whether the project will succeed or not will certainly fail. Real projects and in real scenarios, do not have straight forward responses. They require team members who feel like they have a stake in it and want to see it succeed, not for grades, but intrinsically motivated reasons. This course taught me how to think like a leader and how to make a team function at the highest efficiency. I have not felt as good about turning in a school project until finishing this one. If I were not already working for this company, I would check-in in the future to see how the project has affected them. Overall, I have developed as a leader, and I am proud to be a lone wolf no longer and see the impact a motivated and high-functioning team can bring.