Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Team Success

In my college experience, there has been two notable teams that I have been a participant in. I will highlight the organization that I worked for (and have mentioned on multiple occasions in my previous posts).  This nonprofit was run extremely efficiently, and I attribute their structure of leadership (or rather, heirarchy) for their success.

The organization had a clear leader, Sally, the Founder and Director, with two particular positions underneath. The subordinate positions were the Office Manager, Leila and Program Director, Cornicha. I worked under Leila as the Office Assistant. Now this was almost identical to the leadership structure relating to Dual Authority from Bolman and Deal, but there was also another position taken by Taylor, the holder of the sole Accountant position that reported directly to Sally.

On with the operations of this organization, it is a small but efficient one. As I worked, it was clear how much was on the plate of every individual in the organization. I myself was tasked with the creation of the entire database system of the organization, so it turned out that our organization operated on a much larger scale than its employees can be expected to take. In reference to how the concept of an overwhelmed boss is described in the book, it is important to ensure that the assistants to the Director be as qualified, talented and as efficient as possible. Leila was almost a human machine, giving most of her time of the day behind the desk and on the field (field being the schools that we operated in). Under her was myself, and under me were the Site Leaders, the employees that worked directly with the schools around Champaign and its students. The daily reports from their sections were given to me, though I was strictly told to pass them on to Leila. It totaled to about 20-30 reports every single day. These were taken, evaluated, and corresponding decisions passed to Sally.

On the other hand, more long term operations were handled by Cornicha, under whom were the Site Coordinators. Now this bit may be confusing to draw out, but a single Site Coordinator was responsible for about 3 Site Leaders. The Leaders reported to the Coordinators in real time, while the overarching reports were given to Cornicha by the Coordinators. She would then make decisions regarding the monthly or weekly programming of the schools and pass that information on to the Coordinators.

All that data went to Sally for finalization. The  reports from both Leila and Cornicha, along with the accounting reports from Taylor went to Sally for finalization and approval. Among other things, Sally's responsibilities included dealing with grants and setting up partnerships, which happened almost semi- regularly.

Now it is easy to infer where the most pressure exists in this style or leadership in this kind of organization. Despite the incredible amount of data and information involved, Sally has managed to stay on top of all the events that passed in my time with the nonprofit organization. One may attribute this to the expected talent and experience of the head of any firm. Along with this, the two second-level employees of the organization help greatly in ensuring that the Director can manage everything happening with the firm without being overloaded and making bad or slow decisions from being under the influence of professional pressure.

The principal reason this team of around 20 employees successfully expanded their organization is largely due to following the terms of Katzenbach and Smith's features that distinguish high-functioning teams. As I read up on the particular traits, it was amusing to find how well all of the points clicked with the performance and environment of the organization.

Once highschool was over, everyone in the organization jumped to expand their field-trips and plans for the next academic year. From planning to gathering the required resources (be it anything from food to other grants), the team took the opportunity of the increased time till their summer program began to plan out way ahead of what may be considered necessary.

Now a habit of the entire organization was to list out, in colorful, often childish ways, the goals for the week, or month, or period of time in question that required certain things to be done by the time it passed. It was a constant source of motivation as each assigned role was ticked off and entire pages were discarded as the goals written came to fruition.


  1. This is a nice and flavorful post. But as it has been a while since I've read your posts, there were things I didn't know or didn't remember. It sounded like your function was indispensable. Was there somebody else who filled the job before you? If not, was the place functioning in an efficient manner before you came on board?

    Competence and respect for co-workers does matter a lot. Structure matters too, but in my view is not nearly as a important in smaller organizations.

    1. My supervisor did it all herself. I was hired as it was understandably unfeasible to continue as the firm scaled upward.
      Unfortunately my experience is very limited by my work experience, and I cannot quite give my two cents on larger organizations.