On the eve of SCI Team recruitment, this is also a time when new clubs are starting and old clubs are restructuring their executive teams. I’d like to summarize what I understand the team to be in this time of transition, for those who may be interested in learning how we work as a team.
We are a team of 20 science students, coming from different programs with various experiences and interests. Some of us have done co-op and are finishing their 5th year of study, and some of us joined the SCI Team by the end of their first year.
However different, we share a common understanding of what the team should be like, and how we can contribute to make that happen. When the mean commitment of the team is high, there will be no idle teammate. When the team members work so professionally together as to become a motivation for each other, you know you have a good team.
How do we ensure this level of leadership is maintained in the team?
We are not a student club. We joined the team knowing it is a professional group, not a social one. Most of us are here to work together to create, implement, and improve events for students’ career or academic interests. (This is the mentality we have when we improve upon the established blockbusters like Get Into Research, and we pioneer new projects like Entrepreneurship in Science.)
Being professional doesn’t mean we don’t have fun though. Many of us are friends outside the team. But on the team, business is first.
There is no power hierarchy within the team of 20. In the general meetings which all 20 of us attend, everyone opinion has an equal weight. These meetings are led by our Faculty Advisor Janet (aka the Mother of SCI Team), who prepares the minutes and acts as a facilitator. Occasionally, a SCI Team member will also assume the facilitator’s position, and the general meeting functions more or less the same way as it does under Janet.
Of course, there is a difference in experience among members. About half the team are returning members who have had a year of experience with SCI Team, and the other half are newly recruited members. We encourage this type of leadership to naturally emerge; this is how committees are formed.
At the start of each school year, the SCI Team spends time doing team-building activities (UBC ropes course!) and brainstorming events for the year. We decide what legacy events we want to continue, and what new events we want to pioneer, and most importantly, who’s interested in which events.
Then, a pair of SCI Team members who are most passionate about an event (for example because they came up with the idea, had past experience, or has ideas for improvement) get together and become the Co-Chairs of this project. They then call for SCI Team members who are also interested in the event to form a committee that would meet, plan, and implement this project. And depending on the project, the committee may call the entire team for help on the event day. For example, on the days of Get Into Research and Beyond the B. Sc., the majority of the SCI Team was mobilized.
The formation of committees is usually done in general meetings where every member has an opportunity to contribute. Therefore it’s easy to gauge the level of team interest and viability of the project, and engage team support.
Every team member has an opportunity to put forth a project idea, have it discussed in the team, and chair or join its committee. The involvement of committee members is variable; they can be even more engaged than the co-chairs, or they can be as disengaged as teammates not on the committee (which may give them a bad reputation). How much we get out of the event depends on how much we put in, rather than what names we have.
Back to professionalism
Every general and committee meeting has a full set of agenda prepared and published beforehand, its start time and end time decided, and its minutes taken and published right afterwards. This is usually done by the co-chairs or delegated committee members. Each member is tasked, and their progress updated in the meetings.
I don’t mean we don’t have goofs and chats during our meetings. We pass around juice boxes and snacks (or pile them up in front of members known for a good appetite as a joke), and the atmosphere is usually light and relaxed.
But we stay to the time constraint and follow the agenda closely, bullet after bullet. We keep each other to the topic, and cut off extended digressions. We respect every member present, and explain things when there is a chance that some of the members present may not be up to date on what’s being said.
All sides of opinion are heard, constructive criticism encouraged. Co-chairs and committee members reach consensus on decisions rather than letting the majority rule – and the co-chairs adopt to their members just as the members adopt to each other.
Final words (for this time)
So, it all sounds fine and dandy. “Get a good team who work professionally together, and everything will be great.”
How do we get that team together in the first place?
Because of the amount of interest in joining the team, the SCI Team traditionally interviews applicants and accept new members who show the greatest potential to benefit the dynamics of the team. It may be their new ideas, their past experiences, their background (comp sci SCI Team members are in demand, guys), or their personality.
An interview supervised by Janet ensures that the team members are not formed on the basis of connections or popularity, but this may not always be viable for other student groups, and besides, this may not be the most important thing in forming a good team.
A good team, I’d argue, is one that has a clear mission that is shared wholeheartedly among its members. This is not a cliche. This means that the mission cannot be vague or implied. It should to be clear and concrete enough to throw a pop quiz on the members, and all of them would pass.
This also means the mission as well as the level of commitment have to be clearly laid out before forming the team, rather than trying to conform the team to a new mission after it’s formed. The better the teammates understand what they are signing up for, the greater the chance to build a successful team.
* This is written in a lazy Sunday morning, so please feel free to ask for clarification, point out errors, and add your comments 🙂