The MikesBikes journey posed numerous challenges and obstacles that had to be overcome and it astounds me as to how much I have learnt as a result of this experience. Communication and motivation are two terms that I believe to be invaluable to all aspects of life, as they affect interpersonal relationships, self-beliefs as well as individual expectations. In this journal I will delve into how communication affected my behaviour during the semester, particularly in terms of my interactions with my team. I will also evaluate how I can overcome identified weaknesses in my communication to become a more effective leader in the future. Particular attention will be placed on the need for assertiveness and the way that some of my passive actions ultimately led to me confronting myself and not my team. My motivation will then be discussed, highlighting how my inability to deal with loss led to a pessimistic outlook which needed to be overcome. I will then analyse how I shifted from single-loop to double-loop learning and how I propose to maintain this into the future. Finally, I will focus on how I will use my increased knowledge about the underlying motives of my motivation and communication to ensure that I progress successfully into the future.
Communication and motivation proved to be crucial to teamwork this semester. This final journal is a reflection on the ultimate problem that has plagued me thus far, how do I overcome the unexpected and prevent myself from feeling guilty, demotivated and fearful of confrontation. Towards the end of the semester, I found it extremely difficult to overcome disastrous results while still maintaining a positive outlook on the competition. This was despite the fact that I was very aware of the significant effort and time that I, alongside my team, had put into the competition. It surprised me as to the significant effect one poor result could have on my motivation and the extent to which I would find it difficult to communicate effectively with my team to ascertain why a fall in our shareholder value had occurred.
From the onset, my team worked extremely well together, making informed decisions through collaborative and effective communication, whereby decisions were made only after input was gained from each department. I believe this structure proved to be highly successful up until the point in week eight when our performance began to decrease and frustration and angst began to show for me personally, as well as for the team (van der Burgh, 2014b). This was a critical point for my learning and it resulted in my reflection as to how I deal with situations that put me at the forefront of confrontation. As CEO, I made a point to read each of my teams journals to gain increased insight into their perceptions of the week. After reading a journal entry which began with “the problem that I learnt from this week is that my teams do worse off without me”, I was immediately propelled into a situation which required action (Lowe, 2014). As I am a person who tends to shy away from confrontation, I began to question the best approach to the situation. It was clear there had been a shift into ‘storming’ group dynamics, where phases of blame ultimately were leading to elements of distrust (Tuckman, 1965). I found that I had two incongruent approaches to the situations. On one hand, I wanted to confront the team over the blaming which was occurring, whilst at the same time, I was questioning whether there was any need for me to actually act. My questioning of whether action was required related to my knowledge that group conflict reduces the risk of groupthink (Whyte, 1998). I began to understand that the issue was less about the team and how they were feeling and more about myself and how I would respond. Though I was angry at such a response and I wanted to remove the tendency for the team to blame one another, I was quick to internalize the blame onto myself. I felt entirely responsible for not doing enough or at least anticipating a bad result and it was at this point that I realized how easily negative automatic thoughts can change my affective and behavioural approaches to a situation (van der Burgh, 2014b). This sense of responsibility was encroached in an assumption that I had contributed to groupthink by seeking consensus in our decision-making, further exacerbating my feelings of guilt.
My tendency to feel guilty and unmotivated due to my lack of ability in predicting poor outcomes was extremely single-looped. This was because I failed to consider the motivations behind why my motivation suddenly decreased and why my communication revolved around apologizing to my team (Argyris, 1991). My week eight journal incorporated a reflection on the way in which “no group ever becomes a team until it can hold itself accountable as a team” (Katzenbach & Smith, 1992, p 11). In week three, we came to an agreement that we would take the wins with the losses and would remember that “we win together, learn together but we never lose together, because a lesson learnt is never a loss” (van der Burgh, 2014a, p 1). Despite encouraging my team to engage with this statement, I seemed to have completely failed to do so myself. I have wondered if this resulted because of a lack of cohesion in the team whereby we did not actually come to full acceptance of one another’s idiosyncrasies (Tuckman, 1965). Though we worked collaboratively, I still felt excessively responsible for each decision, and the journal entry by Lowe (2014) emphasizes that there was a lack of consensus about equal contribution. I assumed the lack of cohesion to be a result of my ineffective leadership and this perpetuated my tendency to blame only myself. I found it highly interesting that I had difficultly confronting the team for any errors yet had no issues in confronting myself through self-deprecation.
In trying to ascertain as to how to overcome my own issues of motivation I realized it was important to reframe an average performance in terms of the vast amounts of learning that could be gained (van der Burgh, 2014b). As Argyris (1991) suggested, the ability to reason productively can be taught within a team and if this is achieved it removes the risk of defensive reasoning from creating a downward spiral of pessimism. I learnt that it was my own inhibitions about whether I was being a ‘good’ CEO that were a key issue, as I did not want to appear incompetent. Though I was able to incorporate productive reasoning in our team meetings, a week later I found myself in the exact same predicament because I spent more time reflecting on the team than myself. Once again, my motivation had dropped significantly and it became clear that I was still operating in a very single-looped mind frame (van der Burgh, 2014c). Argyris (2002) notes that single-looped learning is the result of fixing mistakes without actually changing the underlying notions which caused the mistake to occur in the first place. I had simply changed the way in which I framed the downward turn of our firm, rather than acknowledging why my positive thought processes are so dependent on success. Upon realization in week nine that I had still not grasped the process of double-loop learning I began to pay more attention to the underlying motivations of needing to succeed (van der Burgh, 2014c). Christensen (2010) highlighted that individuals requiring high levels of achievement, will engage in activities that are most likely to offer them a tangible reward. This statement resonated with me as it gave me insight into why a negative result is such a hindrance to my outlook. I am constantly striving for the best, and dissatisfied with any grade less than an A. I seem to be so preoccupied with doing well, that there is little focus on a long-term strategy of learning and instead a focus on short-term achievements. I seem to have engaged in shallow levels of reflection between weeks eight and nine, resulting in my inability to progress past the simple motivation of needing to succeed. My continued challenge will need to be overcoming this short-sightedness and further engaging in the reflective process.
I have learnt that a long-term strategy is extremely important but if you are unable to use it in an effective manner it becomes pointless (van der Burgh, 2014c). The importance of strategy was a fundamental aspect in MikesBikes, and it was our failure to adapt our strategy to changing market forces that was a key feature in our sudden demise (Baghai, Smit & Viguerie, 2009). In practical terms, strategy is also critical to my success in the future (Christensen, 2010). Knowing that I want to be successful is a starting point, yet the more I come to analyse it as a strategy the more I realise the extent to which it is lacking in depth, much like our MikesBikes strategy was. Being successful is an overarching goal, yet I need to be able to decipher what I actually deem to be successful and how I will know that I have achieved it. I noticed that during MikesBikes my only sense of success was deemed to be winning the competition with no consideration made to the successful team dynamics we created, the vast array of knowledge I had gained or the skills I had developed. My attitude towards success in MikesBikes is very reflective of my attitude to success in other areas. There has been a definite need for tangible measures to show that there has been achievement, which I believe is why I tend to place such little focus on the achievement of learning (Christensen, 2010). Granted, learning usually is a by-product of achievement, but it is the types of learning that are most crucial. If I continue to use a single-loop approach, the learning is likely to be highly limited. This has caused me to reflect on how I will prevent myself from slipping back into single-looped learning in the future.
In order to continue on the path of double-loop learning I need to be able to constantly reflect on what my underlying values are when analysing situations. This means being able to take the wins with the losses, acknowledging that a loss simply means another opportunity to learn (van der Burgh, 2014c). I have noticed that a significant barrier I need to overcome is the way that I still find difficulty in accepting a loss. In week eight I mentioned that I needed to avoid creating a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby I start to tell myself that there is no hope of succeeding so that my actions ultimately lead to this occurring (van der Burgh, 2014b). I noticed this in myself, after our second ‘bad’ roll-over, when I struggled to analyse the reports, thinking to myself that we had already lost due to my incompetence as CEO. Once again, motivation was a key determinant of my behaviour and it reminded me of the importance of finding effective ways to deal with such situations in the future. I have been reflecting on how I can increase my confidence in my skills to overcome feelings of incompetence. After reading the article by Christensen (2010, p 51), I realized that I needed to “choose the right yardstick”. In essence this means needing to refrain from speculating as to how others perceive me and rather focus on how I see myself. Granted, others perceptions constantly surround me and will continue to influence my behaviour to an extent, but I have learnt that I should instead be focusing on my own reflections of the situation. Questioning as to why I think I will be perceived in a certain way and then analysing how I came to such a conclusion will be far more helpful than assuming that I am incompetent (Daudelin, 1996). Choosing the right yardstick also applies directly to my perceptions of success. I need to reconsider how I judge success, and instead of seeing success in terms of tangible results, I need to be able to find value in my learning. I also need to continue to limit the effect that others perceptions have on my own outlook. This may continue to be a challenge, especially in relation to my ability to change automatic negative thoughts that have developed over my lifetime. In order to alter these automatic negative thoughts I need to be able to challenge my core beliefs so they shift into positive assumptions about my skills and abilities (Beck, 2011). This will involve further reflection and a need to ask myself why so much of my self-efficacy is determined by a tangible outcome (Allred, Harrison & O’Connell, 2013).
As I progress into the corporate world, it is likely that there will be many times when decisions do not go my way. I may not get a desired job or promotion, resulting in me not receiving the tangible rewards I so desire (Christensen, 2010). I have learnt that I need to approach the situation differently and alter my perceptions of what a loss is. I need to be able to reflect on the reasons why it may not have gone my way, and instead of using my usual rationale, which is self-deprecating, I need to focus on everything that I have learnt and outline aspects that may require further exploration and analysis. The power of reflection has been highlighted throughout this course, as had I not engaged with Daudelin’s (1996) reflective process it is unlikely that I would have gained as much insight into my team and myself. I need to ensure that I am constantly motivated to continuously reflect, particularly in terms of formulating tentative hypotheses that may be novel (Daudelin, 1996). This continued ability and dedication to reflection is crucial, as Agryis (1991) has shown the way in which professionals tend to fail to engage in reflective processes and this therefore poses a challenge for myself to not re-enact single-loop processing.
Communication will also continue to be vital to my progression, and I have learnt how important it is to effectively communicate, as well as how detrimental defensive reasoning can be (van der Burgh, 2014b). Though I was able to resolve conflict when it began to arise, I believe this was mainly due to the structure of our firm where everyone was open and reasonable to hearing others opinions (van der Burgh, 2014b). In reflecting on this experience, I have wondered about the extent to which I would be able to resolve conflict in the ‘real’ world. I have learnt that communication is most effective when I am assertive, which is supported by the findings of Kolb & Griffith (2009). The key is finding a balance and not being passive or aggressive. The fact that I shy away from confrontation can definitely prompt me to act in a passive manner (Hambley, O’Neill & Kline, 2007). This was evident during meetings where I did not speak up as much as I wanted to in order to avoid having to confront another team member about their ideas. In the future, I need to remember that being passive will not allow for my own needs to met (Kolb & Griffith, 2009). Had I not been so passive, it is likely that we would not have fallen victim to groupthink, and instead we would have had varying perspectives to reflect on and analyse during our decision-making (Whyte, 1998). I need to continue to embrace assertiveness and have come to the realisation that if I explain my rationale behind my ideas then it is less confrontational and rather a constructive alternative of perspectives (Kolb & Griffith, 2009). This requires acknowledging that a difference of opinions is not something negative and forms the basis of constructive feedback. I believe I was too concerned with how my peers perceived me and that this limited my ability to engage with on-going feedback during the semester. The fact that in the peer review process I still found it difficult to confront one of my team members about their free-loading during the semester, shows me that I am still not as assertive as I had hoped. To overcome this in the future, I am going to focus on the importance of feedback and the way that my honesty can help an individual to identify problems with their behaviour so that they can alter their performance in the future. I need to put my personal relationships aside and be able to honestly critique individuals in a constructive manner so that they can learn (Peiperl, 2001).
This reflection has shown two key pieces of concrete learning that I have gained over the semester in relation to communication and motivation (Kolb, 1976). I have shown the ways in which I have learnt that life is not all about the short-term gratification but rather the ability to look back, know that I have done my best and learnt as much as possible. I have focused on communication, especially in terms of increasing my assertiveness when in a team environment which requires decisiveness and transparency. I have also noted that I need to continually monitor my motivation and work towards altering negative thought patterns that determine how I deem success. I have also delved into the importance of analysing the underlying motivations of my actions in order to engage in continued double-loop learning. It is likely that I will continue to strive to do my best, however I have come to a realization that my best may not equate to perfection. I have continuously over-rated perfection, and the more I learn and develop, the more I realize that perfection simply does not exist. Instead, life is about learning, something I have previously failed to place much emphasis on.
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