Monday, October 3, 2016

Successful Team Structures

            During my senior year of high school, I was apart of a successful varsity water polo team. The new head coach was taking over the team for the first time this season. Although he was a new head coach, his vast water polo experience and good relationship with the players aided his ability to direct the team successfully. The assistant coach was the head coach for swimming at the same high school, so he was able to bring in a different dynamic. Other members of the coaching staff included the two team trainers, one of which was a past player on the team. I think our coaching staff was able to use their different specialties in order to help the players work more productively.
            The team I was apart of was notorious for being one of the best teams in the state. Our coach knew that after taking over the team for the first time, he would be tested. This idea was a motivating factor for our season. Coming off of a disappointing season, the team was determined to retain the image as a water polo juggernaut. The team’s dynamics for starting players was also a key factor to our success. Each player had a different role, and we were able to execute our positions effectively. My position was on the wing, which means I was making passes to the players swimming down the pool in order for them to score. Although each player had a specific position, something that made our team so successful was our ability to adapt to our surroundings and play any position in the pool. We would be able to seek out mismatches between players and exploit them to our advantage.
            My senior year my team finished third in state after losing in the Semi-Finals of the State Championship. Our team had the best record in state with only two losses. Our first loss was during the regular season to another team in a shallow deep pool. Some high schools in Illinois have pools that are only deep on one half of the pool. Being able to stand on the bottom is a severe disadvantage when it comes to playing water polo, especially when you train year round in an all deep pool. The other loss was tougher because we were so close to completing a truly remarkable season. In the final game, we were unable to perform to our potential, having already beaten our opponents three other times in the regular season.
            One of the structural configurations I can identify within my team was the circle network. Having coaches with different specialties and focuses worked as a circle network. Additionally, the players’ different skills and positions created a circle network. The team was able to function well when we understood our specific roles. The team understood we did not need to have the one player that could do everything, but multiple people that could execute their given tasks.
            Another structural configuration that I can identify is a simple hierarchy between players and coaches. The coaches were at the top of this hierarchy, followed by the team captains. Seniors and other starting players were also towards the top of the hierarchal structure. I think this structure was conducive for players to grow as teammates and learn from older players. This structural design allowed for players to help keep the team under control and motivate us as a whole.

            I think some distinguishing features of my team that reflected our success as described by Katzenbach and Smith are a deeper sense of purpose and accountability among players. Going into the season after a tough loss in overtime of the state championship from the previous season gave players a deeper purpose to perform. I was determined to work my hardest in order to achieve the title of the best team in the state. This motivation helped our discipline, which resulted in another feature of our team, accountability among players. Practicing everyday was difficult, but the only way we would be able to achieve our goals would be through the support of each other.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Opportunistic Behavior

Often times throughout my life I have encountered situations where I could have easily been opportunistic. I believe I was raised with good morals, so taking advantage of others for my gain did not seem morally correct. Taking advantage of others and being opportunistic do not sound like similar concepts however. I often identify these situations and try and make sure my actions will not negatively affect others without them knowing. A few summers ago, I experienced an instance when I could’ve been opportunistic but I passed off the opportunity to my sister.
            When I was growing up, my neighbors would have me do menial chores for them for small amounts of money. Watering flowers, walking the dog, and picking up the mail while they were on vacation were a few of these tasks. I was excited to do these jobs because the small income allowed me to fund my own indulgences as a young boy. I eventually gained a real job over the summer and earned income from that.
            A few summers ago, my neighbors came to me again to see if I would continue maintaining their house when they went away for weekends and other trips. I knew that the tasks were easy, and I would still have my other job. However, I was aware that my sister still didn’t have a job and had been asking me if she could do some of the chores for money too. I told my neighbors that I wouldn’t be able to do it, but that my sister would be more than happy to maintain their house while they were gone.
            I think one factor that led me to not be opportunistic and take the easy job from my neighbors was that I felt greedy and almost selfish. My sister had no access to other jobs, and I already had a job. I also did not need the extra money from my neighbors. Instead of taking advantage of my experience and connections, I understood that it was now my sister’s turn to take on this opportunity. I think this idea is another factor that leads people to not be opportunistic. I was able to identify that I needed to pass on the job opportunity to my sister.
            I think this example relates to other cases where people can be opportunistic, but they choose not to out of a respect or understanding of the position that person is in. Instead of continuing to gain money from my neighbors, I gave the opportunity to my younger sister. Simple actions like this reiterate the idea of “good things come to those who wait.” After giving this opportunity to my sister, our relationship was strengthened because she understood what I had done for her. She knew that I could have continued to work for my neighbors but gave the opportunity to her instead.
            One of the most gratifying feelings is when another person passes up on an opportunity for you. This is especially true when this person is just performing a random act of kindness. Returning something that was lost or stolen is an example of a random action where someone could have been opportunistic and kept something that belonged to you. Often when these actions are in my benefit, I become more inclined to be less opportunistic in order to share the same feeling with another unsuspecting person.

             Although I encounter many situations where I can be opportunistic, I value my ability to pass the opportunity onto another person who would be even more grateful for it. The gratification of receiving a gesture is extremely satisfying, and it often leads to the creation of other opportunity’s and stronger relationships.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Experience in Organizations

I have been involved in many different organizations throughout my life but all have taught me the same thing and that is combining a positive attitude with a strong work ethic will bring you success in any endeavor. I have found this to be true whether it be in high school sports, college clubs/student organizations, and  especially in the workplace with part time jobs or even in one's career.

The most recent, and time consuming, organization I am currently involved with is that of my part-time job here at the University of Illinois. I work at the iconic campus bar known at KAM'S. I was was first hired at this famous liquor establishment in the spring of my freshmen year to pick up cups with the seemingly occasional pay to now, two and half years later, serve as one of the six senior managers in addition to being the one responsible for event planning and the weekly scheduling of a staff of over 120 employees.

When I first started work at this over 80 year old bar back in April of 2014, I was in the bottom 3 of 60 doormen and barbacks. The two or three shifts a week I would get scheduled mainly consisted of sweeping up cups, standing guard at a doorway or in the beer garden and even cleaning bathrooms after nights with crowds exceeding 1,000 intoxicated patrons. Many doormen do not last or lose the motivation to work due the compensation infrequently being worth the tasks completed. While early on, I was busy with school and an other student organizations I was a part of I never lost the motivation.

Over the next two years I worked hard to slowly start to move up the list of doormen, picking up shifts whenever I was available, and strived to make a name for myself amongst the staff. After staying down and working last summer, I was allowed to pick up bar tending shifts so I did and proved myself as more than just a doorman. In November of my Junior year, or just last year, I was rewarded a mid semester promotion to Head Door.

After finishing the rest of my Junior year as Head Door, just this past April I was promoted again and this time to one of the seven student manager positions. This past summer I stayed down yet again to take classes and work. Myself along with another 20 or so summer staff members proved ourselves by having the best summer sales the bar has seen in over a decade. In addition to serving as a manager, I am in charge of event planning for the bar. I've networked with hundreds of students in dozens of different student organizations and fraternities to promote hosting their events with us. Also, as well as being responsible for the weekly scheduling of the staff I control employees position on their respective lists. Based on staff performance, I with the consultation of other managers now determine who needs to be promoted or raised on the list and on the opposite end have to lay off employees when deemed absolutely necessary.

I am happy and proud of my success at KAM'S. I learned what it took to succeed over the years in my various positions and now after reaching the highest level within this organization I now look forward to the year ahead to just continue to manage how I see fit but also hope to continue to learn and strive to become even better. I will have loved my time at KAM'S and will be sad when it is over  but I know my time there has given me a far better reward than just my final title and now bigger paychecks. I have learned what it takes to stay motivated even in the toughest of times and the general satisfaction to start from the absolute bottom and work to earn the top title and am now eager to take this and apply to my next endeavor and future career.