In the short video clip entitled Senior Seminar, four college students (Clare, Susan, Enrique and Mike) are discussing topics for their project, which is a five-minute campus community discussion video segment. Apparently, the designated was Mike Wagner, as he was appointed by their professor, Dr. Keller, to set up their group meeting. Everyone in the group expected him to be the leader, but Mike cleared that up that he was just assigned to gather up the group and report back to their professor what they had agreed on.
Since the group do not have enough time, they chose to present topics, rather than to brainstorm on each one. Their professor preferred that the topic they should come up with should not be too “controversial” or “risque”. In the course of discussion it seemed that the emergent leader was Clare as she assumed the position of facilitating the discussion when Mike declined to take the position. When working as a team, leadership is essential to harness the group’s focus on the task assigned. On the first part of their discussion, Clare became so sensitive when Enrique suggested an immature topic for their project.
Although Clare snapped out, she apologized for it and reasoned out that she had some difficulties this semester. It was also a signal to tell her group members to take their discussion seriously because they do not have enough time. In this case, Clare led the group to undertake a task-oriented behavior during their meeting. Task-oriented behavior in a group meeting facilitates the systematic communication, evaluation, and analysis of information and ideas, and it aids problem solving and decision making.
Some examples of task-oriented behavior include developing an agenda for the meeting, presenting a problem to the group, asking members for specific information or ideas, asking a member to explain an ambiguous statement, helping the group understand the relevance of ideas, explaining how different ideas are related, keeping the discussion on track, reviewing and summarizing what has been said or done, checking on the amount of agreement among members, suggesting procedures for making a decision, assigning responsibility for follow-up action, and recessing or ending a meeting (Yukl, 2006).
Although Clare did not do all these tasks, other group members had their share of filling up the position during the meeting. Although Mike’s attitude towards Susan’s topic was quite irritating, he has a point of showing the group that Susan’s topic was just too big for them to undertake. Clare also mediated the heating up of Mike and Susan’s argumentations. However, Yukl (2006) informed that it is not sufficient for a leader simply to carry out the behaviors, a sense of proper timing is also essential. Any task-oriented behavior can be useless or even detrimental if it is premature or overdone.
For example, summarizing too soon may discourage contribution of additional ideas on a subject. A discussion may be excessively prolonged if the leader keeps on stimulating communication instead of testing for a consensus. It is also important for the leader to have considerable skill in the use of each kind of task-oriented behavior. For example, an unskilled leader who tries to clarify a member’s statement may succeed only in creating more confusion. A leader who is unskilled in summarizing may make a summary that leaves out key points and fails to organize contributions in a meaningful way.
Clare succeeded in clarifying the topics presented to her because it is obvious that she has more experience in working for television production than in any group. Thus, her capabilities made her an effective emergent leader for their group. With the effective facilitation of the leader, group maintenance behavior is enhanced. With team members working with task-oriented behavior during a group meeting, it increases cohesiveness, improves interpersonal relations, aids resolution of conflict, and satisfies the personal needs of members for acceptance, respect, and involvement.
Some examples of group maintenance behavior include encouraging participation by quiet members, preventing dominant members from monopolizing the discussion, smoothing over conflict, suggesting compromises, asking members to resolve differences in a constructive way, using humor to reduce tension, expressing appreciation for suggestions and ideas, suggesting norms and standards of behavior, reminding the group of norms agreed upon earlier, asking members for their perception of group processes, and pointing out process problems to the group (Yukl, 2006).
We could see in the video that Clare is seeking out Mike’s opinion because he was silent. It is good that everyone knows the thoughts of a silent member and it is a leader’s task to encourage everyone in the team to air out what they have in mind or if they are all agreeable to what the majority has decided on. Just as machines need periodic maintenance to keep them running smoothly, human relationships in a group also need to be maintained. As with machines, preventive maintenance should be carried out frequently rather than waiting to do corrective maintenance after a serious breakdown.
Group maintenance should be an ongoing activity designed to build teamwork and prevent the development of chronic apathy, withdrawal, interpersonal conflict, and status struggles. If allowed to develop, these problems will disrupt the task-oriented activity in a group and reduce the effectiveness of the group. Emphasizing on the group working as a team, an effective leader should help steer the team to a position that will empower individual members to contribute their creative ideas and talents to attain the common goal: accomplishing the team’s mission.
In the college group environment, teams materialize to focus on tasks or solve problems that are beyond the capacity of one individual. With this type of set-up that allow creative and innovative juices to flow through the constant sharing of information, people could appropriate division of labor among the members of the team can lead to more effective, more efficient and less stressful project. Their high levels of performance with regards to quantity, quality, and timeliness of work results can contribute to their sense of satisfaction, addressing a psychological and motivational need.
With incessant exposure to each other, team members could ascertain whether they have a team that can continue working together with synergy or their togetherness poses a detrimental effect on their output and interrelationships. In this regard, the video entitled Senior Seminar could teach students how to handle a discussion well when everyone has a task-oriented behavior and it showed that anyone in the group can be an emergent leader, when they have enough knowledge and skills to accomplish the task.