Leadership Experience vs Verzuh

Before I step on my soapbox about this weeks readings, you need to know a bit about my background. I have leadership and project managment experience. I grew up in the Boy Scouts where I led other scouts on camping trips and hikes all over New York. For the project to become an Eagle Scout I had to manage people to complete my chosen project: building a bridge and natural trail in my hometown. One summer between college semesters I was a canoe guide in Northern Minnesota. People would come to my base, where I would lead them through places I had never been for up to two week trips. I also have never been in an ofice setting before, so my experiences may differ from things that occur in corporate America. Since all these roles involved direct, personal contact with people I feel more qualified to discuss Verzuh’s chapter on building high perfomance project teams than Lipnack and Stamps material on virtual teambuilding.

First of all, I feel that Verzuh is far too basic. I felt that things like posting a set of ground rules on the wall and the “active listening tips” are unnecessary if the involved people are past college. This is geared for corporate America, if these people don’t know how to listen or know the basic rules of office conduct why are they still employed? A specialized set of rules for the group I can understand, but “be prepared,” respect each other, “begin and end on time” are things that everyone should be following anyway. The list of decision modes at the end also falls into this category of too basic, by the time you’re a professional anything you should have a grasp on decision making methods.

I also disagree with how Verzuh described conflict. He seems to paint it as a completely negative thing. Sometimes conflict can be a good thing: it can motivate people to work harder it, motivate them to learn more and alert leaders to issues that the group is facing. I think that Verzuh glossed over this aspect to get to his conflict management strategies. Even good conflict needs to be dealt with, but first it needs to be recognized as a driving, creative force.

I felt that the rest of the article was a good overview of how to guide a team to success for the project. Verzuh was able to articulate a lot of things that I’ve internalized and don’t think about anymore. Reading them (this is actually one of the first leadership articles I’ve read outside of my Boy Scout Handbook) made me stop and think if I’ve done/do those things. I consider that a sucess of his article.

The single biggest thing I took away from Verzuh’s chapter is the box titled “Problem Analysis Steps.” I’ve never seen this particular methodology before. Usually, my problem solving strategy is something along the lines of this: run into problem, brainstorm solutions/ask an expert, rank solutions based on probabiliy of success/ease of implementation, try solutions until the problem is solved. While this kida-sorta mirrors Verzuh’s steps, the fact that he has developed an actual methodology is something I will probably refer to again.

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6 Comments

  1. delvyncale said,

    October 2, 2007 at 3:05 am

    Have you gone up Sleeping Giant yet? I go before Thursday’s classes. Last week I got lost & was out there for 2.5 hours! Could’ve used a GPS!

  2. exploringinteractivecommunication said,

    October 2, 2007 at 5:36 am

    I love Sleeping Giant. Try it sometime.

  3. Cait said,

    October 2, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    You would be suprised by how many people in the corporate world don’t listen.

  4. pacio49 said,

    October 3, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    Ditto on Cait’s comment. The reason that Verzuh is necessary at all is because in many companies, there’s serious need for it.

    Yes, it all seems like common sense, but companies aren’t built on common sense unless you’re extremely lucky. Even the best companies can have their serious problem areas which need real attention. Empire building, office politics, et cetera all work against certain companies. And typically, when Senior Management wants to ‘motivate’ or ‘change things up’, the people that are causing the problems end up left behind while the promising new voices get canned or silenced. Why? Because the ones who are good at politics are skilled at survivng layoffs, but not much else.

    Sad, but true. Any eagle scout could run a company. But there’s a hierarchy of who gets heard and who doesn’t in many traditional corporations. You have to “pay your dues” before folks are willing to listen to you, and only those who kiss the right asses get the advancements.

    I put in 10+ years in the design world and never made it to the altitude where anyone really listened to me. Eventually, I stopped talking, stopped trying, and just took the production jobs.

    Welcome to the realities of corporate America. Good thing it’s fighting off a nasty case of Internet Paradigm shift. We can hope. 🙂

  5. rdmillner said,

    October 3, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    Wait, you mean I can’t jump right to the top of corporate America? At least jump to the middle? I don’t want to work my way up…. I’ll show them, I’ll start my own company… the jerks.

    PS. Sleeping Giant is fun. I like how the body parts are listed on the map.

  6. jadimauro said,

    October 4, 2007 at 1:12 am

    I just went white water rafting this weekend it was so much fun.
    I think that although we would hope that people would understand that they should be on time and listen it is amazing how that alll goes out the window in the corporate setting. Buidling your way up the corporate ladder really sucks and it sucks being on bottom of the ladder.


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