Monday, January 24, 2011

Learning to Obey: Another New Trick for This Old Dog

UPDATE (1/28/11):  Not surprisingly, Project Coach has turned out to be a fantastic projectmate and a nice new friend!  This just reinforces my assertion that any initial challenges were my own.  Must learn to go with the flow more....

For one of my classes, I am encountering a phenomenon I have not experienced for many years… group work.  I have a paper to develop with a class partner, including finding and reviewing a ton of primary research, as well as a larger group effort involving building a long proposal.  Things are starting to get interesting, and I’m finding myself a bit flustered by the whole thing, more so even than with the whole downloadable book issue.
The irony in this is that my very career, has been built on collaborative work.  When you work in a niche advertising environment, it’s important to function well in a team: to identify partners whose skill set compliment your own, to determine and assign deliverables, to manage a timeline and ensure all components of a project are delivered on time and to specification, yadda yadda yadda.  One would think that this group activity for my class would fill me with ease and comfort since it, in theory, matches what I’ve been doing for work.  And one would be wrong in thinking that.
Let me state first that I really do respect, and even like, my project partner.  I can be a bit taxing to work with, since I’m a smidge of a perfectionist, but after only a few days working on our first paper, I can tell that Project Partner has similar tendencies. This is all good. But I’m also getting the sense that Project Partner isn’t quite used to working in a team environment. OR she is used to working in a team environment, but she’s also used to being the coach.
When we sat down at Starbucks to discuss the topic of our paper and how we should get started, Project Partner smiled and apologized that she had had no time to review a vital prep document, and she asked if I’d mind if she spent a few moments tackling that. No, I indicated, I did not mind, and so she scanned the document. From there, we determined our topic and wandered through some websites, familiarizing ourselves with certain databases, search norms and a few other key elements. All seemed fabulous and easy.
THEN… Project Partner unexpectedly morphed (was it just too much coffee?) into Project Coach. From the Time of her Transition, I couldn’t get more than a sentence out of my mouth at any given time. Project Coach reworded every one of my comments into some sort of “accepted verbiage” for the project outline. She redirected me if I made a suggestion. She dictated where I should and shouldn’t search for documents. I found myself wanting to respond to her comments with, "Yes, ma'am." It was unnerving!
The key here is that I’m probably too used to being in a management role. In other words, “It’s not her, it’s me.” (Yes, I know that’s grammatically incorrect.)  But man, this is going to take time to get used to! (Ditto.)
I suppose this is a learning experience, and since I’m in school to learn, this is all for the positive. Or so I’ll continue to tell myself until these papers are turned in.

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