According to the Least Preferred Coworker [LPC] scale, relationships motivate me [a score of 75].
As I discussed last week, I feel there is variability in these types of assessments and if I re-took the assessment a week, a month [etc.] from now, I would score differently. Nevertheless, at this point in time the results are clear, I value people, enjoy pleasing them, and value loyalty among coworkers. From knowing myself better than anyone else, I’d have to agree with the values a high LPC score denotes. However, my competitive side also values completing a task and desires competence in my coworkers. Looking at my satisfaction with types of work I’ve done over the past one and a half years [at State Street], I know I prefer long-term projects over repetitive short-term tasks. In fact, a few months ago I moved over to a processing team, where the tasks are similar, day in and day out, and the volume is high. Although I derived pleasure from finishing a high volume of these tasks, I found myself making mistakes as the tasks require an attention to very minute details. Part of these tasks involves applying tax rates to a client depending on their residency, account structure and other details. I found I would constantly apply the wrong tax rate [luckily, our auditors caught all of these before they went live] or make a small typo. Overall, my quality of work on this task-processing team was good but not exceptional.
Meanwhile, I was working on multiple projects before joining the task processing team, and earned an Outstanding Performance award for my devotion to the project’s goals. On these projects, I would have to build a good working relationship with coworkers in the office and in outside organizations. I excelled at building these relationships, which allowed me to push my coworkers and contacts when necessary without damaging the relationship. I also paid more attention to the details of the project, and made fewer mistakes as I had a commitment to my coworkers and contacts to ensure quality work. Also, the details in the projects were of a much more complex nature and dealt with client and market situations, rather than minute details.
So even though I fight the results of these assessments, it does seem, compared to my actual experiences, that I am a high LPC, at least more than I am a low LPC. Rather than being heavily tilted to one side, I feel that I use aspects of both, depending on the situation and my mood, to accomplish my and the organization’s goals. It also does not surprise me that my LPC shows I am motivated by relationships right now. I work in the typical corporate office setting, where networking plays a much larger role in promotions than performance.
There is a leadership situation in my past, which goes counter to my current LPC score. In this situation, I was the formal and informal leader! A brief background, in the 6th grade, I gained admission into the prestigious Boston Latin School, a public exam school [you must pass a test to enter the school], for the 7th grade. In the 8th grade, I tried out for and made the freshman football team. Although there were tryouts, in essence everyone was able to play for the team who had a modicum of desire or bare minimum of skills. At Latin, our athletic teams are not the focus of the school, and are quite often the last area to receive funding. We still do not have a home football field and instead share White Stadium with the other city schools. The lack of funding and focus on academics has negatively affected the football’s teams performance. The freshman team had a longstanding tradition of winless seasons, a tradition which repeated in my first year on the team. In the 9th grade, I was appointed to one of the two co-captain positions for the freshman team.
Accepting my responsibility as a captain, I was extremely motivated to win at least one game. That was my goal, and I viewed each game as a task with a clear success/failure evaluation. If we won, we succeeded; if we lost, we failed.
Self-Rating of Effectiveness
Although the freshmen team did not win a single game under my captaincy, I still feel the group and I had a few moral victories. For one, right from the start we were behind all of our competitors. Rather than playing against other public high schools in the city of Boston, we played in the Dual County League, playing teams from rich suburban neighborhoods, with a lot more resources and focus on their athletic success. Many of the kids on these suburban teams had been playing together since their early youth, so they not only had more experience playing football, but also more experience playing together. There were more than a few games where we were simply blown out.
Another disadvantage which directly affected our group performance was our lack of a home field. Whereas the varsity team played at White Stadium, a shared home stadium among city teams, the freshman team traveled to our competitor’s field for all of our games. Not only did we not have a home field crowd to motivate us, we also experienced biased referees who would clearly make calls to help the home team. If we could have played all of our games under unbiased referees, we definitely would have won at least a couple of games. Even though we failed my goal of winning one game, under the circumstances we performed admirably.
The fact that this was a high school football team helped and hurt leader-member relations. For one, we were all less mature then, and petty differences between people would cause fights between individuals occasionally. I didn’t help matters much either, as I led by a decidedly authoritative style, often yelling at my teammates after we lost games. In particular, a lot of my teammates didn’t seem to care as much about the end result of the game as I did; conversely, I cared too much about the end result in the grand scheme of life. I really wanted our team to break the winless tradition and my teammates understood that no one would blame us for not winning a game. Neither side was right, and a healthy medium existed which would have benefited everyone if both sides drifted more to that healthy middle ground. Hence, even though I led with a strong right hand, I also was friends with many of these people on and off the field, which helped me avoid physical harm from my leadership style. My friends and teammates understood I just wanted us to win, but then and now they think I would have been more effective if I relaxed my style a bit. The other co-captain led more by example and less by actual leadership. He was calm and stayed back often, but at times would also yell and shout at our teammates; the difference is when he yelled our teammates knew he was dead serious and it was time to shape up immediately. He still should have been more vocal, and several of our friend-teammates encouraged him to talk more often. We all had our faults back then, hind-sight is great now but at the time we tried our best and still often failed miserably.
Task Structure Part I: 16/20
Task Structure Part II: (-) 3/9
Task Structure: 13
Any sports team has to be structured to ensure all of the players and coaches are on the same page, hence why every sports team has a playbook. The playbook is the blue-print of the team’s strategy. Plus, the goal is obviously clear, win. The team’s schedule also has to be structured to ensure everyone is at the same place at the same time. If the timing of the players is off, the play usually won’t work and might even result in penalties. On a successful team, everyone knows their role and understands the step they need to take to fulfill that role. In this way, our team was like the majority of teams. Timing and adaptability were the two big shortcomings of our structure. As I said before, we were at a disadvantage since all the other teams had years of experience of playing with each other, and had all of their plays and timing and style down quite well. They were also able to adapt plays to the talents of their players, since the coaches had plenty of time to evaluate their players and adjust their strategy accordingly. On the other hand, our team’s coaches barely had enough time to implement our playbook, yet alone start changing it to fit the unique skills of our players.
I had one year of formal experience and training over the rest of my teammates, so I chose a moderate level of training and experience. I didn’t choose very little because our academic program was much better than any of the other schools and trained me to critically analyze situations, which comes in handy on a football field, where you have to quickly analyze and act on a huge number of factors during every play. My obsession with football also helped analyze game film and adjust my game accordingly.
As a co-captain I had some power over my teammates, but the coach is the dictator in this situation, and at best I could only offer recommendations on players and strategies.
Did my leadership style fit the situation? At the time, no, if I was in the same situation now, yes. At the time I was much closer to an a low LPC than my current high LPC. A low LPC thrives in situations with high or low control, whereas the co-captain of a high school football team has moderate to low control over the situation, requiring a high LPC for success. My co-captain was closer to a high LPC at the time, but he too struggled with the low control portion of the situation, whereas I was a low LPC at the time, and struggled with the moderate control of the situation.
The results of my low LPC style in this moderate control situation match the predictions of Fiedler’s Contingency Theory on the surface. Below the surface, we had a few moral victories which just do not show up in quantitative analysis of the situation. The next year, our junior varsity team, earned a 4-6 record, and still all of us objectively agreed we should have been 6-4, if a very few factors were flipped. Of course, the opposite is also true and we could have also ended up with only 1-2 wins too. The junior varsity team kept the same two captains from our freshman year and added two additional captains. I also matured greatly and focused much more on relationships, for instance making sure my teammates didn’t play hurt and that everyone got a chance to attempt a position they wanted to play. I also had a lot more input with the coach on how our team should be managed. Although I was still focused on tasks, the fact that we were succeeding at these tasks took the edge of my authoritative style and I gradually moved to the middle of the LPC scale, where expecting competence and loyalty from my teammates greatly improved my leadership effectiveness.
If I knew what I know now, about football and leadership, I am quite confident that if placed in the same position, I could share enough knowledge and help my teammates by leading them on the path to (at least one) victory.