The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

MLDP Recap: "Being an Effective Team Player" with Steven Spaulding

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This ongoing series explores sessions of the Management and Leadership Development Program (MLDP) through participant narratives. MLDP is a one-term program designed to develop citizen leaders among sophomores, juniors, and seniors at Dartmouth College. Led by expert guest speakers each week, sessions employ experiential teaching techniques to engage students through hands-on learning of core management and leadership skills.

At one point during the last MLDP session, I stood under the Rockefeller Center's overhang, completely transfixed by Dartmouth Assistant Athletic Director Steven Spaulding's description of how to build a high-functioning, successful team. Our goal was to work as a successful team by using Steven Spaulding's 'diagram of teamwork.' As motivation, our prize was King Arthur Flour cupcakes. I first heard about Spaulding from my student athlete friends, who participated in a leadership program with him over my sophomore summer. As a result, I knew this MLDP session would be great. Splitting into teams and learning about our competition was immediately exciting.

Spaulding's diagram of teamwork consists of five layers. At the foundation is trust. It is critical for teammates to trust one another. Only through trust can a team overcome inevitable conflict, the second layer of the diagram. Teammates then need to be fully committed to working together and achieving their goal, the next layer. They also need to be able to hold each other accountable for individual duties. Finally, at the top of the diagram, results are achieved so long as the team adheres to prior principles.

For our activity to make use of the diagram, each team was divided into three groups. Each individual group had its own specific tasks. Each group also had to help the other groups achieve their tasks, however. One group could not speak and another, blindfolded, could not see. The last group, while having full communication capacities, had difficulty communicating with their other two parts due to geographical separation. The tasks included the blindfolded group attempting to move a ball into a small tin can, the mute group attempting to get an article of clothing from another group, and the final group attempting to start a fire.

The task of starting the fire was the ultimate goal of the entire team, even though this was not spelled out. "I think the activity was very realistic," said my fellow participant, Kevin Brotman '17. Small group discussion covered a variety of topics. How the activity applies to real life workplace dynamics was covered in detail. Often, only some members of a company know the full picture of current events or even what the ultimate goal is, while other members simply set out to accomplish their specific, small goal, without knowing the larger picture. Situations like these exemplify why communication and trust are so important.

-Written by Annie Smith '16, Fall 2014 MLDP Participant

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences