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First Year Experience Seminar Online Textbook

This is the main textbook for FYE Seminar to be used beginning Summer 2017

4.4.1 Teambuilding and Leadership


   Stop.  Whatever you are doing right now, stop for a moment.  Now, take a look around the room and notice the other students sharing the space with you.  While they may not make eye contact with you, you can immediately notice the diverse nature of Tulsa Community College.  There are students still in high school earning college credit, students who work full-time to support a family, and students who you might judge as “older” but have nevertheless chosen to pursue the same academic goals as you.  This is what you need to remember…always.

   No matter your background, no matter your upbringing, no matter the conditions that lead you here, everyone shares one common goal:  to graduate with their college degree and be a better person for it.  This is why you are here, right?  This is the same reason that those sharing the room with you also possess.  We all have that desire to achieve more, to do more, and to be more.  Once you recognize that there truly are no differences here, you can start to understand the importance of teamwork.  And, you will understand how to define a “community.”

    First things first…if this pertains to you (and please be honest with yourself), it is now time to rid yourself of all the “drama” from high school.  College is truly not a place for adversarial relationships or forming the same lunchroom “cliques” as before.  Of course, I do not mean to suggest that you need to be best friends with everyone you meet.  But, what would this hurt?  After all, do you think your overall college experience would be better if you just despised your classmates?  How do you think this attitude would transition to the workplace?  Would you want to spend all day, every day in these conditions?  Of course not.  No one would. 

    Every college student shares the same goals of graduation, but they also can share the same anxieties about school.  This is where “teamwork” can help.  From sharing class notes to forming a small study group, your classmates can provide a crucial element to your success.  Don’t reject it.  Embrace it.  Appreciate it. 

4.4.2 Teamwork Discussion

Question For Discussion – Can you develop a list of at least five “situations” at school where it would be important to have support from your fellow classmates?  Why?

4.4.3 Leadership & Management

Leadership and Management venn diagram

 “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”    — John. F. Kennedy

What do leadership skills have to do with learning? John F. Kennedy asserts that “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”    For college students to evolve into talented and educated citizens who can direct the course of not only their personal futures but the future of our global community, they must learn basic principles of good management and leadership. Likewise, good leaders continue to be life-long learners.  When leaders decide there is nothing left for them to learn, they enter dangerous territory and may cease to become effective managers of people and projects.  Because information and technology change at such a rapid rate in the modern world, keeping track of the latest research concerning a project is critical to good management. Also, every leader learns from his followers, and collecting the knowledge needed to complete a specific project is a shared responsibility. 

Colleges offer entire courses in leadership models and theories, so trying to review all of them in a short chapter is impossible.  However, there are some basic characteristics that will help students lead a study group, plan a student organization meeting, or develop a team project.

4.4.4 Project Focus and Goals

Project Focus and Goals

First, a group needs a leader who can direct a project toward a desired outcome or product.  To achieve this first step of identifying the project’s focus, a couple of direct questions need answers: What is the main goal? What is the desired outcome? Too often a team begins working on little pieces of a big project without any clear vision of the expected outcome.  Recently, authors Chris McChensey, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling published a book titled The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals (WIGs).  According to these authors, the first discipline is to establish one or two “wildly important goals” or WIGs as the authors call them.  The authors recommend creating only one or two goals and not five, six, or ten, indicating that when a team focuses on one or two goals, the group will likely complete both goals with excellence. If, however, a team undertakes five or more goals, none of them will likely be achieved.

 Magnifying glass picture Example of Brainstorming for a Project Goal:  A group of librarians at a college decided to add student activities that fulfilled their mission statement: Increase student participation in library projects that address a diverse population, target academic learning outcomes, require social interaction, and are fun for students. Here is the brainstorming that the group devised:

Project focus and goals diagram

The team leader presented the group with preliminary ideas that allowed the group to begin discussions immediately, analyzing each suggestion to see if it fulfilled the team’s mission. The carnival was everyone’s first choice because it was fun and interactive; however, the issues of diversity might not be addressed, and it would be tough to make the carnival as academically focused as their mission statement stipulated.   The next favorite was Band Fridays because the potential for social interaction was high, but the library had no funds to hire bands to play for the college.  The lunch workshops seemed a great way to introduce academics to students, but there is usually little social interaction during a lecture or workshop. When the group discussed Book Group Dates, they realized that the project could meet all their objectives for little cost. The book choices could address diverse topics such as the role of social media in college, date rape, or problems with racial discrimination on college campuses—topics that would apply to student lives and lead to engaging discussions.  Social interaction could be built into the project by making it seem like a real date with beverages and snacks provided and a few fun games to introduce participants to each other.  The topics would certainly be academic and the cost limited to expense for food and beverages, well within the library budget.  The librarians had a new single goal that accomplished all the items in their mission statement.

4.4.5 Action Plan and Time Management

Action Plan and Time Management

After the goal is established, the leader must help the team create an action plan and a timeline to achieve it. This sounds simple enough, but creating an action plan requires much forethought, hard work, and constant monitoring. In a brainstorming session, list all the small pieces that will need to be completed before the big goal can be achieved.  Keep in mind that more is not better, so carefully choose individual steps in a plan that are significant to the final product. What seems like a valuable piece may need to be dropped from the plan because the amount of work required to complete it isn’t that beneficial or critical to the overall project.

A critical component of leadership involves managing time. Build a timeline that lists all the major parts of a project, estimating the amount of time needed for each part and setting a completion date for each item.  Building backwards from the end of the project will provide a good estimated completion date. Once the estimated time of the project is calculated, establish a completion date and hold the group firmly to this date.  All the target dates for completion of small parts of the project are as important as the final completion date; there is no way a team will arrive at the project’s finish line on time if the small target dates are not carefully monitored and met.

  picture of a magnifying glassHere is the action plan and timeline the librarians created to complete their goal: Create 3 Book Group Dates in the fall semester.



Completion Date



  • Meet to decide on general topics for 3 Book Group Dates, establish dates of events, pick leader for each event, and set budget.
  • Have meeting to form subcommittees for each Book Date and invite faculty and staff to attend to serve on committees.  Create participant evaluation form.
  • Meet with marketing department to discuss launch of project.

End of Week 2

End of Week 3

End of Week 4



  • Open meeting for interested volunteers
  • Each subcommittee meets and decides on theme, book selection, and marketing tasks.

End of Week 1

End of Week 4


  • Meet with marketing department to create flyers for all events
  • Subcommittee for Date #1 submits final plan to librarians
  • Launch Book Date marketing campaign to students

End of Week 1

End of Week 3

End of Week 4


  • Subcommittee for Date #2 submits final plan to librarians
  • Book Group Date #1
  • Librarians meet to discuss changes that need to be made for Date #2 based on Date #1 evaluation feedback. 
  • Launch marketing campaign to students for #2

End of Week 1 End of Week 2

Beginning Week 3

End of Week 3


  • Subcommittee for Date #3 submits final plan to librarians
  • Book Group Date #2
  • Librarians meet to discuss changes that need to be made for Date #3 based on Date #2 evaluation feedback. 
  • Launch marketing campaign to students for Date #3

End of Week 1 End of Week 2

Beginning Week 3

End of Week 4


  • Book Group Date #3
  • Librarians meet to analyze feedback from Date #3; plan large meeting with all volunteers in November to evaluate program and thank volunteers.
  • Send invitation for final meeting to all volunteers on subcommittees.

End of Week 2

End of Week 3

Beginning of Week 4


  • Meet with all volunteers and valuate feedback to decide if outcomes were achieved and Book Group Date should continue into the spring semester; celebrate with a thank you reception after the meeting.

Week 2

Team members may need to acquire knowledge or additional skills to complete a specific project. The group may need to do some research or members may need to develop team-building skills to learn to collaborate and share ideas for the good of the group.   In this Ted Talks video, one researcher who developed the Marshmallow Challenge discusses some of the important ingredients in building team power.

If the video doesn’t play, you may have to update your Flash Player.  If you can’t, or are accessing on a device that doesn’t have Flash Player, click this link to view:

4.4.6 The Art of Managing People

TCC students working in group

We’ve talked about leadership to develop the project but not to manage people. A good leader finds balance between leading the group and collaborating with the whole team. Doing much of the preliminary research and planning before the meeting begins is the first step in collaboration.  A leader brings information, ideas, and possible solutions to each meeting, so preparation before the meeting is an essential part of the equation.  Once information is gathered and preliminary brainstorming and analysis completed, the leader can bring the information and choices to the team where productive discussion can occur.  Without preparation, meetings can quickly turn into chaos, wasting everyone’s time and frustrating team members.  One of the best pieces of advice I was given by a mentor was to be over-prepared with research and possible solutions to a problem, and then present the information and alternatives in such as way as to make the participants feel the best ideas came from them. A good formula for leading people consists of a three-part process that repeats itself over and over during a meeting:  Present information, ask for feedback from the group, and call for a decision. Make sure every meeting has a final product or outcome to keep group members motivated and focused.  No one likes to come to meetings where nothing is ever decided. 

Another component critical to good leadership has to do with verbal and nonverbal communication skills.   A strong leader believes that communicating is a two-way street, balancing clear and concise spoken messages with active listening.  As previously noted, advanced preparation by the leader helps assure the communications will be relevant and clear.  To lead effective meetings, consider organizing the meeting into brief agenda items and provide an agenda to members prior to the meeting.  Take time at the opening of the meeting to do a quick overview, emphasizing the goal and final product, the agenda items, and the mission for the day’s meeting.  Present options to consider for each agenda item so that the group doesn’t waste valuable time limiting possible options that on close examination are obviously ineffective.  Aim for consensus instead of competition in the decision-making process to create win-win situations in which everyone feels a part of the final decision instead of a few members feeling like winners and others feeling like losers.

We accept that nonverbal communication can affect our perception of others, but nonverbal actions can affect our perception of ourselves and even increase our self-confidence.  Skeptics can watch this Ted Talks video created by social psychologist Amy Cuddy, exploring the science behind “power-posing” to increase self-confidence. 

If the video doesn’t play, you may have to update your Flash Player.  If you can’t, or are accessing on a device that doesn’t have Flash Player, click this link to view:

4.4.7 EXERCISE: Developing an Action Plan

Please follow the link to view the document containing the exercise.   You will need Adobe Reader or Microsoft Office to view the document.  Adobe Reader can be downloaded at: .  You can download Microsoft Office through Blackboard: follow instructions on the “Student Resources” tab.

Read all instructions for the exercise thoroughly.

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