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This year, the RITS (Research, Instruction & Technology Services) team stayed in Winston-Salem for our annual team retreat. We reserved the President’s Garage which is close to campus but is perfect space for a daylong retreat. We typically aim for the Friday of fall break as our team is comprised of many public service/instruction library faculty/staff, so it’s one day that we can get away from the semester’s obligations!

This year I decided to incorporate a few of the types of activities I’ve been experiencing in the Career Development for Women Leadership program and in my leadership class at UNCG. Universal topics address teamwork and communication. With the level of changes and increased number of projects and service demands, I thought it would be a good idea to spend some time talking about these important issues.

I borrowed one of the team building exercises that I did recently. It involves having the team work together to untie knots in two connected ropes. The metaphor here is that the knots are “problems”. The team needs to analyze how to address the problem and solve it together. As I cheered the group on, they worked together to figure out how to remove all the knots and disconnect the two ropes. Following the successful completion of the exercise, we discussed what sort of teamwork qualities were important in being successful. Here is a short video of the end of the 15 minute exercise:

Then we spent the majority of the morning discussing communication. I discovered an assessment “What’s My Communication Style?” that had been used successfully by another department on campus. I acted as facilitator and the rest of team completed the 10 minute survey that identified their predominant style of communication:

  • direct (gets to the bottom line, maintains eye contact, presents positions strongly, prefers to be in control, thrives on competition)
  • spirited (persuasive, a good storyteller, works at a face pace, generates enthusiasm)
  • considerate (listens well, builds trust, values relationships, team player)
  • systematic (precise, seeks information, organized, makes decisions based on facts)

Of course, often people exhibit aspects of each style, and that enables them to switch between styles when they are relating with people whose styles differ from theirs. We learned how to spot what style other people might be so that you can flex your style to suit the particular situation. As a group, we agreed that there might be value to have others at ZSR do this assessment to establish their styles. We discussed how these styles might play into committee assignments both of members and of chairs, as well as other scenarios where understanding communication styles might help us reach our goals more efficiently.

Communication Assessment

The next communication assessment we completed concerned assessing how we tend to have crucial conversations under stress.

Finally, we turned to issues specific to RITS and ZSR Library. We reviewed our progress on this year’s team goals and made sure we were on track for the upcoming budget requests before we broke for lunch.

Roz was the “chef” for lunch, having shopped for a variety of salads at Whole Foods and by baking vegan cupcakes to celebrate Lauren Pressley’s birthday which was today.

We devoted the afternoon to “future talk.” In addition to exploring the future direction of Lib 100/200, we asked: what do we think is important and how do we establish priorities? How do we spend the right amount of time on the right things? And, how do we assess these and report them up the chain so that everyone knows what our team is accomplishing? It was a spirited conversation and we established a few concrete action goals to get us started. We will start working on ways to simplify grading in our information literacy courses without sacrificing quality assessment and we are going to start leveraging our top student assistants to work on some of the projects (like updating toolkit videos) we think are important, but for which we don’t have the time to do. The Tech Team will investigate the feasibility of introducing SCRUM to improve response and productivity with our technology goals.

To see some pictures from our day, check out my Flickr site collection.