As I have written in earlier blog posts, I took three pedagogical courses this spring to get closer to the associate professor goal (15hp). I wrote about the course on oral presentations here and the course on methods for activating students here. I will soon write about the third course on assessment, grading and feedback. Apart from pedagogical courses I also took a group leadership course, which ended Wednesday last week with a full-day session about how to detect and handle conflicts.
During the scope of the course a small group of researchers/leaders, with varying backgrounds and positions at the University, met about once a month for full-day sessions on different themes related to group leadership. Lunch was included every time. Even though theory was provided through short lectures, the focus was on discussions, role play and other leadership exercises. Since quite a few of the discussions and exercises were based on the course participants’ own experiences, I will not give any concrete examples here. We decided at the first session that we should not talk about the issues discussed during the course with people outside the group.
The course covered a wide range of topics and the common theme was active listening. The course covered establishment of norms, listening strategies, reflective teams, positive and negative feedback to colleagues and private talks, just to mention a few of the themes.
One of the most challenging themes was the one about providing negative feedback. It is really hard to give someone negative feedback on their actions, while at the same time framing the feedback so that 1) it will lead to a change in behaviour and 2) it will not have a negative impact on the work relation between me as a leader and the co-worker. Another one of the more challenging topics was private talks initiated either by me as a leader or by a co-worker, with the focus of discussing some problem encountered at the workplace (often focused on someone’s behaviour). The most challenging part in this case is that the problem that gave rise to the meeting is often not the big issue. In these talks it is up to me as a leader to ask open questions and search for “free information” in order to get the whole picture and find possible underlying problems that are much more important to deal with. If you are not good at active listening techniques during these meetings you may end up focusing on a minor problem instead of a major one.
I really enjoyed each and every session of the course and I can really recommend this or a similar leadership course to persons in any kind of leadership position! I really think that I will be able to approach my colleagues in the groups I’m leading in a better way now and I hope I will also be better at spotting potential problems early on and taking measures to handle them.