The Technology Management minor at UC Davis offers an array of interesting and practical courses, one of which is MGT 150: Technology Management. I found this course compelling and relevant, but it was not until after I completed it that I realized the extent of its value, as I observed and was able to apply course concepts to jobs, internships, and on-campus organizations. MGT 150 focuses on interpersonal issues within the business world — maintaining relationships within a group, managing and leading employees, and navigating team dynamics. The course is incredibly applicable to any group one might find themselves in, and the following lessons I learned through the course provide insight into how one can improve leadership and team management skills.
A key aspect of effectively working with a team is understanding that personalities differ. There are no personality types that are inherently superior; personality differences should not be viewed as problematic, they are simply part of working with others. Hence, a section of this course focuses on deepening one’s understanding of personality types through assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and DISC. Being cognizant of personality types is beneficial for functioning within a diverse team as well as increasing cohesiveness and productivity. Moreover, understanding how we interact with others allows us to capitalize on our strengths and recognize our weaknesses.
A significant facet of fostering relationships and being a high-quality team member is practicing emotional intelligence and empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand what others are feeling and view situations from their perspective. One can exercise empathy by actively listening, being non-judgmental, and validating emotions. Emotional intelligence (EQ), on the other hand, is the ability to perceive emotions in ourselves and others, comprehend their meaning, and regulate them accordingly. EQ improves empathy, social skills, self-awareness, self-regulation, and motivation. A large aspect of business concerns people and forging genuine connections with others. Thus, exceptional leaders and team members are able to understand what and how others are feeling, respond appropriately, and step outside themselves to focus on others.
It is vital to confront group issues directly and avoid allowing these issues to persist, as this will only lead to increased tension and reduced productivity. A valuable framework for analyzing team conflicts is known as the five dysfunctions of a team, developed by Patrick Lencioni. The five dysfunctions are absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. Strategies for overcoming these dysfunctions include being vulnerable, demanding debate, emphasizing clarity and closure, confronting difficult issues, and focusing on outcomes, respectively. Frameworks such as this help managers identify sources of group conflict and implement strategies to remedy those predicaments. It is also important to acknowledge that conflict is a natural part of the team development process; positive aspects of conflict include collaboration, learning, inclusion, and innovation. While the course covers a variety of team conflict frameworks, Lencioni’s model is easily observable and applicable to group settings and is a useful tool for navigating disputes.
MGT 150 examines several motivation theories, the most prominent of which is McClelland’s Learned Needs Theory. This theory argues that we have three driving motivators – power (influencing the behavior of others), affiliation (belonging and connection), and achievement (the drive to succeed), with one trait being the most dominant. Identifying the main drivers for employees and implementing strategies to support them can boost productivity, motivation, and employee satisfaction.
When it comes to leadership characteristics, there are several pivotal takeaways from MGT 150, one of which is the difference between transactional and transformational leadership. Transactional leadership consists of motivating employees by exchanging rewards for performance. This leadership style focuses on an exchange between the leader and the employee. Transformational leadership, on the other hand, consists of focusing on team-building, motivation, and collaboration with employees at different levels of an organization. A transformational leader has character and competence, places more trust in the employee, and focuses on developing them rather than evaluating them. Change in the employee occurs in their attitude and mindset rather than behavior. Transformational leaders are highly effective at increasing employee contribution and creating an environment conducive to innovation and meaningful change.
Furthermore, a powerful leadership attribute is the ability to be vulnerable. While many might believe that leaders should have all the answers, this is far from the truth. While we may view vulnerability as a weakness in ourselves, it is perceived as courageous by those listening. Expressing vulnerability fosters greater employee-manager connection and trust.
In my personal experience, the best managers and team leads I have had the pleasure to work with have exhibited transformational leadership and were not afraid to be vulnerable. I believe the best leaders are those who have a real interest in connecting with the people around them, forming meaningful relationships, and helping others reach their potential.
Overall, MGT 150 is an incredibly valuable class that emphasizes pragmatic concepts and strategies related to leadership and managing teams. Its interpersonal lessons will prove advantageous throughout one’s career and life.