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Unread 02-15-2012, 09:56 AM
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FAHA: Tissue-Thin

This FIRST-A-HOLIC has a mentor who is overworked and needs help getting the mentor to let others help. What advice can you offer?
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Hi. Our team leader, on the adult part of the team, is a great guy. He does a good job. But he's a teacher, of a few different courses, he coaches sports teams, he has a wife and kids, and robotics. He's spread really thin, and the wear is getting pretty visible. In addition, he's the only one, by his choice, that knows what's going on with every system and subsystem in our design. He's the guy who makes all the final decisions. But he's got so much going on, he can't always get the time to make the decisions, so the robot, and the team, suffer. He's spread himself really thin. I and the team appreciate his efforts, as does everybody in his other teams and classes. How can we tell him he needs to drop something? He's a nice guy, and nobody wants to be mean, and just tell him to take a hike, but we need more time than he can afford to give us. There are other teachers who will take up the burden, but only if he gives it to them.

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FIRST-a-holics Anonymous mailbox is a place to share your concerns about your FIRST experience anonymously. It is the perfect place if you just want someone to listen, or ask for advice when you donít know what to do. Submit your letters today at the FIRST-a-holics Anonymous mailbox forum. If you wish to respond to this thread anonymously, please PM Bharat Nain or Beth Sweet with your response and thread title.
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Unread 02-15-2012, 10:08 AM
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Re: FAHA: Tissue-Thin

I'd say start getting the other "replacement" people more involved with the team. If you can get to the point where things are going well without the mentor, he/she may feel like they can spend a bit of their time elsewhere. However, be careful with your approach. You don't want to sound like these other people are here, but you still need the mentor, and you don't want to sound like these new people are taking over right away, too fast. Give it time. Maybe try this over the summer, or the beginning of the school year next year when your team starts up again.
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Unread 02-15-2012, 10:17 AM
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Re: FAHA: Tissue-Thin

Another FIRST-A-HOLIC has been experiencing a similar issue so I've lumped these together
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My team has a great mentor, IMO the greatest in the world, but he will be leaving the team in a few years. He is starting to slow down his involvement with the team, and comes to only about 2 or 3 meetings a week. However, this mentor still keeps his lead mentor power, and we can't get too much done without his "ok". Because he's not coming to all meetings anymore, yet still makes the final decisions, we sometimes are left for a few days unable to do things until said mentor comes to a meeting to OK things. We'd get the OK from other mentors, however they still say our lead mentor has the final decision.

This has greatly hindered our team, and has wasted a lot of time during build, and unfortunately will be worse next year unless it's fixed. Any suggestions?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
FIRST-a-holics Anonymous mailbox is a place to share your concerns about your FIRST experience anonymously. It is the perfect place if you just want someone to listen, or ask for advice when you donít know what to do. Submit your letters today at the FIRST-a-holics Anonymous mailbox forum. If you wish to respond to this thread anonymously, please PM Bharat Nain or Beth Sweet with your response and thread title.
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-= Bharat Nain =-

Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Unread 02-15-2012, 11:49 AM
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Re: FAHA: Tissue-Thin

In both cases, there appears to be a lack of "delegation" of responsibility.

No single teacher or mentor can "do it all" it's simply not possible. These "single point of control individuals" need learn and understand that fact. Until they do, nothing can change.

In the first case, this overextended teacher/mentor needs to be made aware, that he will eventually burnout, breakdown, get sick, etc... One of my favorite quotes that I have found to be very true. "If you don't take care of yourself you can't take care of anyone else".

My advice would be to have the other adult mentors on the team have a serious, polite and civil conversation with the "single point of control" individual and help them to understand that their methods, there actions are holding the team back, slowing down the process and creating some hardships.

In ALL cases, there should be no single teacher or mentor that can become a limiting step or bottleneck. Ideally, you should have one leader, but you also must have other teachers/mentors that can do everything this single leader does. This allows others to "share" the load which makes it easier on everyone.

FIRST is a "collaboration" of educators and business professionals. Take a lesson from the large business world and delegate responsibility and accountability.

A common business example...
The "Lead" mentor/teacher is the CEO. They state the direction, they approve the budgets, they delegate they work. They resolve conflicts between sub-teams. They perform administrative and supervisory functions that others cannot do. Even they have a backup or alternate should they be unavailable for some reason.

The mechanical team designs, builds the components as required. They also have their own budget, suppliers and resources. They obtain their own materials within their budgets, set their own fabrication schedules, use what resources they have to do what they need to do.

The software team, writes to code, works with the mechanical team to make sure the necessary feedback controls are included in the design. They too have their own budgets, suppliers, resources and schedules.

all sub-teams operate somewhat independently and only need to report status and conflicts back to the CEO.
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Unread 02-15-2012, 01:23 PM
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Re: FAHA: Tissue-Thin

I think both posters need to have a heart-to-heart with their mentors. Take the mentor off to a quiet corner of the shop for a few minutes, and talk over how he's feeling, how the team is currently doing, and things like that. Then bring up:

Mentor A: You've noticed that he's really starting to wear thin (break down, be overworked). How can you help? Maybe persons X, Y, and Z are ready to help take some of the load off--but he has to let them. Which of those does he trust to make the right call if he is taking a much-needed break?

Mentor B: The team is having a hard time doing work because his schedule (or other valid excuse) doesn't allow him to approve stuff getting done fast enough. Which other mentor(s) would he trust to make a good final decision in his absence, and could he convey that to those mentor(s), as he knows he won't be there forever?

By telling the mentor privately that you've noticed this, and maybe he should designate a "proxy", you've shown that he doesn't have to run the team alone, or make the final call himself; by having him choose who the proxy is, he can choose someone he trusts to cover for him if he just needs some R&R. And, by the same token, you've shown him that you care about his well-being, as much as he might care for the team's. And by emphasizing the "in absence" part a little bit, you point out that a) this is only for when the mentor isn't there and b) the mentor might want to take a little more time off, knowing that the team is covered by another mentor.
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