New Team Captain

Hi everyone,

I’m a junior on the team this year, and I was made team captain as there were no seniors to step up to the position. Last year, our team captains did not set a great precedent for this year’s leadership, and I was wondering if anyone could help me out with some experience and tips to make sure I know what I should be trying to do and not just wasting my team’s time.

I really appreciate any advice, on what to do and especially what not to do.

Thank you very much.

Always listen to your other students and the coaches so you have a wide range of advice and you can act from there. There’s always someone with a differing view than you and you should listen to them in case their ideas are better and you recognize that.

Realize you can’t do everything and don’t be afraid to delegate, ask for help, or step back on a subgroup and let them do their thing.

This is also a great opportunity to set some of your own precedents! Think of some of your team’s weak points (a dirty lab, perhaps?) and really push people to change that.

I would recommend that you put something in writing - what are your goals for this year? - so you have something concrete to follow. It can incorporate a lot of ideas from your teammates, as well.

Bone up on your knowledge. For example, get to know some of the winning designs of past years, explore McMaster-Carr’s website and design a west coast drivetrain. The more you know, the better you can lead the team.

And ultimately remember that the robot does not rest on your shoulders. Your job is to help everyone stay on task, work to a goal, and come together at the end; you’re a project manager more than a head engineer. Good luck!

When you are a leader, you depend on your people way more than they depend on you.

Search these forums for some good advice on leadership. I love to see juniors being captains than seniors, not because of experience but because they have 2 years left of being on the team and really care about the team later in the year

Lead by example.

Come into each and every meeting and get to work. Show people what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in your lab and on your team.

Setting the standard right from the beginning will help you greatly. Creating this type of environment will save you a lot of time by hopefully freeing you from having to keep tabs on the whole team at all times.


Thanks for everything so far, I did realize some of these things already, and am glad to know that I’ve started in the right direction, the other things I didn’t think of are just as helpful.

Thanks again!

Take a gander at this:

Two more things: Delegate the “fun” tasks to others and save the “boring” ones for yourself. This is tough to do but is the mark of a good leader. The other thing is that all of the younger students look up to you now (even more than previously.) They pick up on every little thing you do and will come to emulate it in time. Both good and bad habits are contagious within a team. Make sure your team catches and spreads habits such as enthusiasm, teamwork, and perseverance like a virus.

Good Luck, Bryan

Don’t order people to do things for you. You get a really negative response and then you become the bad guy. On the other hand you don’t want to be timid or meetings will descend into anarchy. Instead confidently ASK someone to do something, even if its not really a request. “Hey John, can you take the trash out?” works much better than “John! Take out the trash!”

I was in the exact same situation as you for my junior year (though 1189 has co-captains, so I wasn’t totally alone). Feel free to shoot me a PM or email if you have specific questions! Everything that has been said already is incredibly true. I think that one of the biggest things is to learn to delegate. I learned that when build season started - I had to, since I had to deal with being one of the more experienced builders and running the team. If you don’t delegate, you may get everything done, but it won’t be as high quality as it would be if you had focused on a smaller portion of the work.

Also, don’t forget to focus on school as well as the team. It’s okay to say “I don’t have time to do this because I have to study for 5 tests on Friday. Can you find someone else?”.

Do not make all the decisions by yourself; allow the members to makes the decisions. That leads to better productivity and higher morale from the members. I believe the captain should not impose idea, but they certainly do carry weight in their opinions. Do not try to do everything; leave the programming to the programmers, welding to the welder and ect. I believe the captain should be more of a figure head than an actual decision maker. They are there to unify the team toward the same goal; that goal must be chosen and approved by the team members. Listen to everyone’s suggestions seriously; you will be surprised what rookies can say. Also, please, do not get that whole superiority complex ego. You, too, are a high school student; captain is just a title. Lead by example and never do a “you stupid”. You have many things to learn and mature as well. Never abuse your power; being the captain is a privilege not a right. I believe the captain should minimize the actual building and designing or coding of the robot, but should make the team run smoothly. Perhaps, even do the paper work.

edit: another thing to add: it is not about the robot, but the people. Keep that in mind.

Always be sure to have faith in your team! If you’re always doubting that they can get things done themselves, which is why you end up doing them, then you need to start letting go a little more.

All the above advice is fantastic, so I’m just going to say that changing gradually is the best way to go. Changing too quickly will make everyone confused, and if you think too quickly on your feet, you might regret it.

Always reach out to your fellow teammates and mentors and realize that you’re not doing everything yourself just because you’re team captain.

Everyone will love you, if you’re doing what you want while working towards the same goals as everyone else in order to achieve. Don’t try to do things just because they will solely benefit you! As long as you have a passion to keep things moving forward with high hopes, your team will follow you wherever and look to you for advice.

My experience with leadership teams is that you’ve got to count on them to do what you delegate to them. You should be able to count on them when you’re unable to do tasks yourself. They’re not your offloading caddy though! The most important thing with a leadership team is to make it clear that they are not on any higher level than students NOT on the leadership team. Everyone has a voice, it’s just that students on leadership are stepping up to take more tasks.

The job becomes a lot harder on you when the team also goes through a transition, and when that happens, you just have to remember that everyone has your back, and that you shouldn’t over extend yourself. When I became team captain, my team was going through a transition of team leaders mentor wise. Our founder and 5 year team leader was moving out, and so a new mentor filled her shoes, and not only did I help the new leader transition into the role, I was able to make the steady transition with the team so they felt lots of good with the transition.

Good luck & congrats so far!!