Team management/leadership advice?

Hi everyone!

Our FTC team’s been having some trouble with managing the shift from virtual to in-person, and also with organization, and I was hoping I could get some advice.

First of all, our team is doing a hybrid format, so we have most of the team in-person (face shields and masks required, obviously), and some people are on a Zoom call, and I’ve noticed that the virtual people aren’t really able to engage in whatever discussion is happening in the room very well. Right now we just have Zoom opened up on a laptop, but it doesn’t do a great job of picking up multiple voices, and we can’t hear them very well either.

Second of all, I think I’m trying to be a leader and I shouldn’t. I’m half trying to lead and half not wanting to at the same time. I wanna lead the team but I don’t feel comfortable with calling myself a leader for some reason, which is partially because we don’t have an official captain, officers, etc. During outreach events, I’m almost always the main person talking, if I’m not the only person there. People come to me when they need advice or if they need something to get done. Do I need to step back a little bit? Am I reading too much into people’s actions?

Also, I don’t think we communicate very well. How do you all keep your team organized, in terms of team structure, meeting structure, etc? Right now, we have 2 1hr meetings each week right after school, and people pretty much just get straight into working on their subsystems. The problem with this is it’s often hard to tell what is happening since we don’t really have the time to talk about what we are planning on doing at the beginning of a meeting / what has been done + what needs to get done at the end of a meeting.

Lastly, how do I convince more people to work on marketing, notebook and outreach? I feel like I’m the only one doing it and it gets stressful at times, especially when I’m not at a meeting and no-one documents anything they’ve done.

Maybe I just want to win too much? Maybe I’m micromanaging and I shouldn’t be. I really don’t know.

My bad if I’m asking too many questions. I’m trying my best to include everyone and to make sure being on the team is enjoyable for everyone, but I don’t think I’m doing a great job at it.

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First of all, I want to say that you seem like the perfect person to lead your team. I think the fact that your able to step back and be a little self-conscious/reflective about this whole leadership thing is quite frankly a positive not a negative. It shows that you have humility. It kinda helps to keep yourself in check every once and a while. Our team also doesn’t really have official positions like team captain or stuff like that. The way you find out who’s “worthy” of a leadership position is quite easy because they will naturally show themselves to others around them.

If you don’t feel comfortable calling yourself a leader, don’t then. At the end of the day you’re all just friends or at the very least people who take interest in the same things. Don’t feel compelled to take on a title if you don’t want too. Would you rather listen to a person who want’s to learn to be a good leader or would you listen to a person who just calls themselves a leader even if they don’t seem to really have any interest in learning to become one?

The fact that you have peers that look up to you and seek you out for help shows quite a bit about yourself. It show that your team trusts you and that they know you’re a person that they feel comfortable enough to ask for help. That should say a whole lot about your character.

To this day I still question my own abilities to lead others. It’s something you just learn to grow into. For all of us, we learn to do certain things. My mentors didn’t just come out of their mothers womb and know how to fix a car. They learned and gained that experience over time. That was very much the same thing I did and still do. You learn to make mistakes and glean any info from than experience and use in going forward. To quote Richard Branson, " If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!". If you’re afraid of letting down your peers, understand that you even trying to lead a team shows a lot more than others who haven’t even tried.

Feel free to reach out and DM me. I’m always free to be a springboard to bounce off ideas or questions. Granted I’m still learning too.

I think this might be a good reference point to check out and see if there is anything you can glean from it. How to be a team captain

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The only thing I would add to

is the unofficial motto of the Internet Engineering Task Force:

Rough Consensus and Running Code

which means everyone doesn’t need to agree to proceed and showing something can work (eg a prototype) is more valuable than just an idea.

Additional Background Here: https://www2.cs.duke.edu/courses/common/compsci092/papers/govern/consensus.pdf

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Sounds to me like you’ve become the de facto leader of your team, even if you don’t have an official title :slight_smile: Not that that’s a bad thing mind you, teams without someone in that role often struggle and fail as a consequence

We’re an FRC team, so it’s a bit different, but we have leads for each area, as well as a vice captain and a captain (me) to do that high-level coordination you mentioned. At meetings we’re really chaotic, but when we met in person it was pretty much just me jumping all over the place delegating tasks/managing things/doing tasks of my own and making sure everyone was fine. We have a discord server as well, and a Notion workspace for tracking grants and stuff.

It really takes kids who want to do it and a culture where it’s appreciated – maybe you need to cast a wider net? I t’s hard with a smaller team like FTC.

I have 100% been there for all of those things – IMO, the best leaders know when to reach out for help, and this is the right place to look. As for wanting to win too much, it’s good to have drive, but you have to also make sure you’re including newer members, so you can pass that drive onto them (speaking from experience here), and when trying to motivate people you gotta figure out what motivates them. You’re not asking too many questions at all, and TBH the fact that you’re asking here abt how to better the team experience just shows that you’ve got the right mindset for a leader to have. Feel free to message me if you have any other questions!

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My thought exactly.

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You might consider doing a different kind of hybrid format - instead of having every meeting be a mix of in-person and Zoom, separate it out into some meetings being entirely in person, and other meetings entirely virtual. For example, you could have mechanical and electrical working meetings in person, and software, marketing, notebook, and outreach planning meetings over Zoom. Or separate it out a different way, but I think people on a Zoom call while other people are running around the classroom trying to get things built is always going to be hard to stay engaged in.

For organization & communication, you might try having a ~15min Zoom meeting once a week to get everyone on the same page for what to work on that week. Alternatively, if you have enough pull, you could round everyone up at the beginning of each in-person meeting and make a list together of what to work on. If you can’t get them to do that, you could walk around to each group during the meeting and ask them individually what their plan is for the day. On Zoom meetings it’s easier to impose structure & force everyone to get on the same page before they split out into breakout rooms.

There are a few possible red flags for wanting to win too much; you don’t say enough in your post for me to be able to tell, but I’ll list them out and you can think about whether they apply:

  • You care about winning way more than the rest of the team - if they just want to have fun and do a cool project, or are super busy/stressed with other things in their lives right now, getting them to focus on being really competitive will be a stressful uphill battle
  • You start doing everything yourself because other people aren’t doing it well enough/fast enough; anywhere someone is slacking or might miss a deadline, you jump in and do it for them
  • You don’t let the new members work on anything interesting, because they might screw it up and this HAS to be done right, right away
  • You want to win so badly that it’s making robotics intensely stressful and not fun any more
  • You find yourself bending the rules or violating your own integrity in order to win

If none of that sounds like you, then I would say your desire to win is coming from a healthy level of competitiveness, and not to worry about it.

If the first one sounds like you or your team, consider having a team meeting to get on the same page about what you’re all trying to accomplish this season and what you’re each willing to put in to get there. Either they’ll agree that they want to be more competitive too, or you’ll have to accept that this is going to be more of a “have fun, make friends, try to learn something” year than a “do everything at the highest level & bring home the gold” year. If your teammates are struggling with hybrid learning, or people they care about are sick with COVID, or their parents are unemployed, there may be nothing you can do to get them to care more & work harder at robotics right now.

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Team Managment.pdf (1.4 MB)

I forgot how I came across this, but our team leaders did a review of this presentation. I have always been interested in team management as well, and am glad to hear you are as well. I think the leadership and management “strategies” are important to teach.

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Thanks for all the advice, I’ll definitely keep this in mind.

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