This semester I am a research assistant for the Georgia Tech Effective Team Dynamics initiative. I have been learning a lot about Gallup Strengths Finder in addition to doing lots of scheduling, data analysis, and giving feedback on new tools being created to facilitate team dynamics conversations. This week I’ve been doing research on the idea of delegating tasks vs responsibilities in order to create the following document to support teachers wanting more knowledge on the topic before facilitating our activity for creating a responsibility-oriented work plan. I found the topic pretty interesting so I thought I would share the resources.
In student teams, often what will happen is that students will choose to delegate tasks to one another, and everyone just does their individual part and brings it back together for the final product. When tasks are delegated it is easy for students to do the bare minimum – just do the task (“create an article about the product”) and not do anything more. However, we want students to think about teamwork with a shared leadership mindset where everyone has responsibilities, which they lead. We want students to think this way because when teamwork is divided by responsibilities everyone gets a chance to demonstrate leadership and there is more opportunity for students to go above and beyond. For example, with the situation from above, if the student was given then responsibility of leading the product marketing, they might choose to create an article and then also create an entire social media campaign and hand out flyers, etc, which is much more elaborate than just the task of creating an article about the product.
The shared leadership model also fosters better collaboration amongst team members because it creates a co-dependency dynamic. Due to the fact that responsibilities are a larger duty than a task, students may need support from other team members to efficiently manage their responsibilities. The student responsible for marketing is dependent on the student responsible for product design to provide sketches and diagrams of the product in order to be included in marketing tools. Meanwhile, the student responsible for product design is also dependent on the student responsible for marketing to provide details about the ideal client so that the design can be tailored to that client’s needs. With shared leadership, it is everyone’s responsibility to understand this need for co-dependency and be aware that they must effectively communicate what they need from each other in order for every student to both lead their responsibility while also supporting other team members.
In the activity “Making a Responsibility-Oriented Team Work Plan,” we ask students to use their strengths to outline major steps in their project and claim responsibility over these steps. In order to support you in leading this activity, we have curated the following additional resources for further information about responsibility vs task, shared leadership, and transformational leadership. All of these sources are related to the idea that we want students to think of teamwork as everyone working in both a leadership and supportive role appose to one team leader who delegates tasks to others. The resources are listed in the order of what we believe is most helpful.
This short blog post breaks down some of the main differences between responsibility and tasks, specifically focusing on the difference inability to make decisions.
This five-page document details the four basic delegation strategies, when to delegate and when not to delegate, and appropriate steps for delegating. Specifically take note of the section about delegating authority so that other members feel responsible to make decisions. The sections on choosing the right person for the job, creating mutual expectations, and setting deadlines may also be useful when facilitating student teams through the process of delegating responsibilities to different team members.
This short blog posts gives a few quick examples of how you might phrase giving a responsibility vs a task for the same general assignment. ‘For example, “participate in team decisions” is a responsibility; “attend team meetings” is a task.’
This three-page paper provides a more in-depth description of shared leadership and summarizes some of the current literature on the topic. There are a few personal antidotes included that could be useful to understanding how shared leadership could work in practice as an educator.
This three-page document summarizes transformational leadership theory and it’s four elements: Individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation, and idealized influence. Transformational leadership emphasizes inspiring and motivating followers to be more creative and foster a strong workplace environment; this is relevant when thinking about moving towards a responsibility-oriented team dynamic where everyone feels empowered to take ownership over different aspects of a project.
This thirteen-page research article discusses the importance of effective leadership and reviews literature on some of the different primary leadership theories including servant leadership, authentic leadership, and transformational leadership. An understanding of some of these different leadership styles may be helpful when distinguishing the desired behavior of student teams.