Serious Teamwork Lessons from a Silly Team Cheer Exercise

I might be overthinking this, but after finishing training for my job the other week, I felt that my team cheer could have been better and I wondered what I could’ve done differently.

Here are my thoughts:

1. A flat hierarchy does not work for large groups

I believe in flat hierarchies. In fact, I did most of my master’s program work in flat hierachies where we could all speak our minds and we each had authority for input on the project. That was 4-6 people though. With my DU team, we had ~25 members. Without a leader/manager to make decisions and continuously drive the project forward, we found ourselves with a lot of ideas, little progress, and no one to push us through the project stages.

I had taken initiative by working by myself one night to think of lyrics and the right song and pitched it to the class, which they accepted. I stepped back after, thinking that the project would work itself out from there. It did not and I regret not taking a firm leadership role.

2. Divide and conquer works

The most effective period for my team was when I divided our cheer into 3 committees: one small group worked on an introductory rap, one small group worked on lyrics for the pop song, and I had a talented team member create the music track on her laptop. Within 2 hours, we had lyrics to both parts completed and the music to blend them together. It was a disproportionate effort, but the important thing was that we had major progress in a short amount of time and breaking up a large group into smaller pieces with singular objectives is effective.


3. It’s okay to have disproportionate contribution

Every time we opened up the floor for ideas or discussion, we had a tsunami of them, because it was a fairly extroverted group. Some ideas were good, but ultimately, it’s actual movement, not great ideas, that pushes a project forward. The important lesson is that not everyone needs to give a lot of contribution. I like watching NBA and e-sports. On those teams, they always have star players, supporting players, and some bench players. Why shouldn’t I think of our own team composition in the same way?


4. Bench-marking is important for growth

I talked with members of other teams afterwards. There were two teams whose presentation I really enjoyed, with one being the overall winner of the competition. One person said that they had their idea only 45 minutes before the event began and they practiced it over and over. Another said they finalized their idea with only 15 minutes before the start of the even. All teams at DU started at the same time, with the same constraints, and the same objectives. Yet, we were not well-rehearsed and coordinated, while the best teams had a very presentable and organized cheer. Bench-marking is so important because it helps us analyze the field of competition and it allows us to gauge our own performance.

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