Building camaraderie through team retreats

Date posted: 
Monday, July 15, 2019
Author: 
Margaret Najjingo Mangheni, GREAT Co-PI / Brenda Boonabaana, GREAT Associate Project Coordinator / Peace Musiimenta, GREAT Trainer

 

The Makerere training team had a retreat from 17th to 18th June, 2019. Attended by eleven team members, the retreat was held at the idyllic Malakai Eco-lodge in Kitende, Wakiso, Uganda. The purpose of the retreat was to build training capacity and engage in team building. It came at an opportune moment as GREAT welcomed new trainers to the team. The retreat was facilitated by renowned process facilitators; Dr. Richard Miiro and Dr. Maria Nassuna Musoke from Makerere University who also double as GREAT trainers. The beautiful ambience in the suburbs of bustling Kampala city, lent the right atmosphere to this two-day engagement.

To get more and different perspectives about the event, we'll publish blogs from the Team Leader Associate professor Margaret Najjingo Magheni, the Associate Coordinator Dr. Brenda Boonabaana, Dr. Peace Musiimenta, Dr. Thomas Odong, Dr. Rosemary Isoto and the administrator Elizabeth Asiimwe over the coming weeks, starting out with Drs. Mangheni, Boonabaana and Musiimenta this week.


PROJECT TEAM BUILDING RETREATS ARE INVALUABLE
Dr. Margaret Najjingo Mangheni, GREAT Co-PI

The power of teamwork in getting things done effectively and efficiently is undisputed yet it is surprising how little attention projects devote to ensuring that team members function well together. When a ‘team’ wins that coveted grant, the most important thing on their mind is getting the targets set, work plans approved, funds released, and off they go to a frenzy of implementation of time bound activities, meeting deadlines, etc. Yet, seemingly trivial personality differences can tear a team apart and render all these efforts fruitless. I found the two days spent by the GREAT trainer team at Malakai Ecolodge invaluable in building the GREAT project team spirit.

 

 

One of the GREAT project core values is inclusiveness—we celebrate diversity and aspire to have all our trainees feel at home with the content we deliver and the training process. This calls for understanding diverse learning styles of our adult learners and how to design and deliver customized training that considers the context of learners and is geared towards application. Similarly, we desire that each member of our multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural, multi-national, multi-organizational trainer team is comfortable. Attaining this aspiration requires some key capacities—understanding the various personality traits, how they influence team functioning, and team skills. This was part of the agenda for the Makerere trainer retreat.

Our able facilitators, Dr. Maria Nassuna Musoke and Dr. Richard Miiro, shared the 'Four Bird Personality' test, created by Richard M. Stephenson. Abbreviated as D.O.P.E. (or Dove, Owl, Peacock, Eagle), the test measures how people easily relate to the four personality categories of Gary Couture. People of the DOVE personality have a strong desire for security of belonging. They are feelers; friendly, sensitive, patient, supportive and loyal. They like to listen more than talk and generally put people's welfare first. Those of the OWL personality love facts and figures. They are quiet thinkers; analytical, logical, conservative, reserved, cool, cautious. They enjoy listening more than talk and they put logic before feelings. People with the PEACOCK personality are talkative; confident, outgoing, dramatic, flamboyant, persuasive and animated. They like to put people before tasks and often seek emotional intensity. On the other hand, EAGLE's love authority and power. They are controllers; confident, dominant, assertive, impatient and ambitious. They tend to put results before people's feelings; and are dedicated, direct and honest.

We assessed ourselves to discover the personality of each team member. Then we reflected on the strengths, drawbacks of each personality type; advantages, challenges of different personalities working together and what needs to be done to enable different personality types work together effectively towards a common goal.

To drive the point home, we reflected on some of the frustrations team members go through stemming from their personality types. “I do all the work and she presents the report and steals the show—next time I will let her do most of the writing and we shall see…” Another could say, “We finished the report 2 weeks ago and he says he is still editing, checking to make sure the facts and figures reflect the most current World Bank report—why wait further—I am frustrated!” or another saying: “Our team leader is so mean and cold, how can he prioritise the report deadline when we have to visit one of our team members in hospital today?”

Understanding the different personalities on the team, the strengths they bring, the shortcomings, potential areas of conflict and how to forestall them helps teams to harness strengths and forestall challenges. In my opinion, the peacock’s persuasive outgoing nature can be deployed in marketing roles and quick start-up of team activities. The owl’s painstaking attention to facts, figures and detail though having the tendency to delay outputs ensures that the team delivers a quality product. The eagle with an insatiable desire to achieve results and targets often without due consideration of people benefits can be moderated by the doves who inject people-centred feelings in the team. By harnessing the various personality strengths, the team is able to balance the need to produce quality results in a timely manner, with attention to people and human relations.

We had a chance to reflect, laugh together in a lovely environment. We now have a better understanding of the diverse personalities on the team and how to best work together. When a potential conflict is brewing, a common joke is around the birds—for example, the eagle is at work.


APPRECIATING THE VALUE OF DIVERSITY FOR AN EFFECTIVE GREAT TRAINING 
By Dr Brenda Boonabaana, GREAT Trainer and Associate Project Coordinator 

A few days ago, I attended a Makerere University GREAT team retreat for Trainers and Mentor, held on 17-18th June, 2019 at Malakai Eco-lodge, Kitende. The menu of the retreat had a lot to offer- designing training for adult learners, facilitation skills, personality difference for a highly performing team. This was facilitated by two able GREAT Trainers, Dr. Maria Nassuna - Musoke and Dr. Richard Miiro. 
The second day facilitated by myself and Prof. Margaret-Najjingo Mangheni focused on a reflection on GREAT’s Field Training/Mentorship approach, and introducing some  innovative pathways to effective mentorship for the GREAT participants. While a number of elements were indeed handled, one of the aspects that struck my attention was the emphasis of, and sharing about, the value of appreciating and being sensitive to diversity during the GREAT course delivery, facilitated by Maria and Richard. 

The facilitators took us through reflexive discussions around diversity for an international adult training course like GREAT. The reflections stimulated us to think about the good practices, gaps and what we can do to perform better around delivering to diverse teams of participants. Using a participatory approach, we were able to identify some of the differences that might influence the training process and outcomes. One by one, we were able to identify the various diversities mainly related to the social-cultural, economic and sexual dimensions such as religion, ethnicity, race, sexual identity, education and economic standing. 

In particular, the facilitators emphasized the need to be cognizant of the prevailing realities around diversity, and use the knowledge to promote respect for one another, team spirit, and effective delivery. This would mean delivering the GREAT course in a non-judgemental, inclusive and sensitive space with international values of co-existence. An example was given by one of the facilitators that mentioned how in one of the meetings she attended, a member introduced herself as a “she”, when most of the members thought she was a “he”.  In this case, other team members were able to relate with her in a way that she preferred to identify herself with which helped. Other members were eventually able to relate with her without causing any emotional harm. Reference was also made to the need for sensitivity to religion especially while giving examples during the trainings. In an example that stimulated laughter, one of the facilitators mentioned that much as one might be prayerful, in an international team, it might be necessary for him/her to pray in their “heart” rather than subject a religiously diverse group to a particular way of praying.
 

 

It was emphasized how being insensitive to diversities may lead to alienation and harmful impact to some individuals eventually affecting both the reputation, effectiveness and sustainability of a training course. In short, the facilitators advised that as GREAT trainers, we need to exercise the value of neutrality regarding personal identities during the delivery of the GREAT course.

Participants also shared their experiences regarding working with different teams, and how they have previously handled issues of diversity. They all concurred that appreciating difference is useful, to enable the team focus on achieving a common goal. I end by noting that the retreat made me appreciate the value of ‘unity in diversity’ as a critical resource for an effective GREAT delivery. I am very grateful to the facilitators, the GREAT co-PI and my fellow participants for the good learning experience we had at Malakai Eco-lodge, and I will be very purposive in respecting diversity in the GREAT family comprised of Participants, Fellows, Trainers and partners. 


THE TRAINING AND TEAMBUILDING RETREAT TO REMEMBER
By Peace Musiimenta, GREAT Trainer

The Gender-responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) Project Team retreat organised by the Project Management Team (PMT) at Makerere University left an indelible mark on my heart. It was full of surprises. I could not imagine an Eco lodge of such an ambience in the vicinity courtesy of the project Administrator whom many participants owed a standing ovation for selecting such a serene accommodation. All the participants wished they had come with their spouses or friends since it’s hard to narrate the magnificence of Malakai Ecolodge. For example, I still recall how I had to cross a bridge to enter my ‘floating room’ surrounded by biodiversity; night full of sweet sounds of birds and frogs.

Apart from the biodiversity, the high level training facilitated by our own Dr. Richard Miiro and Dr. Maria Gorret Nassuna-Musoke was one of its kind. The highly engaging training focused on key areas of team building and diagnostics of self and other team members that left us wondering why we have never had such kind of mind opening and intriguing training before. The 4 Bird Personality (D.O.P.E. or dove, owl, peacock, eagle) test created by Richard M. Stephenson as a way for people to easily relate to the four personality categories of Gary Couture was fascinating. In summary, the four birds have different attributes that inform their way of doing things or desires and needs. For example, the peacock strongly desires to be the center of attention and to gain recognition, applause and fame; the eagle is result oriented and generally has a strong need to be the boss and to have the authority to make things happen. The dove wants friendship and enjoys being a supportive and caring member of a small group or team with a strong liking for security of belonging. The owl on the other hand desires predictability details, structure, procedure, analytical facts and figures or proof. Such different personality traits described by these birds mean that team work might be affected by the differences in people’s styles of work and interests. If you team an eagle with a peacock personality where both desire fame and applause, there is a likelihood of intense conflicts.

I learnt that knowing the personality style of those around me is critical if I am to work better with them because such knowledge positions me to understand their perspective, strategy, and preference compared to mine. Importantly, the take home message was the fact that each personality’s uniqueness and difference, weaknesses and strengths in handling relationships, emotions, communication, and conflicts is very useful and has a complementarity role. Working together in teams would be irrelevant and boring if all the members were the same. Implicitly, no one member in the team is better than the other.

The personality test helped the participants to identify themselves, their weaknesses and strengths and why they do things in a certain manner. It was interesting the way participants agreed accepted the personality test results to be a true reflection of themselves. I would recommend that any project or working with international teams undergoes such trainings before they start the actual technical work for cordial working relationships. Beyond the work relations, the 4 Bird Personality (D.O.P.E. or dove, owl, peacock, eagle) test could also be adopted by pre-marital counseling content to avert the challenges of incompatible married couples.