Associated Students’ “Quick Takes” event talks team culture, drama and the unknown

Coordinator of Associated Students (AS) programming and communications, Juan Guzman, and Coordinator of student organizations leadership development & assessment, Dan Burfeind, discussed the cohesivity necessary to keep teams together through troubled times on Instagram live. The event is one of many in the AS Power On series.

Guzman and Burfeind hold leadership positions at California State University, Monterey Bay, and brought their experiences with working in groups to the table. The topic came about at AS’ last Quick Take, in which a student asked how staff culture on campus affects the student leadership culture.

“I think that was a really interesting angle to explore,” Guzman said. “I don’t think I have ever really thought about how my interactions with my colleagues might affect how our students see their interactions.”

Both think that CSUMB is a friendly campus and that this friendliness is an asset to their staff relationships. “Any successful team needs to have a positive culture,” Burfiend said.

Yet, a better indicator of the strength of a group is their response to challenges. “Everyone can be friendly and happy and positive when things are going great, but what about when things are not that good?” Guzman said.

Factors that disrupt group cohesion, such as egotism and obstacles, are inevitable. It is the team’s response to such challenges that defines them.

Leaders play a large role in setting the precedent for responding to challenges. “If [leaders] panic, if they are talking behind people’s backs, if they are not ready for meetings … [they] make those things acceptable for those they are leading,” Guzman said.

For one, this means that followers are responsible for keeping leaders in check. It also means that a leader’s engagement is directly tied to how well followers align with the leader’s goals. “You need to care about the things they care about, regardless of if it’s not something you care about at all,” Burfeind said.

Miscommunicating goals often causes disagreements. “I feel like when people are being led, but they don’t know where they’re going … I think that creates a lot of drama within folks,” Guzman said. Guzman found that gossip and drama begins when followers are pushed to question the credibility of their team’s work. Burfiend added that an untrustworthy leader, or a “bad apple,” also contributes to similar conflicts among team members.

In order to address members that stunt a team’s growth, discussion and informed action are needed. Sometimes, you are that person, and have to recognize your own shortcomings. “If you are the problem … you can try to own it,” Burfeind said.

It can be difficult to navigate relationship issues within team dynamics, but successfully doing so is a way to prevent gossip. Individual members are also responsible for staying out of gossip, instead of fueling it. “You can influence team culture, but you cannot control team culture,” Burfeind said.

Guzman and Burfeind are planning to hold another Quick Takes session on April 23.

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