Thursday, November 20, 2014

#9- Reputations

When it comes to my personal reputation amongst a group of people a specific situation always comes to my mind. I was the captain of my high school's water polo team my junior and senior year and developed quite the reputation amongst the opposing coaches and eventually the referees. Many people do not know to much about water polo but it is surprisingly an extremely physical game and a lot of things can happen underwater out of the view of referees and coaches and spectators. I played football , swam, and played water polo my freshman through senior year of high school so I was pretty active. Because of football we lifted weights almost every day, so that gave me a huge strength advantage over those who never really lifted just swam and played water polo. Over the first three and a half years I played being aggressive and overpowering people lead to me being very successful and to our team being consistently ranked in the top 15 in the state.

However, this reputation of being an aggressive , sometimes "nasty", player actually really hurt me the end of our season. There were only so many water polo refs and between that and playing against the same teams every year, they began to catch on and watch me close and closer resulting in many more fouls against me. Once they were aware of the way I played, and the way the guys on my team around me tried to play in a similar style, it really ended up hurting us as a team. I would constantly get more and more fouls called against me which would have never been called in the past, and even plays that were 50-50 I would no longer get the benefit of doubt and would be whistled.

My senior year we ended up making the state semi-finals but because of all the scrutiny on myself and they way our team played, I became out of rhythm and couldn't perform nearly to the level that i was in the past. The things I would do were not meant to injure people or to blatantly cheat but rather just try and overpower and hold back players slightly more than the rules called for, but that is very much a part of the game itself. But once i was no longer able to do that it really took a toll and threw me off completely.  The last couple of games of the season, after talking with the coaches, I decided to give up on my physicality and "cashed in" you could say, and became more of an outside shooter instead of an inside presence. This did help immensely through out the state tournament because teams we played against were not expecting this at all. But in doing this I was nowhere near as effective as i had been the first three and a half years and I still wonder if I hadn't have pushed the limits so much, we could have won state that year without all those extra eyes on me an my teammates.

Friday, November 7, 2014

#8- Principal-Agent Model

Given the prompt "The standard principal-agent model is bilateral. But in reality the situation is often more like a triangle, where the agent deals with two different principals", I believe that there are a few examples of this in everyday business. In some situations the agent, or middle-man, has to work for not only his company but the client he is working for. He has to be able to try and please both parties in order to be successful. Some examples of this are a lawyer working for both his firm and the client he is representing, a mutual fund manager trying to make money for his company and also trying to make money for the people's money he is managing. Another example of this would be a political candidate representing their political party but also representing the best interest of the people in their respective districts.

My cousin went into finance and currently helps people manage their mutual funds and 401k's and things of that nature. In that position he was to make as much money as he can for his clients within the boundaries of not taking big enough risks where he loses them substantial amounts of money. He is also under pressure from his company to make more money for them as well and what stocks will help the company as a whole as well. It would be easy for a person in a situation like this to "fail" one of the two parties he is working for. He could either be making his company a lot of money and slacking on the client's end or the reverse of that. The key is to be able to find a balance between and make both parties as happy as possible to avoid any tension.

Situations in which you must try and satisfy two different parties can not only lead to extra stress on the individual, but could also make the person make bad decisions that in turn hurt both parties while trying to please everyone. Its a sticky situation to be in sometimes but you must try your hardest to please them to the best of your abilities while also doing whats best for yourself. Similar situations also occur in most friendships. In a group of friends, many times people will try to hard to please everyone and will actually end up hurting their relationship with everyone as a result. It is important to try and find that balance between making everyone happy and getting it to a point where you dissatisfy all.

(On a side note the only things I know about my cousin is what he tells me, I'm not sure if those kind of situations have any sort of restrictions law wise, but thats the most I can gather based on the information I have been told.)

Friday, October 31, 2014

#7- Group Dynamics

Chapter 8 of B&D focuses on group dynamics specifically dealing with conflict and conflict resolution. Working in group or office situations brings together a large group of personalities, perspectives, and ideas on how things should be run and it can arise to many problems amongst the workers unless handled before things get out of hand. One example I can thing of of poor group dynamics is from a television show called Archer. It involves a CIA type organization and the agents have very different approaches on how they believe their "missions" should be performed. Sterling Archer, the main character, is a spur of the moment kind of guy who does things on the fly and doesn't put that much planning into the situation which often results in the group getting caught or running into problems. He does things to the beat of his own drum and is quite the hothead. The other main agent is Lana Kane, she is very methodical and tends to want to plan things out more and does not want do things "on the fly" like Archer.

Because of their difference in ideals and views on their job the other characters in the show are constantly having to resolve conflicts between the two of them. Although Sterling is more of a on the go kind of guy and gets them into some tough situations, his wit and quick thinking always gets them out of their problems. On the other hand when Lana runs things they never seem to run into any trouble, but because of her planning they sometimes miss out on their targets. They are constantly arguing over who is really in charge and the "top agent". As the show has gone on over the seasons their conflict resolution seems to be working and they seem more and more willing to work together in order to stay alive and keep their agency afloat.

Overall , good conflict resolution and group dynamics is very important in keeping a team together and working well. If a team does not work well together they have a hard time being successful and must be able to resolve conflicts efficiently in order to keep things running smoothly. With a wide variety of personalities in any given group it is also important to keep an open mind and not be so close minded that your own personal ideals are correct and be open to the fact that other's may have ideas that will help the overall team efforts.

Friday, October 24, 2014

#6- Team Production and Gift Exchange

The article "How to Get the Rich to Share the Marbles" focuses on the concept of "share-the-spoils" and the concept of egalitarianism. According to Merriam-Webster egalitarianism is "a belief in human equality especially with respect to social, political, and economic affairs". The article references some experiments involving toddlers and marbles and ropes. It comes to the conclusion that it is "pullers keepers" in almost all situations and the "rich" want to keep what they have earned. In real life this equates to the rich wanting to become richer while not wanting to give up any of their wealth to the poor which further separates the gap between the rich and the poor. 

This is a very real concept in the business world and in society as a whole. People have a tendency to have a very "me first" attitude and tend to make decisions that benefit themselves. But what people also have to understand that sometimes it takes teamwork and organization to be successful and it is not always done by one's self. There are some very concrete example of this in the sports world. NBA superstars such as Lebron James and Michael Jordan are considered some of the best players in the history of the game but they might not have been able to accomplish as much without the help of their teams on their own. This is evident when Lebron was unable to carry the whole team on his back while in Cleveland originally and win a championship but when he joined up with the "Big 3" and had a more solid overall team he was able to win multiple championships. Also, Michael Jordan may not have been able to but up the numbers he did or win the amount of championships he did without his fellow superstar teammate Scottie Pippen. 

Some personal examples of this come up a lot while on group projects for various classes. If you are in a group that everyone comes prepared and works well together and does their part the project will more times than not go very well and you will get a good grade on it. On the other hand I have had times where I was in a group where people did not pull their own weight and I had to put the group on my back and do the project essentially on my own. Although I still may have gotten a good grade on the project, it always could have been better if more people would have contributed their ideas to it. When the group works together as a whole the "gift-exchange" in  is that everyone better understands the material and receives a good grade on the assignment. If they all work together and want to achieve he same goal it makes the team more successful, rather than having a group of people with separate interests. In that situation the "gift" really has no meaning and individual you would be better off striving for your own goals. Overall I believe that teams and individuals can both achieve success but the way to approach it depends on the situations and the overall attitudes of those involved. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

#5- Managing Future Risk

I have two cousins who went to the University of Illinois and both graduated more than three years before I graduated high school. One majored in Psychology and the other majored in Economics and took the path of Pre-Law and eventually went on to law school. Before making my decision on my major I carefully observed how the lives of two of my closest family members went and tried to learn from their experiences. I choose to be a economics major and also pursue the Law route. My cousin who went to Law school as an aspiring career with much room for growth, not only monetary but also in terms of options on what he wants to do and how he wants to develop in his career. My other cousin who got his degree in psych ended up head-over-heels in student debt and continually has a hard time finding a job that truly fits his passion and is really struggling right now. When calculating my risks when deciding a major I took their two stories into account as well as taking into account what interests me and what makes me happy.

I currently am a senior and plan on graduating this semester roughly $30,000 in debt after my undergrad. Law-School is a whole other huge expense, somewhere upwards of $100,000 but there is hopefully some money out there that I have been striving to obtain. Over the past summers I have been working two different jobs in order to cut down on some of my debt and pay of my loans so I don't have as much of a burden on me when I do graduate. I worked as an intern a 3 days a week in a law office doing mostly clerical work and learning the business to help me gauge my interest in the field. It was a great experience and will look good on my resume, but the pay really wasn't that great so I also had to find another job. On the other hand, my other job as a Senior Deckhand (refer to post #3) payed very well and gave me a whole different set of skills in people managing and teamwork. By working two jobs I am hopefully helping my future and lowering overall financial risk in the future due to the fact that I will have paid off a good portion of my student debts that I wouldn't have been able to do if I had not have worked two jobs for the past 3 summers.

I really hope that the choices I have made in my past will help my future and by trying hard and school and striving to be the best version of me that i can be, I can be successful and fulfill my lifelong goals and achieve my dreams of becoming a lawyer.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

#4- Illinibucks

There could be an abundant amount of uses if the University of Illinois implemented a system such as Illinibucks, that allowed students to spend an allotted amount on things of there choosing. The students would be given a specific amount from the university and could choose to spend them in whatever way they would prefer. Although something like this would only allow people to get to the front of the line, and have the first opportunity to purchase or sign up for something I still think it would be a good system. Illinibucks could be spent on a variety of things such as: registering early for classes, getting to the front of the line during book days to get the much cheaper "used" books, better seating at sporting events that are on a first come first serve basis such as basketball,  and even could be used to determine on campus housing assignments.

If I were to be given an allotment of Illinibucks I would personally spend mine on a combination of class registration and basketball tickets. I am honestly not 100% sure how class registration works exactly, but I do know that James Scholars and athletes get to register first followed by Seniors. I believe it then goes by credit hours completed at university of Illinois. I transferred here at the beginning of my sophomore year, but am constantly registering later than all of my peers even though we have almost identical credit hours. Because of this, I would use the majority of my Illinibucks on registering for classes so I could get into some of the classes that I wouldn't normally be able to get into based on the order of class selection.T hat would be very important to me especially since I was a transfer student and they make it very hard for transfers to graduate in the normal "4 year track" because of course requirements and class availability.

The other thing I would spend my Illinibucks on is Men's Basketball games. I am a huge fan of the Fighting Illini basketball team but getting good seats at the game is a huge time commitment. The seats for the most part are on a first come first serve basis and in order to get floor seats you usually will have to get to the game hours before tip-off to ensure a good seat on the floor. That is a huge time commitment with all the classwork and tests and stuff we have going on, but it is the price you have to pay if you want good seats to watch the Illini play. The Illinibucks would allow you to get closer to the front of the line without having to be there for hours beforehand for key dates and big games. This would allow for a much better allocation of time on those days and give you more time to study and do work.

If the Illinibucks were valuable too low and didn't have much power people could buy illinibucks off others and accumulate large amounts that will allow them to get what they want. People might consider selling them to others for real financial profits. This could cause problems and students who were better off financially would be able to afford to have more perks and would have an easier time doing what they wanted. If they were worth too much,  many people could be trying to split up their Illinibucks amongst to many things.  In that situation no one would really have an advantage if everyone evenly spread out their spending. Other problems could arise if the Illinibucks were valued  to low. If they could only be used for registering early for one class or cutting the line at one basketball game, people may not really value them as much and they would not be as frequently used. If usage became too low they could cease to be an  efficient way to allocate the resources and opportunities the campus has to offer.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

#3- Organization of a Team

Over the past three summers I have worked as a senior deckhand (first mate) on a architectural river boat that traverses the Chicago River. Each boat consists of teams of five people: one captain, one senior deckhand, and three ordinary deckhands. The captain is the leader of the crew and the main responsibility is to drive and dock the boat safely for each tour. It is his job to check the engines and make sure everything mechanical is working correctly and that the boat is safe. The captain has to have a captains license specific for large passenger vessels obtained through the United States Coast Guard. Next in line is the senior deckhand, or first mate. He has been trained by the captain and must pass tests given by the company and the Coast Guard in order to be certified. His main responsibilities are to make sure everything is secure and is in charge of any problems that arise with the passengers during the tour. He also is responsible, if anything were to happen to the captain, to get the passengers docked and to safety. The senior deckhand will take orders from the captain and pass them along to the deckhands. The main job of the deckhands is to make sure that the boat is clean and looks good for paying customers. Depending on experience level they can be given more responsibility, but if something were to go wrong blame would come down onto the captain and the senior.

The team works much in a fashion of the simple hierarchy described in Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership. There is a group of people at the bottom, or deckhands, who have very little interaction with the boss, or captain. In between those two levels lies a mediator, the senior deckhand, who communicates with both levels but handles most of the problems with the lower levels on his own and doesn't get the boss involved.

Over the past few summers I worked my way up from deckhand to senior deckhand. Once I obtained the title of senior deckhand my main responsibilities were to make sure that the deckhands were doing what they were supposed to , passengers boarded the vessel safely, and that everything was safe and secure on the boat during the trip. Since the captain is in a pilot house at the front of the boat he cannot effectively see what is happening behind him on the main and lower decks and very rarely has any interaction with the customers. We typically worked in the same group of five people everyday. Each boat had their own "crew" and for efficiency reasons thy would keep the crews together everyday.

In order for the day to run smoothly the crew had to work together and has to respond efficiently to any problems that arise during the day. Parts on the boat break, there are unruly passengers, recreation boats causing havoc on the river, and weather are just some of the obstacles that the crew has to overcome everyday. One way the team to be effective team has to have a common commitment toward the their working relationships. In order for everything to run smoothly people need to talk about their specific roles with each other and work to gather to try and make everyone happy so that the boat can operate successfully. Also, in order for the team to be successful we need to hold each other accountable if anything were to go wrong. If something goes wrong blame shouldn't necessarily fall solely onto the captain, but rather everyone who messed up should take blame to keep the tensions low and have an productive work environment.

A couple of problems arose last sumer, such as both the generating and engines failing. However, with the proper teamwork and training we were all able to work together and keep passengers calm, and fix the problem enough to get everyone off the boat and to safety. The captain was able to relay to me, the senior, that there was a problem with his steering and throttling and I was able to relay that information to the deckhands and we were able to work effectively because everyone knew there role and how to properly work together as a team.