Erasmus Plus SkillsAct4Vet (2019-1-ES01-KA202-065610)
How would you develop the skills of followership and cultivate them? This article will provide exciting definitions and ideas teachers can try with students.
Followership is the ability to support the boss (or the referent) at the workplace, taking responsibility for the common goal, and actively participating in any task or change needed by the group. It is the ability to demonstrate collaboration, trust in the group’s members and cohesion capabilities. Followership also involves critical thinking, autonomy and the ability to support a leader.
Difficulties to which this skill responds
When a company decides to accept and host a trainee, the company accepts to slightly change the routine and its procedures and rules to insert a new “inexperienced” person into the team. By “company” we mean here all people involved at all stages of the activities where the intern is involved: tutor, project area manager, colleagues involved in the same activities. The success of the internship depends a lot on the way the company prepares itself to host the trainee, but even more on the way the trainee fits in that company and in its aims and goals.
Followership is the ability to support other members of the team, as the tutor, the manager, another colleague, and be actively involved in the definition and reach of a common goal.
One of the drawbacks of this important soft skill is the traditional notion that leaders are active and followers are passive. This is mistaken and contributes to misconceptions about the organizational functions of superiors and subordinates. Behaviourists now recognize that active followers influence leaders at every level of the hierarchy, and that leadership itself is more of a process, rather than a referent to a specific person.
There are many myths about followership:
- It is a lesser role.
- It is just preparation for being a leader.
- It is managing up, brownnosing or ‘being political’.
- Once you are a leader you are no longer a follower.
- You have to be a good follower to be a good leader.
- Following is passive. It’s easy.
Effective followership training in the classroom is challenging, mostly because of internal mental schemas held by students that ignore followership, and cultural biases against it. Undergraduate and graduate students have been resistant to the idea of followership, and thus followership has been interpreted as leadership poorly enacted or as settling for a lesser position. In recent years, attitudes have begun to change and students have noted that following is an expected, healthy part of a reciprocal relationship (imagine the world of social media and “following”) that doesn’t carry negative connotations.
Short term interns stay in a company for a limited time, and they can’t always participate in an integrated, complete process (for instance a project). Most of the time they can contribute only a part of it. Given these circumstances, it is key that any intern feels like a part of a more complex picture, where any part, also the least important, is crucial for success.
Students may also feel like the “less skilled”, as they are in a learning process and may be entrusted with basic tasks only, mostly at the very beginning of their internship in the new company. Training their followership and making them aware of the importance of this ability, will project a huge difference in their approach to the experience abroad.
There are certain behavioural indicators in the sense of behavioural patterns, that can help mobility students to develop followership:
- Supporting the manager or boss, empathizing with their humour, for instance.
- Promoting a collaborative and respectful working relationship, reducing complaining or negative talking
- Being committed to the job, focusing on the main, final results besides the single, specific tasks
- Feeling engaged and involved in a team, cooperative with others, and putting an extra effort if needed,
- Helping colleagues even if there is no personal profit, for instance, if an overshift is required to meet a deadline.
- Expressing agreement with the group goals
- Feeling responsible even in challenging situations, and take responsibility of possible errors, not blaming the challenging circumstances
- Supporting colleagues who are going through difficulties
- Expressing his/her point of view in a positive way avoiding any criticism,
- Like to receive feedback and sharing ideas with bosses
- His/her contributions are considered constructive by the bosses
Why is this skill important for mobility students and which sub-skills are associated with it
Good followership is characterized by active participation in the pursuit of organizational goals.
This means followership is the skill that allows the student to work independently, to be accountable for actions, and to take ownership of necessary tasks. When the student starts having a work experience in a new company, of course, no one can expect her/him to take responsibility or to be absolutely independent, but having the inclination to work independently and to be accountable, may help the company to give the student more interesting tasks to be accomplished.
In fact, followership shows a bigger and stronger engagement with the group, in this case, the host company, and engagement is key for the success of an experience as mobility abroad.
The engagement can be to the host company, but also to the Project (i.e. Erasmus project), or to the school that gives the opportunity to train abroad.
According to many experts, when a person has followership competencies, he/she is more willing to become a good leader. Actually, in the essay “In praise of followers’ by Robert Kelley, published in 1988, and still considered one of the masterpiece studies about leadership, and consequently followership, the leader’s contribution only affects results for 15%, while the rest depends on collaborators.
Here is a set of certain sub-skills a good follower should have:
Investing in continuous learning and technical skills testify to good followership, as the leader and the team must trust in colleagues’ competencies to delegate.
Will to learn (continuously):
A good employee/coworker/fellow takes care of his/her training continuously and never stops in self-improvement.
the good follower is the one who always has the good of the company in mind and not their own personal interest. Any criticisms that may be addressed have as the main goal a general improvement for the whole group.
Strictly related to time management skills and proactivity
Team working abilities:
Success is the achievement of the group’s goals and not glory and self-promotion.
to take responsibility for his/her decisions and actions.
To express opinions
Never lie about your mistakes. It is better to admit them and immediately think of a way to fix the situation, instead of excuses and justifications to invent in front of the superior.
Never lie about others’ achievements, and recognize others’ merits.
- This article describes followership as a complementary aspect of leadership:
- The video, from Ted.ED repertoire, shows with the metaphor of Dancing, the strict relation between followership and leadership:
- This article appeared for the first time in the Harvard Business Review in 1988. It exalts the benefits of followership attitude in teams, through practical examples and shows 5 different followership patterns:
- This Tedx Video shows as Followership and Leadership are the results of the same creation process:
Activities to develop followership
How to use the Exercises
Following this section, there are two Exercises for the teacher to use in order to demonstrate the importance of Followership The first exercise is meant to be carried out at a personal level, while the second is a group activity. The Exercises help to elaborate on the soft skill, offering through the game, a metaphor for real-life situations.
The following reflections and discussion will show how the exercises themselves constitute a training moment, revealing also a strategy to effectively train the Soft Skills.
Learning outcomes for the trainers:
- Acquiring a definition of “Followership” within the context of mobility for students
- Understanding behavioural elements linked to Followership as a soft skill to be applied in short-term mobility experiences abroad
- Recognising sub-skills within Followership, which are related to students’ behaviours
The trainers will be able to guide students to:
- Develop a collaborative attitude
- Strengthen their engagement in the project/internship/training activity
- Increase responsibility towards mobility and activities (also in challenging situations)
- Encourage sincerity in feedback expression
- Apply time-management and communication skills among a team
First exercise: Team development through Skills Analysis
Source: This activity has been developed by Etctoolkit.org.uk
In 2017, Adi (SkillsAct4VET partner) established cooperation with European Schoolnet to translate Entrelearn. The translation was published for the first time in 2017 on the “I LINC “ website, I LINC is a Horizon 2020 project that ended in 2017. http://www.eun.org/projects/detail?articleId=676311Entrelearn contains more than 65 entrepreneurial learning activities. Entrelearn is strictly connected with EntreComp: The Entrepreneurship Competence Framework, created by the European Commission. Adi presented the framework together with one of the authors (Margherita Bacigalupo) during ADi international conference. The third document connected with Entrelearn and Entre Comp is “ Entre Comp into action”. Silvia Faggioli has been working as an external evaluator for EntreComp into action before its release.
Paper or flip-chart, pencils, computers or mobile phones
Estimated time needed
Description and guidelines
Students need to understand their role inside a group to become active, independent, accountable for actions, and to take ownership of necessary tasks.
In this activity, students seek to recognise the skills inherent within a team or needed by a group to achieve a goal/complete a task. This activity shows that self-awareness and self-efficacy apply to teams as well as to individuals. By presenting a group challenge (which could be an assessment or in-class group activity) ask the students in the group to identify the roles needed to achieve and deliver this task. The task could be a research study, a group project. Firstly, ask pupils to identify the number and type of roles required to deliver the proposal, project, or group challenge. Typically, they will focus on the project deliverables, but ensure that they also think of the skills needed within the project, such as communication; team leader; organised; patient; good listener. Using flip chart paper, they can start to shape these responsibilities into roles or jobs. Some of their skills may link directly to roles, others may be standalone elements that they wish to see in the team and these can be identified on Post-its. Provide images of people or a new piece of flip chart and ask them to present the roles required to deliver the job/ meet the challenge. This can be presented to the group, or a poster showcase can be created which includes the brief/project and their proposed solutions (job roles and skills).
- Students are given a list of charity projects and need to perform the following tasks within a set time: Find information about each project. Choose 1 project. Explain why. Present to the class the project explaining the reasons behind their choice. Lastly, the different presentations are voted on by the other groups.
- Ask students to realise fictional shopping with 20€ to prepare a birthday party for invited friends. To know the price of certain articles, they can search on the Internet or use the leaflets of some shops (you can prepare them for pupils). Pupils first write in groups what they want to buy for the party (food, drinks, decoration…). They make a list of all articles and add a price to each. Then they have to fit into 20€, so probably they will need to prioritise and make compromises within the group. Let groups present their purchases and compare their outcomes. Ask them to give feedback to each other.
- Contact a company and ask them to present their business based on the canvas. When the students visit the company, they take notes in their canvas and compare and discuss the model canvas they wrote down. Link to business model canvas https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/10/Business_Model_Canvas.png
Firstly, ask students to identify the number and type of roles required to deliver the proposal, project, or group challenge. Typically, they will focus on the project deliverables, but ensure that they also think of the skills needed within the project, such as communication; team leader; organised; patient; good listener. Using flip chart paper, they can start to shape these responsibilities into roles or jobs. Some of their skills may link directly to roles, others may be standalone elements that they wish to see in the team and these can be identified on Post-its. Provide images of people or a new piece of flip chart and ask them to present the roles required to deliver the job/ meet the challenge. This can be presented to the group, or a poster showcase can be created which includes the brief/project and their proposed solutions (job roles and skills).
Assessment and discussion
In order to review the skills developed in this task, it is important to review the process with the group as well as the outcome. Reflection questions can include:
- Who demonstrated leadership?
- Who analysed the task most effectively?
- How did they overcome any barriers – or “stops” in your work?
- What resources did they rely on?
- What networking skills supported this task?
Ask the group to reflect upon the skills analysis they have undertaken and their ability to meet the challenge/task. What do they need within their team to be the “dream team” and what qualities would they need? What steps do they need to take (personally and professionally) in order to develop their skills as a team player for this challenge?
Second exercise: The Maze
Large room, LOTS of masking tape – 3-4 reels per team
Estimated time needed
1 hour (+debriefing and discussion)
Description and guidelines
This is a team-building game that challenges teams to solve a problem very collaboratively. The team needs to discover a path through a labyrinth, while the path is hidden. The labyrinth is represented by a grid on the floor. The path is a series of connected squares travelling from one end of the grid to the other. When a team member steps off the path, they will need to start again. To make this challenging, the labyrinth is solved in silence. It requires the team to support each other in order to succeed. Ultimately it will create feelings of euphoric success demonstrating what the team can achieve when they work together. The game can be scaled by having multiple teams play simultaneously, creating a competition.
Make a maze for the team(s) to complete.
This game can be made to be rather hard and thus potentially very frustrating. It’s important to be conscious of the team’s stress level. Should the team become overly frustrated pause the game, and allow them additional time to rethink their plan.
It’s possible to make mistakes that will prevent the team from progressing. This can lead to a situation where the team feel they’ve tried all available options are stuck. If frustration and stress are high, and they believe they’ve exhausted all options, give them a hint to unblock them.
HOW TO PLAY
Space: You will need a large, empty space to play.
- Draw a grid that is 5 squares, by (team’s size – 2). E.G. for a team of 9, that would be a 5×7 grid.
- Plot a path by numbering consecutive connected squares from one end of the grid to another. This is an example grid for a team of 9-12 people. Note how it snakes forwards and backwards to increase complexity.
Recreate the grid on the floor with masking tape (squares only). Make each square about 50cm by 50 cm (big enough for a person to stand-in).
Position a chair at the finishing end of the labyrinth for the facilitator to stand on.
The team will have time before starting to solve the labyrinth to collaborate and produce a strategy.
- When the team begin to solve the labyrinth, no further talking is allowed.
- The team may not use any tools or implements to solve the maze (E.G. no breadcrumbs).
- While the labyrinth is being solved, only one team member may enter at a time.
- When a team member steps on an incorrect square, they must return to the beginning by FOLLOWING THE PATH that they have discovered so far. Should they go wrong, they must stop and try again to retrace their steps to the beginning.
- When a team member exits the grid at the beginning (following stepping on an incorrect square) they are not allowed to be the next person to enter the grid.
- When a team member successfully completes the labyrinth, everyone in the team has to go through it one at a time.
The game is won when EVERY team member completes the hidden path.
- Position the team at the start end of the grid.
- Read out the rules of the game.
- Give the team 10 minutes to discuss and collaborate on a plan to solve the labyrinth.
- When this time is up, remind the team that the game will now be played in silence.
- Stand on a chair at the finishing end of the grid, facing the grid and the team.
- Tell the team they may begin to solve it.
- When a team member steps on a correct square, state: “CONTINUE”.
- When a team member steps on an incorrect square, state: “STOP, GO BACK”.
- When a team member is going back and steps on an incorrect square, state: “STOP, GO BACK”.
- When a team member attempts to enter the grid two times in a row state: “STOP, GO BACK”.
FACILITATION – MULTIPLE TEAM VARIANTS
Break the group into even teams of 8-15 people.
You will need several copies of the same grid plan. The grid size must work for the smallest team.
You will need one “Grid Master” (additional facilitator) per grid.
The game will play out the same as above, other than:
- Everyone will begin at the same time
- The time needed for the discussion before solving is now flexible, the team can choose to start when they are ready. (This is now a race competition, so there’s an interesting pressure to begin)
- Record the times of each team.
- When a team has completed, invite them to watch how other teams are doing.
Assessment and discussion
REFLECTION (questions for discussion)
- What was your strategy and how did you create it?
- How did it feel when you were told to stop and to go back?
- What was it like working in silence?
- What was it like to be in the labyrinth?
- How supported did you feel by the team?
- What did it feel like to complete the labyrinth?
MAKING THE GAME EASIER
A team of adults should be able to complete this game, but if you feel the need to make it easier, you can try:
- Simplify the path
- Reduce the grid size
- Allow talking
Watch the following video to understand how teachers can moderate the group work