I am a plunger, what are you?

by Lucy Maina, RELI Kenya Country Lead

Groupwork can be a most unnerving experience; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  Teamwork is a key component of RELI as most of our work happens in the thematic groups. Getting academics, activists and policy expert to work together isn’t made easier by the fact that we have to balance different personalities and work ethea. Finding ways to work well together was part of the agenda for the RELI Kenya convening 2018 and the sessions ran by Limeshift’s Yazmany were eye-opening for attendees.

Yazmany helped us think about how our individual personality and work ethos affects our approach to collaboration. He introduced the terms “Plungers”, “Testers” and “Waders.” Plungers dive right into the task at hand, testers prefer to run analytics before engaging the task while waders are more focused on getting teamwork right as they undertake the task. Members were asked to split into the teams that best represented their approaches. It didn’t take me long to realize to which group I belonged; I am a plunger. The teams then had to artistically represent their approach via dance.

The plungers thought their dance enthusiastic, dynamic and positive but others thought it impulsive and overconfident. The waders claimed theirs was balanced, purposeful and dependable; other teams found it bland, boring and in the middle of the road. When the testers had their turn, they stated they were investigative, reflective and highly organized while others thought they were timid, over-ponderous and controlling.  This exercise left me very aware of my own approach in planning the convening.

I hadn’t taken time to reflect on how I have been doing things in the last four months as I have been very busy. The task at hand was to prepare for the Kenyan convening and despite having had what seemed like enough time to plan things, it all seemed to be going rather slowly and I couldn’t help but feel that we were running out of time. I will blame this on my being a plunger. As a plunger, you want to act with speed, do big things and complete tasks.  I was amazed when I took a glance around the room and saw where some of my group members belonged. Suddenly our team dynamic made sense.; it explained a lot of my struggles.

The task also made me appreciate that the different strengths, skills and qualities all add value to the team’s effort. Plungers take initiative, testers manage risk and waders are consensus builders. We all realized that negatives can be positives and no one ethos is better than the others. Teams need to be made up of people with a range of skills working together. We were all left aware that needed to recognize our own approaches and make room for those of other team members.

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