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Training for Leadership and Team Skills from Freshman Year Forward

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Student and Other Views on Engineering Leadership

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1598.1 - 26.1598.17



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Paper Authors


Mary B. Vollaro Western New England University

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Mary B. Vollaro is Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts. Dr. Vollaro received her Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut, her M.S. at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and her B.S.M.E. at Western New England University. She has held engineering positions in industry (in particular, the materials science area) and was Chair of the ASEE Materials Division. She has written in the area of materials science education and is now working on leadership and teaming activities for engineers.

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Robert R. Klein Western New England University

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Robert R. Klein, Ed.D., is a Professor of Education at Western New England University (Springfield, MA). He completed his doctoral work at Harvard and collaborated with the Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT) to develop an assessment tool, the Klein Group Instrument for Effective Leadership and Participation in Teams (KGI). He trains people internationally in leadership and group skills and is a faculty member of the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland.

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Experiential training in teaming and leadership from freshman year forward: Using Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the K-Group Instrument (KGI) for Effective Leadership and Participation in TeamsTeaming and leadership skills for engineers are not only important for interacting with the 3-5people on a design team during their academic career, but for performing well on professionalengineering teams, which often include customers, support personnel (who are not engineers),and other constituencies in the workplace. This issue is best captured with this quote from Mr.Bock of Google, “What we care about is, when faced with a problem and you're a member of ateam, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead. And just as critically, do you step back....". 1Our work with freshman in our seminar course is based on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator(MBTI) and K-Group Instrument (KGI) assessments, training students to understand their ownpersonality characteristics, and to refine them to become more effective leaders and teammembers. Without labeling a characteristic as a strength or weakness, students are trained toconsciously recognize differences in personality styles. With the KGI, each student has apersonal profile and 12-15 action items to develop group skills at his or her own pace. Studentsare given the opportunity to practice their own KGI skills, usually two at a time, in areas of theirpersonal choosing, and then self-assess their progress at different points during the semesterthrough assigned reflection papers.Our teaming and leadership program is comprised of a series of workshops, activities, andassignments that allow students to gain skills and improve their group behaviors based on theirown personal profile. Our initial activities have all students take the traditional MBTI, attend aworkshop to interpret their results, and write a reflection paper on their personal results. Next,students take KGI, which has a distinct advantage of taking approximately 20 minutes tocomplete. Armed with their personal KGI profiles, students attend a workshop focused onhelping them interpret and implement these KGI skills in an environment of their choice. Later inthe semester, refresher information is posted in the virtual classroom, and followed with anassignment to reflect on aspects of implementation, i.e., ‘What went well?’, ‘Difficult ortroublesome?’. The reflection paper is assigned here allows students to self-assess their personalprogress and re-evaluate their ‘new’ behavior on teams. Students are encouraged to, and do,continue to implement their KGI skills in many groups, including engineering and lab teams,roles in extracurricular clubs or activities, and industry internships.Our initial results, through observations of team interaction, the students’ personal reflectionsand surveys, are extremely positive. The simplicity of the model and the students’ intrinsicmotivation to modify their own behavior to become more effective team players are hallmarks ofthis approach. We are able to train students in perspective taking, constructive negotiation,group facilitation, leadership initiative, and ways to build cohesive, creative teams that are highlyproductive. Additionally, we are compiling both quantitative feedback and testimonials fromstudents, who have taken this training ‘above and beyond’ into the workplace, and found it lifechanging.1 – Quote Laszlo Bock, Google's senior vice president of people operations in interview by Thomas Friedman in"How to Get a Job at Google" (New York Times, Feb. 22, 2014).

Vollaro, M. B., & Klein, R. R. (2015, June), Training for Leadership and Team Skills from Freshman Year Forward Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24934

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