Too Many Chiefs, Not Enough Indians

4 Mar

A few years ago I was put into a group for one of my classes and the group each person was assigned to was a pretty big deal because we had to work with our group mates extensively over the course of the semester.  This meant not only during class periods, but often after class, days we didn’t have class and weekends.  It was a group of all girls so with all that time together I’m surprised our cycles didn’t synch.

I’ve always enjoyed working in groups because I know there are qualities others bring to the table that I don’t and vice versa, so for the most part I was pretty excited.  However, this group quickly changed my mind.  This group was different.  I couldn’t really put my finger on what made my group so difficult until one of the other girls said one day under her breath, “too many chiefs, not enough Indians” and I could not have put it so eloquently myself.   That was it.  Everyone wanted to be the one to come up with the best idea, so regardless of who actually had a good idea the others would shoot her down because they couldn’t claim it as their own.  We all wanted to be the star, the leader, the chief.  When in all actuality what we were really doing was wasting time.  In the end, we all looked like losers because so much of our time was spent bickering as opposed to developing the best plan, together.

Everyone has their own opinion of group work. Some hate it because they’ve shared the same experience that I have or worse, they’ve experienced the opposite.  The opposite being no one wants to do any work and one poor over-achieving sucker gets stuck with all the work.  However, despite having my share of bad groups I still believe the best ideas and projects develop from teamwork.  If each member is able to communicate effectively and listen respectfully than it doesn’t matter who came up with the initial “good” idea because with teamwork it will turn into an even better idea and eventually the group project will really turn into a group’s project.  I’m not advocating compromise because a compromise means people had to give something up and in my opinion good teamwork means coming up with a result that is exactly how everyone wants it.

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2 Responses to “Too Many Chiefs, Not Enough Indians”

  1. Corey Ryan March 7, 2011 at 12:25 am #

    I like the expression. I use it all the time at my work. Our problem is that we have more managers than we do staff. Our organizational chart is an inverted pyramid.

    • kelleyzwong March 7, 2011 at 8:20 am #

      It’s terrible and frustrating because nothing ever gets done. I’m not sure which one is worse: having everyone wanting to take charge or having no one wanting to.

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