Dining Services

Experience Reflection – Fall 2009 – Spring 2013

I have been an employee with Dining Services longer than I have been attending classes at the University of Illinois (only by three days, but still!), so naturally Dining Services has been a major part of my development as a leader. Beginning as a regular worker, I learned how the operation functioned overall and about the community dynamics within the staff. When I started, I learned what it was like to be a follower, but still motivate and drive the team with enthusiasm. This followership attitude is something that I have come to realize the importance of, as there cannot be a team or leader without followers.

At the conclusion of my freshman year, I was promoted to be a student supervisor at my respective hall. As a new manager, my focus was continue in getting to know the process very well, while still relating to the team I was working with. After my first year as a manager, I was acquainted with the full-time management, fellow team members and I had a comprehensive understanding of the dining hall system overall.

Throughout my time with Dining, I noticed that there was room for improvement in the method that we train our team, including supervisors and regular workers. Since I had been with dining for three years at this point, I decided to propose an idea to my boss about creating and integrating a new supervisor training program. Shelly agreed to this concept and I worked on such a program. My thought process was that if we properly train our student management team, then there is a much higher probability that our regular service staff will know the content sufficiently.

My second goal of my personal development plan was to provide leadership in absence of such. I believe that I was able to practice doing so within dining on multiple occasions. The mere size of an operation serving between 1000-3000 customers in a meal period can be overwhelming. The management staff is consistently being pulled in many different directions and at times has to reprioritize objectives. These reprioritization of objectives can lead to full time management not providing as much help or guidance as usual. From this lack of insight at times, I gained experience in having to fulfill not only my own responsibilities, but also learn to somewhat master those of my superiors. Mastering both skillsets helped me better understand my role, but also where I fit within the team’s hierarchy.

Through my time with dining, I learned that formal leaders can also be emergent leaders at the same time. Positions surely do have some sense of authority, but respect from team members can only be gained through emergent leadership and taking the time to build relationships. For new and younger students, I strongly recommend getting a job and being immersing in a different team setting. Through a change of scenery and working with a variety of people, leadership can be practiced and discovered. Learning theories is great and important, but putting the theories to practice and gaining experience is the most effective way to become a leader.