How to be a better team player in group projects
Not everyone is wired to be a team player, and some of us even thrive individually. Unfortunately, many real-life situations, whether it is on the playing field, in an educational setting, or in the workforce, demand that we work together as a team to accomplish common TEAM objectives.
GETTING ‘TEAM’ IN YOUR PLAY
If you are experiencing a situation where you are doubting the collective success of your team members for the group assignments, these tips may come in handy.
1. Division of work
Sometimes, when group project work is assigned, you may find that some members end up with an unfair amount of work, while others just seem to coast along and bask in the final success.
Here’s what you could do to address the issue:
- Ensure that everyone on the team understands the end goal. This can be done effectively by simply asking
- Assign tasks (even if they are token ones – like monitoring a team calendar) to everyone on the team
- Preferably, consult each member first, or you may end up assigning a task that he/she does not feel comfortable (or have the skills) to accomplish successfully
- Discuss the issue of “slackness” immediately as soon as it is noticed. Don’t wait until the rest of the team starts complaining
- If you feel you are carrying an undue burden for the team – speak up quickly!
- Conversely, if you have spare capacity to take on more, don’t hesitate to ask for more!
2. Planning and organising
When an individual in the group has a challenge with planning and organising his/her tasks, the entire team can suffer:
- Brainstorm group activities with the entire team before creating your team plan
- Agree upon team priorities first, before setting off individually to do ‘stuff’
- Assignments must be delegated based on each individual’s strengths
- Allow sufficient time for each team member to complete his/her task
- Have frequent group review sessions; don’t wait until the deliverables are due to learn that someone won’t meet the plan!
- If you feel you can do more, or that you have unique skills that no one is aware of – volunteer!
While the fear of being named/shamed in public may cause some graduate students to work well in a team, others may not like that approach at all. In fact, it may work against your favour:
- Avoid complaining in public about a situation (or a team member!)
- Where an individual is suspected to be the cause of an issue or roadblock, one-on-one conversations are often the best way to get resolution
- Some team members may appear ‘thick skinned’, when the real issue is their inability to carry out the task. Make sure every team member feels confident and free to discuss their challenges and seek assistance from the group
- Reach out to others on the team BEFORE your weaknesses start getting noticed by the rest of the team
Your team is counting on you for the entire project to succeed. In order to achieve collective success, everyone’s communication is vital. So, if you feel that your task is in danger of not being completed in time (or to the desired quality standards), then you should immediately let your team know.
When the project is a success, everyone will thank you for sounding the alarm when you did. This leads me into my last point…
Teams work best when individual team players feel valued and respected. Whenever possible, make sure you acknowledge the contributions made by every player on the team – no matter how insignificant it may seem (even if it’s just asking for help). In doing so, you will provide a much needed ego-boost to the individual, and he/she is then more likely to work even harder to ensure the teams’ success.
When other team members help you with an assignment, feel free to publicly acknowledge their role in your own success.
PREPARING YOURSELF FOR THE REAL WORLD
During academic pursuits, especially during post-grad and graduate level studies, there will be a lot of group interaction required. Group assignments are the norm, and every student in a team is expected to contribute to success.
By adopting the strategies discussed above, not only will you be able to help the team achieve academic success; but you will be practicing vital skills needed to succeed in the real world once you’ve graduated successfully.