Date posted: 18/12/2020

10 top tips to make group work, work!

You can’t always control who’s in your group, but you can do everything you can to make working in groups a positive experience.

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According to LinkedIn Learning's network of more than 660 million professionals and 20 million jobs, collaboration is the third most in-demand soft skill of 2020.[1]

With this in mind, take a moment to reflect on how you work as part of a team:

  • Do you feel prepared to work as part of a new team with confidence?
  • Do you feel that you have the skills, knowledge and experience you need to contribute in a meaningful way?
  • Are there gaps in your understanding of how to get the most out of your group work experience?

Not only is teamwork valuable for learning new tools and expanding your skill set, it allows every member of the group to learn from each other and gain new perspectives. By setting clear expectations and following a strategic approach, group work can be a positive experience and better prepare you for your future in the workforce.

Here are ten simple ways you can improve your experience of working in groups, with resources and useful links to help you along the way.

1. Remember, there's no 'I' in team

Building trust and connections in teams starts with getting to know your teammates.

Introducing yourself to a new team isn't always an easy task, but it is an important step in building both a professional and personal relationship with your teammates.

At the beginning of the group project, host a kickoff meeting and ask everyone to introduce themselves.

A quick 5-minute icebreaker - where team members are able to share their thoughts on a topic, or even their goal for the project - can go a long way in building team relationships as it provides an opportunity for everyone to discover something interesting about their teammates.

2. Set team ground rules

Setting ground rules as a team at the beginning of the project is important as it maps out the expectations of each team member in the group.

Ground rules are used in teams to define and provide guidance around how individuals communicate, support each other and participate in the project.

When working remotely in a group, ground rules are essential in helping teams navigate the challenges of communication and schedules. It is important for teams to discuss how they plan to work together to complete the task on time.

At the beginning of the project, discuss things such as whether there are core hours that everyone should be available for a meeting, or where team members should ask questions that require an immediate response.

Although ground rules aren't the be all and end all, they are key in helping the team understand how they can collaborate effectively and get the results they need.

3. Develop goals as a team

The ability to set individual goals in work and life is undeniably important.

However, it is important to remember that go-getting and goal-setting isn't just for individuals - it's for teams, too.

In addition to helping the team stay on track in completing the tasks on hand, setting team goals can keep everyone motivated and encouraged to work towards the "bigger picture" (i.e. completing the project on time).

Regardless of whether you have worked alongside your teammates in the past, or if they are complete strangers, it is important to always discuss everyone's individual goals for the project when determining goals for the team as one person's success is everyone's success.

Discuss and set goals around what grades or outcomes you want to achieve by the end of the project, when you want the project to be completed by, or even the skills you want to develop from the experience of working in a group.

4. Identify the strengths of your teammates

According to a study conducted by management consulting company Gallup, focusing on an individual's strengths in a group setting can lead to increased productivity and engagement.[2]

The ability to identify your own strengths - as well as the strengths of others - will not only help you recognise how you function in a team environment, but how the different skills and experiences of your teammates complement yours.

Delegating elements of the group project to teammates based on their individual strengths and talent will likely result in better overall efficiency as they are given the opportunity to confidently contribute to the project.

5. Learn to become a time management pro

The World Economic Forum's Global Challenge Insight Report surveying leading global employers, representing more than 13 million employees across 9 broad industry sectors, reveals that time management is a core cross-functional resource management skill.[3]

Working with others in a team is a great way to learn how to manage your time effectively to complete the project. No matter how big - or small - your group or project is, establishing clear timelines, expectations and an outline of each team member's responsibilities in the project is crucial for success.[4]

Effective time management skills create a positive life-cycle that can be transferred to all areas of the professional working environment, as it allows you to utilise your time efficiently and take advantage of more learning opportunities. [5]

6. Be prepared to communicate and collaborate

Effective and confident communication fosters a collaborative work environment that nurtures creativity and openness, which is essential in successful group work.[6]

To complete big group projects in a short amount of time, communicating and collaborating with your team members regularly - using social media apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or Instagram Direct - is crucial to helping everyone stay on the same page.

When working in groups remotely, you do not have the opportunity to communicate with your team members in person or on a daily basis, so it is important to not only agree on one platform of communication to keep it simple, but to also set up a project document - such as Google Docs - to allow each team member to contribute their research and ideas in the one place.

And if you're wondering why a good handle on work and communication is so important, Deloitte's Soft skills for business success report revealed that communication, time management and teamwork are the most vital skills for job applicants.[7]

7. Honesty is the best policy

Conflict in group work isn't always a bad thing as it sets the stakes for meaningful and open discussions.

When you are in a situation where you disagree with your group members, or can sense that there is tension arising within the group, it is important to speak up and address the problem in a respectful manner, as this may effectively clear the air and get the group working in a productive manner.

Developing your negotiation, problem-solving and conflict resolution skills will help prepare you for similar challenges in the workforce.[8]

8. Select a team leader

Are you a natural leader, or is there someone else in your team who has what it takes to lead your team to success?

Being the team leader of a project is not a simple task, but it is one that will make or break the relationships within the team.

Team leaders have the ability to motivate their teammates to achieve their goals, and are responsible for ensuring that each team member is contributing to the project.

Some of the ways team leaders provide their teammates with direction and guidance in the group project is by delegating tasks, and monitoring the progress of the project.

9. Remember to check in with your teammates

Although group work is a collaborative exercise, each team member has their individual responsibilities and tasks that are delegated early on in the project.

Checking in frequently with your team members - especially if you are working remotely as a team - is a great way to ensure that everyone is on track to meet the deadlines of the team project. It also provides you with a unique opportunity to develop empathy when interacting with your teammates.[9]

Frequently asking simple questions such as "How can I, or the team, help you complete your section of the project?", "Do you need someone to bounce your ideas off?" or "Are you having trouble breaking down your section?" can help your teammates feel comfortable to speak up early on if they are feeling challenged.

10. Done with the project? Now it's time to celebrate!

When the pressure to deliver a big group project on tight deadlines has faded away, it's important to recognise the individual achievements and efforts of each of your teammates.

Although remote group work means that we no longer get to celebrate the occasion of finishing the project by high-fiving each other, this does not mean that you shouldn't celebrate together as the next opportunity to work on another project together may be just around the corner.

Celebrating the achievements of the team - big or small - encourages you to reflect on what went well during the group experience, and is likely to increase your confidence when participating in group work in the future.

Sources:
1. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/skills-companies-need-most-2020and-how-learn-them-lazzaroni-pate/?trackingId=HInXem%2B8sdpVpEEiROTxbw%3D%3D
2. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/242096/focus-people-strengths-increases-work-engagement.aspx
3. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs.pdf
4. https://student.unsw.edu.au/groupwork
5. https://www.appointmentplus.com/blog/why-time-management-is-important/#:~:text=Good%20time%20management%20allows%20you,another%20aspect%20of%20your%20life
6. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/benefits-effective-communication-workplace-20198.html
7. https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/economics/articles/soft-skills-business-success.html
8. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/negotiation-conflict-resolution-teamwork-22245.html
9. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/top-social-skills-for-workplace-success-4142848

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