Let’s be real, some of us thrive in situations where we have to work in groups, while others would prefer to go running in the opposite direction. However, working in groups is often inevitable so the sooner you master it, the better. It will also strengthen your communication and teamwork skills which are valuable skills that can be transferred to different areas of life – such as in the work place!
If I had a dollar for every time I have heard a frustrated friend or classmate express their hate of group work, I could probably pay off my tuition for the year (or at least pay for my textbooks).
When working in groups, there are two scenarios: choosing your own group, or being put into a group. Despite the situation, I have some tips to help you master the art of group work!
Communication is key:
Something which I see happening way too often is students being put into groups, and not exchanging any contact information. Then, a week before the presentation – chaos emerges. Oftentimes, you are forced to resort to your professor to get an e-mail which exposes that you haven’t started yet! As soon as groups are assigned, exchange contact information with your group.
Also, it is really beneficial to choose a common platform to talk on. Nothing is more tedious than trying to individually communicate with group members. It leads to miscommunication or lack of information being conveyed. In my experience, I have noticed a private Facebook group is very effective. It allows everyone to upload documents, images, and have conversations.
Ensure there is an alpha:
Every group needs someone to step up and take the lead. They don’t necessarily need to be giving out the orders, or having everyone carry out their vision – but they help make sure everyone stays on their A Game. It can get problematic when no one can make up their mind, but a leader helps the group make the executive decisions.
However, just because someone is stepping up does not mean that you shift the work load over to them. All work should be allocated equally, and every group member is responsible for contributing!
Have an agenda:
Finding time to meet can be very difficult, so it is important to take advantage of the time you do have with your group. It is very efficient to prepare this ahead of your meeting. This is a great way to ensure that you stay on task, and get what you need done.
Also, make sure you secure a meeting place ahead of time. Often times, you can see a group of panicked faces who cannot find a space to study because the library is packed. Booking the group study rooms is a great idea because you can be free of distractions and be guaranteed a spot.
Play off each other’s strengths:
Take advantage of all the extra minds that you have working with you, and figure out what the strengths are of your group members. If you are not the biggest fan of technology, you probably don’t want to be the one stuck making the digital visual for your group. Likewise, if you have an artist amongst your midst, it would be great to take advantage of it. If someone is a stronger speaker and quick on their feet, put those skills to use!
When working in large groups, it becomes a mission trying to accommodate all the schedules. Also, when you have group members commuting it really is not fair to make them drive down on their day off for a brief meeting. Google docs are the best things to happen to groups. It allows you to collaborate with each other without having to be physically present. Google Docs is also a great way to edit one another’s work and keep track of what your members are contributing so there are no unpleasant surprises at the end.
Get the creative juices flowing:
One of the perks of working with groups, is having lots of people to bounce ideas with. I recently attended a workshop by Joel Hilchey, a leadership expert who spoke about how to have better ideas more often. What really resonated with me was the power of brainstorming. He explained that there should be two components to brainstorming: a specific time to generate ideas, and then another component to judge those ideas. Generating ideas is very valuable because peers can bounce ideas off each other and build upon each other. Every idea has value, so make sure every voice is being heard!
Also, keep in mind that group work provides you with a fantastic opportunity to step out of your typical circle of friends, and get to know your peers better! Group work is intended to ease the stress, by sharing the workload and learning from each other. Trust your peers, and your final product might really impress you.
If you have any other survival tips, please share them below!