When you're in college, it is up to you to complete the work necessary to earn your degree. That said, assigning group projects is a common practice in higher education. Not to mention, many job roles require that you work as a team. So, the sooner you learn to master this type of interaction, the better. These seven tips can help, making your group project a success.
1. Start off the group project on the right foot.
Before you even begin the group project, meet as a group and introduce yourselves. Maybe even do a quick ice breaker, such as asking each member what they ate for breakfast or the best book they ever read. Taking a moment to get to know each other starts the group on the right foot. It helps each of you develop a greater level of comfortability, which is going to be important as you strive to work cohesively in the days and weeks ahead. If you are all in the same vicinity, perhaps you can hold this meeting in person. If you are scattered about, hold this meeting virtually so everyone can attend. Online platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom can be used for this purpose.
2. Designate a group leader.
Although it is important to hold each member of the group on the same level, designating someone as a leader gives each of you someone to go to if problems arise. Assigning someone to oversee the entire project also creates one more point of checks and balances. Ask for volunteers. If more than one person wants this role, have a group vote. If no one raises their hand, consider stepping up. This is a great opportunity to build your leadership skills, which can serve you well once you enter your career.
3. Set clear expectations for all group members.
One reason some groups fail to meet their objective is that the members aren't really clear about what they are responsible for completing. Avoid this by deciding upfront who will do what. Be extremely clear so every member knows what they must do to contribute to the final project. The clearer you are when setting these expectations, the fewer misunderstandings you will have as the group project progresses.
4. Be honest about your abilities.
Ideally, each group member should be assigned a task that matches his or her strengths. This leads to a higher quality finished product, a project that allows each member to shine. If you are competitive by nature, it may be tempting to want to be responsible for a task that is above your abilities. Stretching yourself is great, but not when it is at the expense of your team. With that in mind, don't promise something you can't deliver. Be honest about your strengths so the team can decide how you can best meet its needs.
5. Set deadlines and stick to them.
Napoleon Hill once said that "a goal is a dream with a deadline." Setting mini-deadlines throughout the project keeps the team on task. It enables you to achieve your ultimate goal, which is to turn in the best project possible. Each project is different so, as a team, create a timeline that is realistic and allows you to submit your project on time. Decide what needs to be done at each step. The more specific you are, the better.
6. Meet regularly to check in.
Regular check-ins create accountability. It encourages members to complete their portion of the project on time because they know that they'll have to face the rest of the group on a pre-set day and time. Meeting often also gives the team the opportunity to step in if something goes off course. Maybe a member had an emergency that prevented them from doing their part. Other members can quickly step in and pick up the slack. As with the initial meeting, these check-ins can be done in person or online. Be sure to choose a time when everyone is available. This may require some flexibility as you work around different schedules.
7. Be respectful to all members…always.
Above all, always be respectful to each group member. Keep in mind that people have varying communication styles and some are naturally better at working as a team. Knocking them for their weaknesses doesn't further the group as a whole, nor does it speak well for you on a personal level. One strategy for always acting respectfully is to imagine that the other person is a family member that you respect—such as a sibling, parent, or grandparent—and treat them accordingly. Remember that the way you interact with them shapes the way you are viewed. Would you rather be known as someone who is patient and considerate or someone who easily loses their temper and puts their needs above those of the group?
The Bottom Line on Group Projects
Working in a group isn't always easy. However, following these seven tips can make your team project a greater success, and it will better prepare you for team projects once you complete your degree and enter your field.