Group projects are an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership abilities and prove you can work well as part of a team. However, they can also present a minefield of personality conflicts and competing agendas.
Be prepared for when your boss assigns a group project. Study these tips for handling the basics and dealing with some common obstacles.
Group Projects – Managing the Basics:
1. Pick your team. Sometimes your boss may decide who you’ll be working with, and other times you may be able to choose your own partners. Be sure to focus on the purpose of the group instead of automatically inviting your closest friends.
2. Establish ground rules. Use your initial meeting to clarify your expectations. Maybe it’s important for each member to return calls and emails within 2 days or consistently show up for meetings on time and prepared. Consider signing a contract to show everyone has given their consent.
3. Choose a collaboration tool. Find a method that works for you. Your company may have its own collaboration software or you may want to use Google documents. For simple tasks, emails or a Facebook group may suffice.
4. Collect contact information. Keep phone numbers and emails handy. You may need to reach each other quickly at some point.
5. Create roles and assignments. Consider how much structure you need. Designate a leader or share the responsibility. Delegate tasks and set deadlines so you know who is responsible for each deliverable.
6. Think positive. Group projects may require more effort, but they also have their advantages. You have a chance to practice collaborating, and you may even have fun.
7. Present your accomplishments. Think about how you’ll present your work and feature it on your resume. Understand your contribution and the bigger picture.
Group Projects – Dealing with Common Issues:
1. Share responsibility. Do you have a slacker on board? Refer to the ground rules and keep track of assignments to identify someone who may be falling behind. Speak to them privately to see if you can resolve the issue. If delays persist, you may need to inform your boss.
2. Be inclusive. Give each member an opportunity to be heard. Encourage individual presentations and go around the room during discussions.
3. Reach consensus. There are bound to be disagreements even in a cohesive group. Use your guidelines to develop a process for resolving conflicts, and treat each other with respect.
4. Ask for help. If you reach an impasse, it’s preferable to consult someone outside the group instead of wasting resources by remaining stuck. Call in an expert or ask your boss for additional guidance.
5. Start over. Changing conditions may mean that you’ll need to adjust course or even consider taking an entirely new direction. Be flexible if new management takes over or your industry undergoes a major shift. Remaining relevant is more important than sticking to your original plans.
6. Take the lead. Anyone can be a leader. If others seem to lack the time or interest to devote themselves to the project, consider stepping into the gap if you feel you have the necessary resources. It could be your chance to shine.
7. Give yourself a buffer. Daily responsibilities or an unexpected event could upset your plans. Building extra time into your schedule enables you to deal with delays and check your work over thoroughly before going public.
Group projects allow you to pool knowledge and skills so you can tackle subjects that might be too complex to handle on your own. You learn more about giving and receiving feedback, resolving differences, and appreciating different perspectives.
Impress employers and advance your career by showing that you can work effectively on your own and in a group.