Teamwork Ahead? 5 Tips For Working as a Group
Factor in the different leadership styles, intense competition, and challenging work found in the business school environment, and the difficulties of working as part of a group becomes amplified when teamwork is involved. But it doesn’t have to be this way! With the right techniques in place, teamwork can be exponentially productive. Here’s what you need to know.
- Student Tips
Nothing elicits groans of dismay in the classroom quite like the announcement of an impending team project. Factor in the different leadership styles, intense competition, and challenging work found in the business school environment, and the difficulties of working as part of a group becomes amplified. But it doesn’t have to be this way! With the right techniques in place, teamwork can be exponentially productive. Here’s what you need to know.
The Benefits of Teamwork
If you’re like most students, you may have at one time or another said to yourself, “Why do we even have to work in a group, anyway? I get so much more accomplished when I work on my own.” The fact is that while individual work serves a very real purpose, so does teamwork.
When a team overcomes the usual obstacles and work well together, they can accomplish faster than one person working alone. Not only are people more efficient when working well together, but the outcome is also usually more effective. Why? Because it’s the byproduct of thought, dialogue, and information exchange -- all of which push the boundaries of what an individual can do alone. In ideal teamwork situations, true synergy is achieved: a result in which the end is far greater than its parts.
But the benefits aren’t limited to the project outcomes. Students also become more flexible, responsive, and empowered while working as part of a group -- all attributes which can help them succeed throughout both their personal and professional lives. And with more and more employers prioritizing soft skills when making hiring decisions, the importance of being able to demonstrate the ability to “play well with others” cannot be overstated.
One last surprising outcome of team projects? Team members are also often more motivated to perform -- not due to competition as you might expect, but because of the encouragement and support of their teammates. The result? A greater collective sense of accomplishment.
Making Teamwork Work
Think the above constitutes an idealized picture of what usually goes down during b-school group work? You may be right. But that doesn’t mean those benefits are unattainable. These five tips can help you position yourself -- and your team! -- for success during your next group assignment.
1. Agree on a Leader
No matter how big or how small, every project needs a leader. Early in the process, encourage your group to select a leader who can help set goals and ensure that each teammate is empowered to succeed in his part of the project. This can keep you on the right track and headed in a positive direction. Remember: a leader is very different than a dictator. True leaders have the ability to inspire and influence others to want to strive toward their goals.
The group leader also plays an important role in managing expectations. How often will you meet? How will you communicate with each other outside the classroom? Addressing these questions can help minimize conflict and confusion while maximizing productivity.
2. Set Goals
As an MBA student it is important to set goals when working as a group Don’t assume that every member of the team understands the ultimate objective and/or critical benchmarks along the way. If you are working as part of a diverse or multi-disciplinary group, each member may bring a different “big picture” perspective to the table. Aligning these from the onset is an essential part of fostering both efficiency and goodwill on route to achieving your mission.
3. Get Cohesive
“We’ve got spirit, yes we do! We’ve got spirit, how about you?” You may think of this cheer as best suited for Friday night football games, but team spirit is an important part of any positive group project experience. How do you foster a sense of cohesion in the business school classroom? Create a culture of trust, support and respect by encouraging participants to get to know each other. Group members must feel welcome to share their ideas, and must be willing to listen to the ideas of others, as well. While it can initially take time to stop looking at each other as competitors and to start accepting each other as collaborators, the payoffs are huge.
4. Give, Take...and Grow
Sometimes your idea will be the best one, but sometimes it will not. The sooner you learn to be open to the ideas -- and to the constructive criticism -- of others, the sooner you can start to push out the boundaries of your own knowledge while making true progress as a group. This will help during your MBA in Leadership programme.
5. Define Group Roles
Just as it’s critical to designate a leader, it’s also essential for every other member of the group to know their roles and understand their potential contribution. Of course, this can be a particular challenge in a business school setting in which all team members are accustomed to taking the reins. Willingness to step up or step back as need be is an invaluable skill.
In addition to keeping team members on task and accountable, clearly defining roles and responsibilities serves another, equally important role: the first step in leveraging diversity into innovation lies not only in acknowledging our differences, but in celebrating them.
Today’s business world is increasingly marked by a spirit of collaboration. Students looking for the inside edge on successfully navigating this diverse landscape will have no better opportunity to develop and hone these skills than during business school group projects. While it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’d do better on your own, doing so is missing one critical factor: ultimately, we’re all in this together.
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Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.