Working with people to accomplish a task is necessary at some point in every career. Why is it then that some groups flourish while others flounder? Successful collaboration depends on more than a good leader and motivated members (although that helps a lot). In my own experiences with navigating the roles in a group, I have found a few things that seem to be consistent among each group I enter.
1. Conflict doesn’t kill creativity.
This doesn’t mean throw a book at the person across from you who is driving you crazy; but, having difficult conversations can yield results that may not have been attainable otherwise. If a group member is not holding up their end of the project, don’t pick up the slack without letting them know. Guilty of this on many occasions, it drives anxiety and disharmony in the group dynamic. The person may even change their behavior.
2. Every person cannot be a leader.
If you are person that is used to taking control, imagine what can happen if 7 of the 10 people in the group are also used to taking charge. By self-monitoring, you can be more cognizant of when it is better to step back and take direction versus trying to compete with others in the group to move it in the right direction. Don’t become complacent, but sometimes effective leaders can generate even more success when following.
3. E-mail will not solve all of your problems.
Maybe it’s old fashioned, but threads of e-mail and mediated live chats do not yield the same clarity as quickly or efficiently as face to face conversation. Questions can be overlooked and unaddressed without coming together in order to discuss the project at hand. E-mails and chats can also be read incorrectly and negatively impact the interpersonal group dynamic of the team. That being said, although it makes for instant contact, finding a time to meet did not die with the advent of Google Docs.
4. You can get a lot out of listening.
I like to talk. Sometimes too much. For every person in the group who likes to talk, the quieter, more subdued members may be left without giving input. Try to keep those members in mind before you dominate the conversation. Often times, some of the most creative ideas come from those who aren’t as willing to join in on the conversation. By listening to what they have to say, it not only gives you more to think about, but it also helps to strengthen the collaborative relationship among team members.
Group work can either be great or terrible. Some people love it and others hate it. Which person are you and what tips do you have for yielding great results from a group?