I can remember back when I had to do group projects in university, with fellow students i didn’t know, and on different schedules. Oh the memories! Then came actual jobs where I had to collaborate with co-workers on a specific project. But no matter the type of setting or context you find yourself doing group work in, we all know that these experiences can sometimes leave you thinking, “never again”!
If you’ve had a terrible experiences working with others, it can sometimes be difficult to get back into it and think optimistically about the outcome of group work, even teamwork! And if you’re the one responsible for forming or managing work groups, it can be an added pressure.
But I am here to tell you that there are ways to patch up your wounded outlook about working teams, and make these experiences positive ones in the future.
Here are things you need to consider in order to create working groups that, well… work better together!!
Ask yourself: Do we all have the same vision
People working together on a project, event, mission, whatever you want to call it, may differ in the way they perceive the end result, and even HOW they are going to get there.
If you ask each member of a working team to describe what “achieving the goal” actually looks like, you may be surprised by the variety of perceptions. Not that this is a bad thing, but it needs to be clarified.
If visions differ, we need to put this on the table right away, dissect it, consider alternatives and viewpoints, group similarities and differences in order to provide a final outlook that is both clear and attainable for all.
Once the end result is clarified and everyone is on the same page, you can then focus on the steps needed in order to attain these results. People may propose many different paths, strategies and agendas, so a preliminary discussion is necessary in order to establish the process and work better together.
Of course, it is up to you to determine if your working team needs to reach consensus, if there is someone appointed to call the shots and give directives, or somewhere in the middle. Make it clear who makes the final decisions, and how much input you allow everyone to give. You may find that allowing members to have a voice helps make them feel that they have contributed to the process, even if their suggestions aren’t used in the end.
Communicate in order to work better together
The term communication may seem a little vague. We already spoke somewhat about communicating visions, and ways to arrive at an end result, but there’s more to it. I’m talking about systematic communication among those working together in order to keep one another aware and up-to-date with current happenings, as well as equipped to handle the next steps of the process.
A little follow-up here and there, scheduled “review” meetings, even a “good job” communicated among members can enlighten others to what’s been done, what hasn’t, where you are, and how you are feeling about their work.
Don’t forget to communicate the “not so good”
A lot of the time, working with others can cause confrontations. And we tend to roll our eyes more when the assertive, expressive people step up to disagree with a statement or suggestion from another co-worker. They may trigger a back-and-forth discord and slow down the process, which can leave you thinking, “why don’t you just let it go already!”
But are those who challenge others in a group the reason behind all conflict? What about those who fail to speak up to the right person, at the right time? Those who disagree but don’t say it, who aren’t happy with a decision but fail to share their frustration effectively, who don’t like the way the group is approaching a task but keep quiet only to complain to a co-worker on their own time?
“To work better together” means bringing up these dissatisfactions, frustrations and fears in a safe and non-threatening way. Some theories of group work, like Tuckman’s stages of group development, suggests that to be performing, people working together will go through inevitable ups and downs and experience what he calls the “storming” stage, in the initial phases of work.
If we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to share concerns and voice opinions, even when they go against the group, the accumulation of frustrations may cause prolong conflicts, ill feelings towards one another and low productivity. So who’s causing conflict now?!
Anticipating hurdles to work better together
A project does not always run smoothly, so why not be ahead of the game and start thinking about what types of things can get in the way of your success. Now, I am not trying to sound skeptical (even though my psychometric test says I have a tendency to do so!), I am simply suggesting that you start adopting a type of preventative thinking to work better together.
Schedule time in your meetings to anticipate what could go wrong (even things that may be out of your control), such as technology breaking down, people being sick, even underestimating the time it takes to accomplish a task. Work together at highlighting these hurdles and come together at finding solutions and “Plan B’s”.
Just like a fire drill, everyone will know what to do in an emergency and come out of it intact.
Embrace differences to work better together
As the saying goes, 2 heads are better than 1! But if those 2 heads have conflicting views, are rigid when faced with change and work in completely different ways, this saying can be misleading.
A lot of people are intimidated by those who are different than them. Sometimes, they even feel apprehensive by those who are very similar to them, or better than they are at a task. And while some’s claws come out, others feel empowered by such people.
To work better together, we must learn to not only desensitize ourselves on the strengths and natural tendencies of the people we are working with, but to appreciate what makes them unique.
Team diversity can be a very positive thing! Think about it this way: when you are working with people with varying personalities, you can obtain more viewpoints on a subject, consider more alternatives to problems and delegate different tasks to different people according to what they are good and natural at.
You have a plethora of character traits at your fingertips, but handle with care! Use tools that can help you identify the innate potential of your working teams and that provide advice to improve collaboration.
Personalities that are different don’t have to be difficult! The first step is knowing. Then you can begin learn how to accept and find the good in every personality.
To work better together, you must understand people’s visions, align everyone on the process, create an environment where communication is continuous, and where there’s room to share frustrations and fears. Look ahead as a group, predict hurdles so that you can find solutions together, and embrace the differences of personalities among you, they are the driving force for behavior! So it’s time to get out there and find tools to help you really get to know who you are working with! Now is as good a time as ever!