By: Thomas Funk, ‘18
Rumor has it that years ago, back when it was still called Chicago GSB, the school was given feedback from employers that recent graduates were plenty smart but didn’t play well with others. If you were ever wondering why group projects are breaking out like measles at Disneyland, there’s your answer. Some, like myself, came from solitary jobs and are a bit rusty on the touchy-feely stuff. Whether you’re new to this or an old pro, a quick refresher can’t hurt. Here are some group work best practices gleaned from my own experiences and those shared with me thus far.
Be a manager. They say a good leader is a good follower. If that’s true, how is your group ever going to learn to lead with no one to follow? You’re concentrating in general management. Who better to manage the generalities of the project? Don’t sully yourself with the execution. While everyone else keeps their nose to the grindstone, you keep your gaze to the future. Your team will thrive under your careful tutelage and bask in the glow of your managerial expertise.
Be a starter. Finding a topic can be arduous. Luckily your team has you. You complete just enough to get the ball rolling. It would be ungrateful of them to start over after you put in all this time. Lay the foundation and then disappear into the night. You’ve done your part and it wouldn’t be fair to the others if you did more. Everyone deserves the opportunity to pitch in and you are giving them just that. For the rest of the quarter.
Be a finisher. It’s the tiny details that can transform a good project into a great one. By removing yourself from the bulk of the work you can swoop in at the end with a fresh set of eyes and save the day. When everyone else is exhausted and is ready to settle, you can point out all the glaring flaws. The best projects are worked on for weeks and then have everything changed at the last minute before hastily emailed seconds before they’re due.
Be flexible. Your groupmates will appreciate having someone who doesn’t get caught up in the minutia. You help the team by encouraging everyone equally. If anything comes down to a vote, don’t take sides. Your team will respect your openness. Their eyes may plead for you to just help move things along but their hearts are thanking you for not stepping on anyone’s toes.
Be resolute. The University of Chicago celebrates opposing views. Sure, some things are inconsequential but if they matter to you why not defend them? Sometimes the best path to progress is grinding to a halt while debating between 11.5 point Tahoma and 12 point Trebuchet… for the appendix… of the presentation notes that won’t be turned in.
Last but not least, be sensitive. If you have conflicts with your group members it is always important to remember their feelings. When talking through issues avoid accusatory language. Focus on the positive and lightly hint at the negative. This can make your aggression come off as more passive. Also consider alternatives to direct conversation like writing a carefully worded email or publishing a list of the team’s flaws in the school paper.
Obviously there is no single best way to work in a group. Just be yourself and focus on the task at hand. If you have follow-up questions or more helpful tips, come find me at the next weekly meetup to determine the best time to have a powwow to schedule a sit down to talk about team building.