Working as a team is the most productive way of working in the 21st century. It is a way of bringing new skills and perspectives to the table, while alleviating workload. Science and Technology are fields so vast that it’s necessary to elicit the collaboration of specialists who can help with in-depth knowledge. Networking and PR have gotten so powerful that it’s usually wise to include dedicated marketeers in your teams.
Working with other people, however, is way different from working alone. It requires coordination between team members, quick and effective conflict resolution, balanced task division and keeping everyone’s morale up.
Whether you chose your own team members or a teacher did that for you, strive to become the leader of the team.
This is not your opportunity to become dictator for life just yet, but one to train your leadership skills. Being a leader means having the knowledge to direct the operations. Suggest the adoption of best practices, such as planning, scheduling and task division. As a leader, it’s also your job to keep morale up and solve any conflicts that may arise.
Again, becoming the leader doesn’t have to be done in an authoritarian way; just be enthusiastic, motivating and make them realize that you have some ideas that will improve the outcome of the project you are working on. Chances are they will listen and agree with you, since it is a way of maximizing their results (grades or similar goals).
After you get to know your team, organize a preliminary meeting. Your first meeting is the most important one, since you’ll define goals and plan aspects that will set the tone and affect the whole project.
First Meeting Checklist
- Set goals and write them down. Ask yourselves what you intend to achieve with your work. Top grade? Win a contest? Build something?
- Schedule the key tasks of the project. Time management will make or break your project. Control time and don’t let it control your team. Tools like the Gantt chart make all the difference, suggest their usage during your meetings.
- Balance strengths and weaknesses. Evaluate each super power and weakness individually. Then do the same thing for the whole team. Being honest with yourselves allows to assign tasks to the right people and avoid unnecessary risks and bumps on the road.
- Schedule the next meeting and its purpose.
Be careful with meetings though. They’re essential to keep the engine going, but can become a major time drain.
The first meeting is usually the longest, since you’ll have a lot of brainstorming and planning to do. From then on, be sure to schedule meetings based on a well-defined purpose. Also, keep them brief, efficient and limited to a certain time (say 15-20 minutes).
More Tips to Work as a Team of Superstars
If worked on a complex before, you quickly realize that teamwork can be tough. If someone is not on the same page, if there are disagreements, uninterested teammates, things can go wrong.
Information is the key to success and most of these tips are based on effective communication:
- Coordinate teamwork flawlessly. Make sure everyone is notified about the overall state of affairs, decisions, tasks and change of plans. If distance is a problem, you can accomplish this easily using email, messaging or, optimally, a project management service like Trello or Basecamp.
- Divide tasks according to knowledge and talent. Get your friends extra motivated by deciding which tasks are more appropriate for each person. Obviously, the artsy guy is your best choice for designing the slides and the most charismatic person should be speaking to the audience.
- Value each opinion, especially the ones you don’t agree with. Be comfortable with other opinions, because disagreement is your friend and will add quality to your work in the form of new points of view and constructive criticism. Just don’t make it personal and keep the conflict of ideas friendly.
- Manage conflict like Gandhi. Keep a positive attitude even when things appear to be going in the wrong direction. Don’t blame your teammates for their mistakes, they are on your side. No matter how hard it may seem, a positive outlook and a problem solving mentality are always more powerful than arguments.
- Motivate and engage. Sometimes, people won’t contribute or will act uninterested. Find out why they are behaving in such a way and encourage them to share their point of view. A simple “We haven’t heard from you in a while, Zack, what do you think?” can work wonders.
When the going gets tough, remember that it took a team of hundreds to get a man to the moon (and they did it!). I’m sure you’ll have tons of success leading your team of a few people to total victory.