How to Be Good at Group Work

Groups come in all shapes and sizes for a variety of purposes. While most people's first exposures to groups are likely from school projects, groups are also invaluable for professional organizations and corporations to accomplish major initiatives. Learning how to be a useful group member can go a long way towards boosting your career and professional development.


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    Identify your leadership style and the role that you naturally tend to gravitate towards in groups. Consider your answers to the following questions:
    • What do you enjoy contributing and volunteering to do? What skills -- art, programming, writing, typing, etc. -- do you possess that could be valuable for the group?
    • How would you approach a brewing conflict between other group members? Would you step in and attempt to mediate it, or would you step back?
    • What are your dominant personality traits? Are you impulsive or cautious, creative or direct, outspoken or reticent, practical or idealistic?
    • What have others praised and criticized you for in the past?
    • What contributions have you made to past group projects that were influential in the direction the group ultimately took? Thinking about your past successes and failures will help you see concrete examples of your contributions.
    • What are your weaknesses? What are personality traits that you hope your fellow group members would possess in order to round out your weaknesses? How would you minimize the impact of your shortcomings in a group dynamic?
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    Identify the managerial style of your group and think about how this complements and/or detracts from your personal skill set. Brainstorm ways to adapt your traits in order to be a better fit with the group. Think of weaknesses that the existing group members collectively produce and find ways to fill in those holes by taking the initiative in assuming needed roles. As any effective group leader would, being proactive about predicting and tending to group needs will make you a dynamic, valuable and appreciated group member.
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    Attend all meetings, especially if you are the group leader. This will keep you abreast of group proceedings and allow you to do your best work. You can't make contributions beyond your assigned responsibilities if you are absent from group discussions, as you won't have a clear big-picture view of your group's progress. Moreover, consistent attendance is the best way to demonstrate to your group that you are taking the project seriously and that you are invested in its success. This creates a positive feedback loop in which your colleagues will also care about the project because they see that everyone else cares; similarly, pushing the group to the lesser of your priorities risks demoralizing other members.
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    Listen to your colleagues. You can't respect everyone unless you take their suggestions and comments seriously, and you can't do that unless you listen to the words coming out of their mouth. Resist the temptation to write people off at first glance. People are so much more than what they come off as, and the person who keeps staring out the window while others talk may actually be a creative genius.
    • During group brainstorms, write everything down, no matter how silly you may think the idea is. There's no need to cross things off early, and bad ideas will be thrown out eventually. You want to make sure that everyone is respected and thus feels comfortable shouting out their thoughts during brainstorming sessions. Moreover, ideas that may be unfeasible on their own can be seeds for a greater idea or combined with other ideas to be amazing.
    • Make sure that interruptions are minimized and that everyone has a chance to speak out. If outspoken people repeatedly trample over others, consider instituting some sort of hand-raising or rotating system so that everyone gets a chance to talk. After any discussion, ask if anyone has a last comment or question before moving on. Create opportunities for group members who may not feel comfortable speaking up to also get their comments heard. Sometimes when you force people to talk (i.e., if at the end of a meeting, you create a system in which everyone has to share their thoughts about the meeting), they'll provide some valuable insights that they might otherwise feel is unimportant to offer.
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    Delegate tasks. Make sure everyone is taken seriously and that their assigned task reflects the fact that they are a valued group member. This is the best way to promote group harmony and ensure that everyone's talents will be taken advantage of to create the best product possible.
    • Asking for volunteers to complete tasks is a good idea because others may not be aware of a person's hobbies and personal talents. However, if no one volunteers after awhile, it may be prudent to ask if someone will take on the task. You may want to choose to make assignments in private discussions to avoid embarrassing someone who may really not want a particular task -- this is your call based on your assessments of the group dynamics.
    • People who are shy, quiet, etc. may initially be perceived as less valuable group members, but resist the temptation to act based on those judgments. You should not assume that someone won't take the group seriously unless they have repeatedly skipped meetings, failed to complete tasks, or otherwise bring nothing to the table. Give everyone a chance. Let their actions, not your or others' judgments, determine their commitment to the group.
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    Be prepared for all group meetings. This means completing your assigned tasks before the deadline, knowing how to succinctly explain your progress, recognizing any weak spots for which you may need to solicit assistance from others, and preparing samples of your progress for the rest of your group to visualize.
    • If you can't make a deadline, it's important that you communicate that to your group leader or task manager a few days in advance. You should be proactive about predicting your responsibilities and not plan to leave things for the last-minute. With enough advance notice, your group can adjust its progress and potentially alter task delegations in order to still remain on track. Otherwise, you risk jeopardizing the success of your entire group.
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    Practice before group rehearsals. Too often, groups convene before presentation day in order to do a dress rehearsals, but group members assume that is the deadline for completing the project and leave no room for practicing individually beforehand. It's not. You should show up to dress rehearsals having already practiced your part of the presentation. You don't want to be the weakest link who's hindering the team's progress and wasting everyone else's time.


  • Consider using the leadership compass to determine what type of role you should play in a group. It's a reliable method of generalizing dominant personality traits into group roles, and can help you realize strengths and weaknesses you were otherwise unaware of.
  • If you're a leader and everything is just too much, get an assistant or a secretary. This will help you do your work better and easier!
  • If hiring a secretary is unfeasible, consider delegating more tasks to other people. Keep your primary obligation to managing others and monitoring progress. Ideally, you should be doing a part of the work too, but if that is truly an unmanageable workload, delegate your part to a trusted colleague.
  • Make communication with your other group members and task leader the highest priority. A group cannot be successful if communication between its members is stunted and no one knows what everyone else is doing. Conversely, making sure that everyone is aware of others' progress will allow people to contribute beyond their assigned tasks.


  • Sometimes there can be group arguments. Try to avoid these by being patient and listening to others. If a fight has already broken out, see what you can do to help resolve it. With fiery-tempered colleagues, it may be best to call for a recess and ask everyone to re-convene in a few minutes, after they've had a chance to calm down and think their positions through more clearly. If conflicts break out repeatedly, consider instituting a more systematic process of contributing in which everyone takes turns to present their thoughts and all comments are written down for subsequent group review.
  • Sometimes group works MAY interfere with your studies. Group work isn't your entire life. Manage your time wisely.

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