As the school year unfolds and students join clubs and start new initiatives, they will find themselves having to work with others. It is no secret that working with a team can be challenging, even if it is among a group of friends. With differing work ethics, personalities and expectations, there are bound to be some opposing opinions. However, with the following tips that build on one another and a focus on the end goal with your group, the experience can be well organized, engaging and rewarding.
It is crucial to show every member of your team respect. The best way to do this? Listen to what they have to say. Their opinions, ideas and approaches may differ from yours, but they still have a right to be heard (without interruption). In allowing each person to share their thoughts, innovative ideas may surface.
By listening to each team member, especially if you’ve just met one another, you get to know one another — differing work habits, differing perspectives and how different people envision the project evolving. It can also help to reveal the roles toward which individuals gravitate — such as the vocal leaders of the group, those more comfortable with following directions, those that worry or those that may have overly unrealistic expectations. This can help build working relationships, help everyone better understand who is capable of what and help establish a level of trust among members.
The larger the team, the easier it is for voices to be lost. While remembering to be respectful, ensure the group knows your ideas and your boundaries. Be assertive and organized with your thoughts, and when you disagree, be clear as to why. Being forward does not mean being aggressive. When tensions start to rise — and they will — a strong yet calm demeanour can function to alleviate any escalation among the group members.
When working with a group, you should be both self-aware and aware of others. When we understand and recognize our own strengths, attitudes and emotional triggers, we are far more likely to be effective team members. When we know and can communicate our own capabilities and limitations, we are less likely to overextend ourselves and, in turn, we become more efficient contributors. In addition, it allows us to set realistic and ascertainable goals and, as the work progresses, it allows us to remain collected in the critical moments, such as just before a deadline.
Conversely, when we are aware of others, through listening and observing, we are able to foresee potential issues or breakdowns and prevent them from occurring. At times, this will require more sensitivity and support.
Be willing to change
As mentioned, when a variety of people work together toward an objective, there is bound to be some opposition. This does not mean total dysfunction or breakdown of the progress but rather instances of clashing viewpoints. When trust has been established among the team members, it is far easier to adjust and compromise to find a comfortable middle ground for everyone. When we are flexible and open to suggestions, we can uncover novel ideas that can make the project or initiative even better or ,in other instances, can help us get past a particular hurdle smoothly.
Sometimes, people need a push. Sometimes, the group needs a bit more drive. A little recognition can go a long way. When people take the time to encourage and compliment each other, they directly impact a person’s or a group’s motivation and interest in the task at hand. In vocalizing a job well done or a well-executed task, the team is reminded of why they enrolled in the first place and an individual feels a sense of belonging and excitement to see the project through.
Working with a team can be a powerful tool for personal growth. While many students feel uncomfortable with the idea of working with a team, collaborating with a group can improve communication skills, improve conflict resolution skills and improve our ability to adapt. These skills are essential and certainly unavoidable in the workplace and employers will expect a certain level of experience with group work. Law school is full of opportunities and events to engage with students, professors and professionals alike. It is the perfect place to work with a team and improve those valuable and transferable skills for a future career.