During your college career, you’ll probably have to complete group projects that will account for large percentages of your final grades. And if you happen to be a business or liberal arts major, they’ll account for a large portion of your time each semester. The skill of working well with others is important to your growth personally, academically, and down the road professionally. But the challenges presented by lackluster groupmates and internal power struggles can cause lots of anxiety.
In order to make the most out of a group project, you’ll have to invest an equal amount of time paying attention to your group members as the project itself. Once your group is formed, exchange contact information with one another. Get to know your groupmates better and become familiar with their strengths and weaknesses; then establish which task each will perform. For example, if a portion of your project deals with quantitative data, delegate it to a member who’s strong in math. If it requires a visual, let an artistic person handle that task. Be sure to choose specific times when most of the group can meet. In some cases, not every member will be able to show up, but you can compensate for that by communicating to them what they’ve missed.
As you begin working on the project, establish benchmarks for progress and make sure that every member is pulling their weight. If they’re not, try to understand what’s holding them back; they could have legitimate reasons. Encourage them to come to the next meeting prepared, and if they fail to do that, pick up the slack by dividing their tasks among the more productive group members. Keep in mind that more often than not, you’ll be forced to deal with group members who are less than agreeable. Don’t take offense to a member who’s trying to exert too much control; simply explain your point of view respectfully. If a majority of the group wants to go in a different direction from where that member prefers, continue forward without hurting their feelings. Also, make sure that your own behavior isn’t detrimental to your group. Don’t be too controlling, but don’t be a pushover either. Always voice your concerns. Ultimately, composing the best project possible – and a good grade – is the goal.