If the idea of doing group work fills you with dread, you’re not alone. Memories of group projects at school might dull your enthusiasm.
The goals of school projects weren’t always clear. The strongest personality in the group tended to take over. Others shrugged off their parts. No one was really held accountable. And in the end, you all received the same mark anyway.
Why teamwork is better on the job
Teamwork in the workplace is a lot different from what you might have experienced in school. If you’re asked to be part of a project team at work, you should jump at the opportunity. Here’s why.
Workplace project teams are handpicked for the task
If you’re asked to be part of a project team at work, it’s not a random offering. It’s because of who you are and what you can bring to the team. As with each team member, you’ve been singled out because management has recognized:
- The project will benefit from someone with your skills.
- Your participation is considered an asset.
- Your potential contribution is deemed valuable.
Workplace project team goals are well defined
When management puts together a project team it is with clear purpose. Their organizations are looking to solve real-world challenges. They don’t waste valuable resources (like time or money) on make-work projects.
Typically, project teams will be given:
- Strategic direction on the scope of the project.
- A designated team leader with proven leadership skills and a clear understanding of project goals.
- Clear information about what the team is expected to produce at the end of the project. For example, you might need to write a report that recommends how the company should move forward.
- A deadline, along with resources such as time, workspace, and a budget.
- The power to make team decisions about how to manage the project.
- A strong mix of team members with all the skills you need to succeed.
Project teams allow you to shine in the workplace
Being part of a team in the workplace is a great way to showcase all you have to offer. This can include your job skills and work ethic. It can also highlight your ability to cooperate and collaborate. Above all, it gives managers and coworkers a chance to see your true potential.
These projects are on management’s radar. When you take part as a team member, you land on managers’ radar, too.
Being on a project team presents many standout opportunities. You can:
- Seek mentorship from senior team members.
- Serve as a mentor to others.
- Expand your knowledge of the organization and industry.
- Grow your professional network.
- Practice workplace skills. For example, you can prove your aptitude, grow your confidence, and highlight your potential.
- Build your resumé.
- Gain recognition.
- Position yourself for job promotions.
Key skills to succeed as a project team member
Technical know-how is just one element behind any team’s success. Whenever people work toward a shared goal, they also need people with the following soft skills.
Skills for Success: Collaboration (1:03)
Many jobs require you to work with people from different backgrounds and cultures. Collaboration skills help you support and value others, no matter who they are or where they’re from. They help you perform better in a team. They help you work with people of all ages to complete tasks and solve problems. Strong collaboration skills help you manage difficult interactions. They help you build positive relationships with others—at work, in school, and in other parts of your life.
You bring your own ideas, beliefs, and experiences to the team. So does everyone else. And this can lead to disagreements. You may share the end goal, but you won’t always agree on how to get there.
Skills for Success: Communication (1:09)
Communication skills are important for developing good working relationships with co-workers and clients, including those from different backgrounds and cultures. Strong communication skills help you work effectively in a team. They help you understand a variety of viewpoints. They help you gather and share information to solve problems—whether at work or in your daily life.
Working with others in a team setting requires strong communication skills. Communication skills help you understand differing viewpoints. They help you gather and share information to solve problems.
Communication includes different things. Sometimes it means explaining your thinking to other team members, even when it seems obvious to you. Other times, it means listening to others’ thoughts and summing up your understanding. Many times, it means challenging others without being confrontational.
Ultimately, having good communication skills means always finding respectful ways to share ideas and resolve differences.
Skills for Success: Adaptability (1:04)
Major changes in society are affecting how you work, live, and learn. Changes in society mean that you have to change too. Strong adaptability skills help you deal with change effectively. They help you learn the new skills and behaviours you need. They help you stay focused on your responsibilities and goals. They help you stay positive and not give up when things get tough. And they help you manage the stress that can come from changes in your workplace, your community, and your life at home.
We live in a rapidly changing world. Sometimes changes come out of nowhere and we have no choice but to adapt. To use a word that’s become common, we have to pivot. In this context, the word “pivot” means to turn quickly and precisely.
Teamwork helps with this. Teams combine the knowledge, skills, and abilities of all their members. This allows them to deliver results that are better than any one person could accomplish alone. Sometimes the results come in the form of ideas that allow organizations to adapt quickly—to pivot—in response to rapid or unexpected change.
Adapting to sudden change
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many small companies faced the prospect of going out of business. Among those were small businesses that made alcoholic beverages. Sales had dropped sharply because people weren’t able to meet and socialize. Because of this, many people weren’t drinking as much alcohol.
But some businesses converted some of their operations. They started making hand sanitizer, a product that has alcohol as a key ingredient. It was very much in demand. Retail stores had quickly run out of it. This pivot helped many businesses stay afloat during tough times.
Skills for Success: Problem Solving (1:14)
Problem-solving skills are important for everything you do in life, from managing your time to meeting your career goals. Good problem solving starts with the ability to think and make decisions. You learn these skills with practice and experience. The stronger your problem-solving skills, the faster and more effectively you can adapt to change.
Workplace teams are almost always assembled to solve problems. How can the organization grow? How can it add value to the customer experience? With the right mix of knowledge and experience in the room, a team can brainstorm and come up with solutions.
A key point in solving any problem is perspective, or how you look at it. If you only see a problem, you might never find a solution. Problem solving works much better when you think, “This problem is telling me that something isn’t working. It’s giving me an opportunity to make things work better.”
Seeing problems as opportunities is an essential aspect of problem solving. Good problem-solving skills are a must-have if you are to add value to a project team at work.
Creativity and innovation
Skills for Success: Creativity and Innovation (1:02)
Creativity and innovation skills help you come up with new ideas and approaches—both at work and outside work. They help you think about things differently than in the past. And they help you change things for the better. People who are creative and innovative have curious minds. They find inspiration from a broad range of experiences and perspectives. They think of mistakes as learning moments. They inspire others to innovate and support them in developing their own creativity.
You’ve probably heard references to “thinking outside the box.” The “box” refers to a standard response that most people would have to a certain problem. When you’re creative, you respond in non-standard ways. You think outside the box.
For example, if your clothes are dirty, you put them in a washing machine. But what if you live in a place without a washing machine? What if you’re travelling and end up in a town with no laundromats? What if you’re camping and the only water to wash with is in a lake? Then you have to look beyond your standard response to a problem. You have to be creative.
Creativity helps you think about things differently than others may, or than you may have in the past. It stems from a combination of need and curiosity, and it requires a willingness to take risks. Creativity can help you introduce new ideas and bring about positive change. It, together with these other soft skills, will serve you well as part of a project team at work.