College classes are starting for many over the next few weeks, so it seems like a good time to talk about a dreaded subject: group projects.
They’re usually a nightmare for introverts and people who like working by themselves. And unfortunately, the drama and frustration they often incur can zap the positivity of even the most extroverted, collaborative student.
But there’s a way that you can make the most of these assignments.
Here’s our hypothesis: in every group project setting, people fall into one of four archetypes: Driver, Harmonizer, Enterpriser, or Coaster. Along with identifying these types of team members, we’ve provided some fictional characters as examples. By being self-aware about the type of team member you are – and what kinds of team members you’ll encounter along your college journey – you’ll be better prepared to tackle every group project this semester throws at you.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
Welcome, Type-A’s and people who have been called “bossy” more times than they can count. You know you belong here. As natural leaders, Drivers tend to be outspoken and competitive. In the group project setting, Drivers spearhead the efforts of their teams with a laser-focus on success.
Do any of these sound like you? If so, there’s a good chance that you play the role of Driver in your group projects:
- You feel that the only way a project will be done to your satisfaction is if you’re in charge.
- You are a good communicator and don’t mind the spotlight.
- You want to surround yourself with people who are as hardworking and committed as you are.
- You can sometimes intimidate people because you are intently dedicated to success.
Drivers are often vilified by people who don’t understand them or share their intensity. And it’s true that your competitive nature can be off-putting if you let it rule you. But the fact is, Drivers are an immensely valuable addition to a group project team, especially if the other members of the group aren’t as comfortable acting as a spokesperson or delegating responsibilities.
Here are a couple of ideas to help you become an even more effective leader:
- Keep your emotions in check. It’s easy to get hot-headed when you sense that other group project members aren’t putting in the time and effort they need to. When that happens, find a way to cool off before addressing the inter-team issues. And if you do need to call out slackers in your group, do so in a way that is constructive and respectful, not condescending or impatient. You can do it!
- Trust your teammates and start delegating. Is it terrifying? Yes. But will it help strengthen the relationships of the people on your team? Absolutely. Learning to delegate work can be scary for the control-freaks among us (no judgment). But it’s a necessary leadership skill. If you want to grow in this area, use a group project as a platform to do so. You may be surprised at the great work that other team members put forth with some encouragement.
“Why can’t we all just get along?” Such is the cry of Harmonizers all over the planet. They’re empathetic and caring people. As such, they’re awesome peacemakers if group projects start to go awry.
If the following descriptions sound like you, you probably play the role of a Harmonizer in your group projects:
- You genuinely love people.
- You strongly dislike drama and arguments among your friends.
- People often rely on you to act as a mediator when issues arise.
- You believe that in the long run, people’s feelings and confidence are more important than the success of a project.
Harmonizers aren’t just “bleeding hearts,” though. They’re often emotionally mature individuals who are adept at conflict resolution. As such, you can play a vital role in the group project (and honestly, you’ll probably be the most popular person in the group).
If you’re anxious to keep your sanity AND your team together, here’s what we suggest:
- Adapt your communication. Let’s say you’re helping smooth things over between a Driver and a Coaster. Both have very different personalities, and what’s important to one may not be for the other. As a Harmonizer, you can help get the team back on track by tailoring conflict resolution to different working styles.
- Take a moment to advocate for yourself. You’re busy making sure that everyone in the group project has a voice and that spats are quickly put to rest. But are you concentrating on making your ideas heard, too? Don’t let your team members box you into a secretary-like role. You’re not just there to calm down fights and encourage people – you have a larger role in the project, and you can say so.
Resourceful and diligent, the Enterpriser is the linchpin of a group project. Enterprisers are the students who keep their heads down and work hard. They care about their grades and aspire to make the projects a success, but they aren’t very comfortable in leadership roles. Usually, Enterprisers are introverts.
You might be an Enterpriser if:
- You prefer to work alone.
- You don’t like being the center of attention or being in leadership positions.
- You work hard to get a job done and avoid drama along the way.
- You care about your grades and are committed to putting the right amount of time and effort into a project to keep them up.
Your dedication to working hard will carry you far in a group project and will establish good rapport with your team members. Here are a couple of ways that you can make the most of a group project situation as an Enterpriser:
- Speak up. Your opinion matters! Don’t be afraid of Drivers inadvertently squashing your ideas. Chances are, you have a perspective on the project that none of the other group members have. Share it!
- Stake your claim. Early on in the group project, volunteer for task(s) that you feel comfortable managing. This will enable you to work independently and will demonstrate to the other team members that you’re committed and capable. It might even set a precedent for the rest of the students in your group.
No, not the thing your mom made you put your drink on to keep her coffee table clean. We’re talking about the kind of person who coasts through group projects. A free spirit, if you will. They’re typically fun-lovers who are the life of the party.
If these descriptions apply to you, you’re probably a group project Coaster:
- You don’t like the pressure of leading a group.
- The thought of meeting with your group outside of class annoys you (and you probably will just skip, honestly).
- You don’t really stress out about grades and generally prefer to “roll with the punches” in life.
- You don’t consider yourself to be a super driven person, but you sure do know how to have fun.
Look, Coasters, we’re not here to judge. Everyone has their own personality and working style! But here are some tips to help you get along with your classmates and make you a valuable member of the team:
- Be upfront about your drawbacks. Be honest with your team members about the time and effort that you can commit to the project. If you know for a fact that you won’t be able to add your slides to the PowerPoint without some help, or that you don’t know enough about the subject matter to take part in the bulk of the presentation, say so. What matters is that you’re transparent about it before the project proceeds too far.
- Follow through. If you’re perceived as a Coaster, you probably won’t get entrusted with a whole lot of work (no offense – but most Drivers have control issues anyway and won’t feel comfortable staking their grades on your work ethic). But if you are tasked with something, make sure you deliver.
Do you have a group project success story (or horror story) you’d like to share? Comment below!