As a graduate student who has 30% of her final grade determined by team assignments, I know how important it is to work well with others. Teamwork isn’t only important in an academic setting, although that is a good place to learn team building skills; teamwork is also necessary in employment and in many everyday situations.
Here are some tips to help you build your teamwork skills no matter what setting you’re in:
Share strengths and weaknesses
Regardless of the task or assignment, working as a team means putting everyone’s best attributes forward. The best way to do this is by sharing what everyone brings to the table. In team assignments, I may struggle to get a project started, but I’m good at summarizing, and I have an eye for detail. The ability to recognize what your strengths and weaknesses are in a group setting and express them openly will help the entire group function more cohesively by putting each member’s strength’s to work.
The art of constructive criticism
Constructive criticism is truly an art form, and one that surprisingly few people are familiar with. Constructive criticism has to come from a place of encouragement, intended to improve on someone’s idea rather than solely criticize the idea. If you truly find it difficult to criticize an idea in a constructive way, try the “sandwich theory,” a trick my elementary school teacher taught me, in which you put a negative comment between two positive comments. People are more likely to respond to constructive feedback than harsh criticism alone.
If you can’t say anything nice…
We get to choose our friends, but we don’t get to choose our classmates or our co-workers. Inevitably, there will be times when teamwork involves working with people and personalities that we simply do not like. I have had my fair share of these situations and they can be tough, but they are also what we make of them.
There is truth in the old adage to choose your battles, and a team environment is not the time to suit up. The objective of any team is to produce a successful project, presentation, assignment, etc. If you find yourself in a team with a co-worker or classmate who would otherwise have you running for the hills, remain professional and don’t feed into any conflict, perceived or actualized. Merely chalk it up to a learning experience.
Check out Forbes for another article with even more information about improving your teamwork skills.