We’re into Week 4 of the semester and assessment briefs will soon be issued, some of which may require…
Why the Emphasis on Group Work?
As media students you will eventually be entering industries that all place high priority on their employees’ ability to work well in and contribute to a team. Employers are looking for graduates who can bring new or different strengths to their existing teams.
If you think about it, there are very few jobs in today’s creative industry that call for a person to work on their own without any team collaboration. Yes, you may eventually sit down at your computer and design the next big thing in automatic goldfish feeding systems, but not before working as part of a team: meeting with the client, researching the product, discussing specifications and budgets, brainstorming ideas…and so on, and so on.
Employers, today, consider “teamwork” a key employment skill which graduates are expected to be familiar with, if not proficient in, when entering the job market.
Skills Needed for Group Work
Group work requires the consistent application of certain skills in order for the process to run smoothly, and to allow for different people, with different attributes and personalities to work together effectively.
Communication and Listening Skills:
Effective group work requires the participants to practice both good communication and listening skills.
We’ve all at one point or another switched off when someone was talking or interrupted someone because we just had to share our thoughts right. that. instant. It’s fine to allow your communication and / or listening skills to slip in casual, social environments, but when it comes to high stakes situations such as working on a group assessment, or with a team on a multi-million Rand campaign, these skills can be make or break, not just for you but the whole group.
Tips For Improving Your Communication Skills When Working In A Group:
- Speak “in” the group, not “at” the group – what this means is: if you speak at a person or group, you come across as domineering and not open to them responding or adding to the conversation.
- Speak to the whole group, not just your friends in the group.
- Contribute to the discussion, but don’t dominate.
- Ask questions, but not just for the sake of asking a question.
- Encourage the group to stick to the discussion topic and not waste time by going off on a tangent.
- Build on other’s ideas e.g. “That’s a good point because it will…”
- Use “open” language e.g. “What do you guys think about…” vs. “I think we should…” – people are more likely to listen to and consider suggestions if they are put forward in an open manner.
- Acknowledge your errors and apologise e.g. “I see, sorry I misunderstood what you were saying.” – by owning and apologising for your mistakes minor issues will remain just that.
- Be considerate of other’s feelings – before blurting something out e.g. “That’s a stupid idea, it will never work”, consider how you would feel if it were said to you.
- Summarise what the group has agreed on / discussed so far / scheduled to be done by the next meeting – this helps ensure everyone is on the same page and any misunderstandings can be dealt with sooner rather than later.
- Don’t forget to pay attention to your and other’s non-verbal communication (body language, facial expressions) – this can tell you a lot about how people in the group are feeling about the group, the ideas being discussed etc.
Tips For Improving Your Listening Skills When Working In A Group:
- A lot of the time we don’t listen with the intent to understand or hear what the other person is saying, instead we listen with the intent to reply. For effective group communication you need to concentrate on what the other person is saying, rather than thinking about what you want to say next.
- Don’t interrupt others – everyone should be allowed the time and space to have their say or make their contribution without interruption.
- Focus on the content of what the person is saying and then build on it or link it to other ideas.
No-one likes to be criticised – it feeds into our insecurities and often results in withdrawal and animosity. It is thus vital to the health and productivity of the group to ensure that feedback is given in a constructive manner.
- Do not shoot down other people’s ideas or work with thoughtless comments like: “that’s stupid”; “you’re crazy”; “you don’t know what you’re talking about” etc.
- You aren’t always going to agree with others and their ideas but that is no excuse for being rude, inconsiderate or harsh. Rather use it as an opportunity to explore the idea, you may be surprised what you find out.
- Don’t only speak up when you disagree, speak up when you agree too – “So do I!”, “That’s a great idea”.
- When giving feedback or your opinion, be constructive and be specific. There is nothing useful to be gained from comments like: “I don’t like it“, “It isn’t going to work“. If you don’t agree with something explain why and back up your argument with evidence or examples.
- For every problem you identify, you should back it with an explanation and / or solution.
In the next post we will be looking at how to get your group started and moving in the right direction.
Communication Behaviors for Effective Group Work. (2008). Retrieved from: http://www.speaking.pitt.edu/student/groups/smallgroupbehavior.html [Accessed on 07 July 2016]
Effective Group Work. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/studyadvice/StudyResources/Seminars/sta-groupwork.aspx [Accessed on: 07 July 2016]