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Group Projects: The Then & Now

Group Projects: the Then & Now

While in school—whether middle school, high school, or college—I always dreaded “group projects” where the grade was shared among all group members. It felt so wrong, unjust even, to give everyone the same grade regardless of how much they contributed. Oftentimes, I thought that I was pulling more weight than the rest of the group members, and felt bitter about sharing what I viewed as my personal success. I failed to see how such a project would help me succeed in that class, and certainly did not understand how it would serve me later in my professional life.

Weaving Influence is a unique business. We are a combined virtual team and office environment, staffed by a diverse (and international) group of women and men. And though the environment at Weaving Influence differs greatly from a school project, it is similar in that in the end, we all get the same “grade”—a client that is, hopefully, satisfied and excited by the services we provide to them.

As perhaps the most permanently abroad member of our team (I live in Jerusalem full time; others travel back and forth to the USA from places as far as China and Colombia), I can say firsthand that rather than dreading the “group” aspects of the projects I work on with Weaving Influence, I look forward to them!

Visiting with Becky and other team members on my trip to America last summer - it's not always virtual!

Melissa Lamson of Lamson Consulting recently wrote in her post Three Ways of Overcoming Barriers in Dispersed Teams:

If you have remote employees, one of the most important steps you can do to lead an effective team is to drop the “us and them” mindset. Even if you have several employees sharing a physical space with you, if you have remote team members, then you’re all working remotely.

The “us and them” (or more accurately, “me and them”) mindset is exactly how I approached group projects when I was still in school, and is one of the main problems that virtual teams run into. At Weaving Influence, we do a variety of things to promote team camaraderie and keep communication open and clear, including:

  • A weekly “New Week” email to all team members from Becky that highlights our goals for the week as well as any other relevant information.
  • Bi-weekly team calls during which we share our successes, both professional and personal, as well as other tidbits of information that allow us to get to know one another.
  • A Facebook group exclusively for Weaving Influence employees and subcontractors. Most of us check this group many times a day and use it as an opportunity to ask each other questions, poll the team, and share fun photos and ideas.
  • A shared blog (you are reading it now!) where team members are encouraged to post and comment.

Sitting alone at home or at a coffee shop can be isolating, but being part of a team that shares successes and supports one another through bumps along the road encourages each member of the team to live up to his or her potential as an individual and as a member of a group. Group collaboration, especially across the globe (the time difference can be tough!), can be a challenge; but with the right attitude and tools, it can be an excellent way to combine talents and produce outstanding work.

I guess those school group projects did teach me a thing or two after all.

Tell me something! Do you love or hate the idea of group projects?

 

Image credit: geralt

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About The Author

Margy Kerr-Jarrett is the Web Projects Manager at Weaving Influence and Development Manager for the Lead Change Group. She enjoys reading, writing, and spending time in nature with her husband and daughter. Born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, Margy has been living in Jerusalem, Israel for the past three years.

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What People Are Saying

Shane Hammons   |   05 January 2016   |   Reply

Great post! I’m a Senior Project Manager and much of my time is spent overseeing and leading my team through group projects. For us, it takes a lot of resources from many different areas (functions and locations) to get a project installed. Unfortunately a large part of the frustration is each sub-team can has very separate metrics, goals and cultures that always aren’t aligned with those of my team. The “One Team” culture still needs a lot of work.

As a manager myself I wanted to say THANK YOU for the inside view of Weaving Influence. I have taken advantage of countless webinars to help me in my leadership development and I invite my organization to join them as often as possible. The “product” put out by WI is very well done!

Angie Butcher   |   07 January 2016   |   Reply

Good point Shane. As a Project Manager at Weaving Influence, we sometimes run into the same issue. We work hard to keep things standard across the board but different people thrive with different systems. Finding that balance and allowing teams the freedom to explore and use other systems is challenging but can produce faster, more successful results! So glad you benefit from our company’s leadership webinars.

Margy   |   09 January 2016   |   Reply

Thanks so much for your comment, Shane! As part of a virtual team, I definitely understand the frustration that can sometimes come with getting sub-teams on the same page..this is where I find the “virtual” aspect of my time very helpful because we are forced to document everything in one central place (we use Basecamp and Gmail–do you use a computer based system?).