How to Stop Hating Group Projects at Work and School

One of the most dreaded phrases in school is, “group project.” We all have our stories which we would rather forget. It can be a similar fear in the workplace when we work on a team.

Maybe you are in introvert like Alejandro and myself which makes the group project even more terrifying. Those of you who know us might laugh at the thought of us being introverts, but we are classic introverts! We just happen to know the value of networking and do so regularly, what you don’t see is how events drain us.

We would much rather work individually at our own pace. Are you the same? Does working with others bring immediate fear? Have you intentionally suppressed the memories of group projects from school? If yes, this article is for you!

We have taken on a new challenge recently, intentionally working with others. Gasp! It might not seem like an obstacle to you, but for us, it’s a big deal. Collaborating with people demands us to act and think differently to be successful as a unit rather than an individual.

Our goal is to share some insights on working in groups and how to find like-minded people. Building a cohesive team allows you to rise quickly to new levels. Read ahead if you are ready to re-frame your concepts of working with others.  

Teamwork Makes The Dream Work . . . Maybe

MATT:

Someone recently asked me, “what does success look like to you?” I easily replied, “working from a European cafe.” For my first business, I am a marketing consultant, and the majority of my time is spent on brand management and user experience. What the heck does that mean? Well, I make sure a company brand is consistent, that it looks amazing, and is easy to navigate for customers (for example, an intuitive website).

This allows me a lot of autonomy since I can work from anywhere with an internet connection. My entire adult life has been spent as a contractor. I have worked as a personal trainer, college instructor, non-profit staff member, and now as a consultant. The thing I value most in my professional life is freedom. I definitely make less than my peers, but I also take random days off to hang out with my son, travel, workout during the day, and network when I choose. For me, these luxuries are worth the pay differential I would receive at a company.

Why the long backstory? Simple, I need to prove to you I really like working independently. Then I met Alejandro, and I knew we should work together. I realized this in a single moment. He was headed to my house. My phone dinged, it was Alejandro, “I will be there in 8 minutes.” I read the text to my wife who immediately looked at me and said, “oh my goodness, there are two of you in the world.” Yes, Alejandro is my Venezuelan brother from another mother. We work in sync effortlessly. Look for these people. They will be rare, but when you find them you can move quickly towards success.

Hold on, it’s easy to work with someone else when they think like you, work at your speed, and have your same goals. What about when you work with people who are dissimilar?

Enter The 9to5 MisFits. Two amazing women who help people survive unemployment with equal parts actionable steps and quirky personalities. Over the past few months, Nammy and Pavi, from The 9to5 MisFits along with myself founded BizLatte. Together we have a legit business and Alejandro is our most consistent contributor to the brand as he writes articles and creates VLOGS.

Yet, this is not the same. There are no, “I will be there in 8 minutes” texts coming through. We work differently, come from various cultures, don’t always sync, but we have the same goal . . . help others.

Here is the key that should not be passed up. It can be uncomfortable to work with others, especially if you are an introvert. Yet, if you want to truly be successful, you need a team. Not just any team, they must match your goals of why you do what you do. The other stuff is secondary. Maybe your team doesn’t speak like you, answer emails as quickly as you, or come from the same professional experience. That’s fine as long as your goal is clear!

Do you think members of championship teams have the same personalities? No! What they share is a desire to be the best at their sport.

That is how you should view your team. You have a singular goal which is more important than any differences. Also, take a step back and realize a team is your opportunity to develop as a leader.

I could be a freelancer for the rest of my life. As an individual worker, I could do good, if not great, work for companies. But then what? The years would pass and eventually, I would be gone with no real legacy.

A team changes everything, you can make a monumental difference in the world with others by your side. Take the challenge of working with a team as an opportunity to be a leader. A topic we can discuss later, yet keep in mind a team will take you farther than you could imagine and you can become the leader you were always meant to become.

ALEJANDRO:

Have you ever wondered how could someone be the fastest spermatozoon?

You want to travel fast, you want to win, and you have no excuses. You go all-in with everything you do. When others don’t align with all these ideas, you may feel they are slowing you down.

Yet, negative judgment hurts you more than it hurts the ones you are judging. Beware of the stories you are telling yourself, about the people around you, and be sure the narrator is not your ego. 

Most of us want everything to go our way because we view and analyze the world through our own perspective. Yet, by doing so we might be hindering our potential to create value.

There are some things we can change, and there are others we can’t. The key is to use our energy, not only to change the things that can be changed, but the ones that when changed will have a big impact.

We can do anything but we can’t do everything!

Naval Ravikant, CEO and co-founder of AngelList, shares a great framework to make decisions when you are in front of a challenge, and we can apply it to teamwork. He says that is any situation you basically have three options. “You can change it, you can accept it, or you can leave it.

Or course, not all the time you will be able to leave it. In any case, if the real action you would like to take is to leave the project or the team, then it means at some point you made the wrong choice by saying yes. If this keeps happening to you then either you have unreasonable expectations, or you don’t have a clear idea of which is the ideal environment that will allow you to perform at your best.

Naval has also shared his personal laws and one of them is “If you can’t see yourself working with someone for life, don’t work with them for a day.”

Some of you might say this is impossible. How could you possibly get to know anyone to that extent before working with them? Well, that is the magic of networking and informational interviews.

Your network should not only be broad but also deep. Build strong relationships with as many people as you can, be curious about them, so that when you are in need of teammates you will be in a great position to make informed choices.

If there is nothing positive you can think of, when a challenge comes up while working in teams, just remember at least you are training your patience and practicing your mindfulness.

Don’t Hate… Appreciate

Finding someone whom you can work with in full sync is amazing!

You will be able to work, create value, and have fun while doing so. Yet, know that most people can spend most of their lives without doing so. It took us almost 30 years.

The good news is that it is not impossible.

What you can do to increase your chances of finding like-minded people is putting yourself in environments where those people can be found. Pursuing higher education or attending conferences, volunteering events, professional organizations, and networking can help you.

It is ideal when you align your values, goals, and work-flows with someone. If you can find at least two or three people then you will be in a great position.

Networking can be like another job and it is a long-term game. Focus on the seeds you are planting, and trust the results will come.

If you don’t know where or how to start looking for like-minded people then the free information interview e-guide can help you.

It will provide you with step-by-step instructions on the process of setting up and conducting an informational interview.

Alejandro I. Sanoja & Matt Avery