As a recent graduate of Ferris State University, I have experienced many different types of team dynamics. As a designer, I enjoy collaborating and working with a team for great solutions. I have often stepped up to lead groups of various shapes, sizes, and levels of dedication. Here are a few best practices I’ve learned from working with unpredictable teams.
1. Keep Communication Open
Amongst Team Members
Clear communication is a must among team members. This is not only for honest critique, but also for different project tasks that need to be completed. If you’re not sure what you need to do for a project, find out from your colleague or leader! As the Joseph Addison-inspired quote states, “He who hesitates is lost.” Such would a project be if the members weren’t collectively on top of things!
Always keep management apprised of project status and issues. I don’t mean you should tattle on your teammates (“Hey, Suzie isn’t helping!”); try to solve issues internally first. Communication with management alerts them to the situation and gives them the opportunity to intervene as necessary.
2. Be Willing
To Fill Various Roles
If the group dynamic isn’t working, don’t be afraid to shuffle roles around. Get outside your comfort zone; dive into that new app platform, and research some new UX trends while you’re at it!
To Teach Others
If a dedicated team member needs assistance, guide them through the part of the project on which they need input. When designers were added to my group project late in the game, I trusted them to deliver project aspects that were not only visually but also conceptually on target. It was nerve-wracking, but the results were great! I also learned a lot about project management along the way.
3. Delegate Accordingly
Give Team Members Their Favorite Work
In order to get the maximum output from each team member, try to give each of them project tasks they enjoy doing. If people like what they’re doing, they tend to be more productive.
Workload vs. Dedication
I am all for equal participation and dedication to project work. Unfortunately, there are some cases that involve a “stinker” who just won’t give you those few prototypes you asked for. In that case, alert management and work through the solution together for the benefit of the entire team.
4. Be Honest
Sometimes You Can Fix The Problem
If you have an issue with a team member, confront them about it without attacking them. Be honest and share the opportunity for change. Sometimes, the team member isn’t aware of the situation (or that you noticed it), and they will fix the issue before you have to alert management.
There’s a fine line between constructive and negative criticism. When you’re collaborating with your team to go over prototypes or concepts, be open to ideas. Share ways an idea or visual could be improved, instead of saying “It’s not working!” and making your fellow team members feel devalued. Offer praise for what’s done well.
5. Keep Extensive Records
Lists, Lists, Lists!
Extensive listing helped me get through many large-scope projects. I made to-do lists with dates, delegation lists, researching lists, (grocery lists), and any type of list to help organize the project and the steps to complete it. Often, my to-do lists were translated into a large sticky-note collage on my wall, always in my least-favorite color (pink). I couldn’t wait to remove the unsightly blemish from my wall!
Have a Copy of Everything
You may come across the unfortunate incident in which a person leaves your group and forgets the “dumping” portion of his or her “dump and run.” I even lost Dropbox copies of project pieces, and had to recover documents from other team members. My advice? Keep a local and external copy of any files from all team members.
6. Stay Positive
If your project isn’t going well, being negative won’t help the situation. A positive attitude goes a long way. Putting a brighter spin on the situation can uplift your team as well. Before long, you’ll be out of the situation and on to bigger and better things.
I’ve learned from various teams that I love collaboration and truly believe that leadership roles introduce the opportunity for learning. I know I will take everything I’ve gained from my education and personal experiences and do my best to apply it in the future, including here at Black Lake. I want my eyes and mind open so I can drink in the working world of design and technology and its interaction with user needs!