Students which collaborate as a team during a learning experience are not only going to learn about different perspectives and mindsets, but also will learn how to sharpen their skills in areas such as collaboration, commitment and conflict management, among others. One of the most critical, if not the most critical aspect of team dynamics is communication. Effective or ineffective communication can lead to a team being extremely efficient and successful, or inefficient, and a terrible failure. The purpose of team communication is to enhance team performance; therefore, it is each team member’s responsibility to ensure effective communication.
Group communication can sometimes be difficult. The basics of it are easy though. Everyone needs to understand the task at hand. They should all feel comfortable asking others for help and the others should be available and willing to help knowing they could later on be the one asking for assistance. Everyone should have equal responsibility and should never assume any one person to be the leader or the one responsible for it all. All deadlines should be agreed upon by all and if there is any issue about deadlines or any last minute problems they should be addressed without prejudice.
Being in a group for some people can be hard. Especially when there is no possible way of communication other then the Internet. Some people believe that it is just easier to do tasks themselves because they believe it will be easier that way or in some way it will come out better without others having a hand in it. Some people say that too many hands in the pot can spoil the stew but what does that really mean? Being in a group you are required to work together, agree to disagree and get what needs to be done, done without hurting anyone’s feelings, and without getting to a point where the anger affects the work, at which point does nothing for anyone in the group. There will always be some disagreements about things but everyone must understand that working in a group is not just about one person being right. A group is about everyone being heard and respected for their individual ideas. Being part of a group means meeting up sometimes for group discussion or to go over the task at hand. When working alone, that person can work on your own schedule. Some people have busier lives then others but they must understand they need to find the time to meet all deadlines. All individuals must respect that their actions or lack thereof participation can weigh heavily on everyone else’s grade or ending reward.
The best way to be able to work together and be a happy group would be to follow a couple guidelines. A happy group is a successful group.
1.Be willing to help out other members if needed
2.Remember there is not just one person in a group
3.Agree on all deadlines and individual assignments
4.Do not except anyone else to do your work.
5.Meet up at least once as friends and discuss nothing of the project. Get to know each other a little better first, if this is possible. This will allow everyone to be more comfortable with each other and working together will be just like working with friends.
6.If unable to meet then if possible everyone should meet in a chat area on a day and time that works for everyone.
These guidelines if followed correctly will guarantee a satisfactory grade or ending reward, without anyone getting their feelings hurt and will make the teacher or even a boss very happy.
Working in a group can be very challenging especially if all the team members are not at the same location. This can cause serious problems, which can result in the team missing important deadlines for task assigned. With any group there are going to be disputes among team members. The team must manage those disputes in a manner which does not jeopardize the entire project. Certain strategies must be adopted beforehand to help prevent disputes and assist in resolving the disputes which were not prevented. The following is a list of strategies which should be used to provide stronger dispute resolution management.
•Define expectations at onset of each project
•Establish contact with team via messaging, email, fax, or telephone
•Make adjustments as needed after consensus is reached
•Seek advice from facilitator as a last resort
Before any particular project gets on the way a team leader should be selected or elected to help define the expectations of the individuals within the group. This individual through their leadership will help in this endeavor. Once each individual knows what is expected of them then there is no confusion going forward. This step is critical in order to succeed as a team.
Communication among team members is also critical especially if all team members are located in different locations. This can be done a number of ways as defined above. Because of its speed, email or messaging might be the best option to communicating with members of the group especially in crisis situations. Should a dispute arise, communication must take place in a timely manner to resolve the dispute.
With any project change is unavoidable. The team must prepare for unforeseen changes that will arise. Again, having a team leader to help manage the change is going to be important. The team should make adjustments as needed after consensus from the team is reached. Although change in most cases is certain, this doesn’t mean the impact will be negative. By following rules set up by the team and tweaking those rules as needed, the end result could very well be positive.
Finally, as a last resort if a particular dispute cannot be resolved the facilitator should be made aware of the situation. Teams must practice being able to resolve its own disputes without the facilitator. However, when consensus cannot be reached within the group doesn’t hesitate to contact the facilitator so the project is not held up.
In all, the team should remove personal emotions from each situation as they arise for the good of the project. When a conflict arises, all team members will discuss the problem and make a rational decision. It is the understanding that people come from various backgrounds and are not always likely to agree on certain things. However, the team must realize that in order for each of its members to succeed the team must succeed as a whole.
Effective strategies for fostering good team communication include developing ground rules, conflict resolution guidelines, and clear goals. The learning team charter defines the ground rules as:
•Complete assignments on the agreed-upon time.
•Check team forum regularly.
•Respond to question or comments in a timely manner.
•Contact each other via email or phone if necessary.
•Having rough drafts completed in advance for revising.
Ground rules are important in the success of group projects. Grounds rules define the group’s expectations, agenda, schedule, and communication methods.
Conflict resolution is another important aspect of fostering good team communication. The learning team charter defines the conflict resolution guidelines as:
•Accepting constructive criticism.
•Respecting everyone’s opinions.
Conflict resolution guidelines set the foundation for resolving conflicts within the group. Conflicts are going to arise and as a group we must know to resolve them peacefully.
Establishing clear and concise goals are important in determining the group’s expectations. The learning team charter defines our goals as:
•Complete work timely, efficiently, and precise.
•Each member will contribute to group assignments.
These goals set the foundation for the group’s expectations.
Conflicts are going to arise within any group. To minimize these conflicts, the responsibilities and expectations are provided in the beginning within our ground rules. If problems arise, we will discuss them as soon as possible before they become big problems. To avoid conflicts we define expectations at the beginning and during assignments. To use the conflict-resolution strategy, guidelines should be established in the beginning and include: How to resolve conflicts; and what to do when conflicts arise. For example, if a team member is not completing assignments on-time. To resolve this conflict, we would search for alternatives. We would make suggestions and offer help. We would first establish the problem by asking if they had any personal issues arise. We would encourage the team member by letting them know their knowledge and perspective is valued and important in group assignments.
Conflict is particularly difficult when someone feels attacked in the group. When we are criticized are natural intent is to defend ourselves by counterattacking (Locker & Kienzler, 2008). For example, if a team member offers constructive criticism to another team member. If a conflict results and feelings are hurt, we would resolve this conflict by having the team members check their feelings. First, the team member will paraphrase the content of the critic’s message. This would ensure the team member heard the critic accurately. Second, the team member should let the critic know what his or her statement means to them (Locker & Kienzler, 2008). This will ensure that the feelings of the team member and critic are recognized and heard. They can then work together to resolve their conflict. We define the importance of respecting the perspectives and opinions of our team members in our ground rules. By providing this foundation, we can communicate effectively together as a group.
Technologies to Facilitate Group Communication
There are two to three technologies that one might use to facilitate group communications. One such technology is the Internet. The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standardized Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide. The Internet is a network of networks that consists of millions of private and public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope that are linked by copper wires, fiber optic cables, wireless connections, and other technologies.
There are many advantages of using the Internet while working in a group, for example team members can do multiple tasks at one time, such as research while talking to each other via instant messaging. The Internet offers access to the users easily but one must also be mindful to the sources behind their information. When doing research, team member’s need to make sure that the information that they are getting is from credible cites. This can be a disadvantage to the group is the information that is attained is not from a reliable source and cannot be supported with valid reference. Some disadvantages to Internet commutations are that it is disorganized and conducting research often leads to non- productive searches. There are also no standards of procedures to check to make sure the information attained from certain websites is accurate. Another disadvantage would be the loss of websites or web address. A person might have technical difficulties and loose the website that they were viewing. There is also the matter of a limited archive and only current information is available online and some websites charge fees to access specialized information.
There are many Instant messaging tools available for user’s to use which work to provide real time communication between two or more people on typed text. Instant Messaging is the hottest communication tool in the business office these days. The ability to connect with colleagues, to ask questions of team members and, of course, to chat with friends all instantaneously has pushed the telephone and even email back from the forefront of communication tools. Millions of corporate users have IM on their work machines. Google, Yahoo, MSN to name a few, are some of the major messaging service providers. Each of these companies has their own instant messaging tool which are being updated and enhanced regularly. Many business are introducing their employee’s to use the instant messaging tool with-in the work environment to communicate with fellow employee’s without leaving one’s workstation. Team members can converse by typing back and forth and to upload pictures and files and the team member’s can download those files instantly. Instant messaging also allows the option for member’s to add multiple members into meeting; this allows all users’ to take part in the discussion. A major setback to instant messaging is that the tool can be used for non-work related conversations. Another major problem is that the users, in most cases, install the software themselves. Information Technology leaders have no control over it. There is no supervision or any set standards or security procedures and allows virus writers and spammers to get instant access into the networks also.
Another technology that team members can utilize would by the telephone. Telephones have evolved tremendously throughout the years, now we have cellular phones at our disposal. Cell phones are convenient because a person is always carrying the phone around with them on their person. Cell phones have the capability to allow the user with having access to email’s, text messaging, voice mails, picture messages, and so much more. These tools are available for member’s to use to communicate with each other. There is also an option with cellular phone which is called three way or conference calling. This feature allows one user to bring in multiple callers into the same conversation. There are many disadvantages with cell phones because they are a cause for distraction. There are many car accidents that occur every day due to the lack of attentiveness of drivers. People get busy trying to text message or scroll through their phone books and not keeping their eyes on the road which leads to an accident. Cell phones also can cause health issue such as brain tumors due to the radiations that are transmitted. A person must be cautious because the more cell phone usage the greater the changes are for brain cancer.
In conclusion, collaborating as a team during the learning experience has it set of difficulties however; students gain knowledge and sharpen their skills in areas such as collaboration, commitment, and conflict management. One of the most critical to any team dynamics is communication. Open-communication and a willingness to accept input from others is essential during the learning experience. In addition conflict resolution strategies must be defined. These strategies help determine what to do when there is conflict. The learning team charter helps students establish team goals, ground rules, and conflict management guidelines. By defining these expectations and setting effective strategies a team can collaborate successfully as a group.
Locker, K., & Kienzler, D. (2008). Business and Administrative Communication (8th edition).
New York: NY McGraw-Hill