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Why You Shouldn’t Shy Away From Being a Group Leader

Why You Shouldn’t Shy Away From Being a Group Leader

“This will be a group project.”

I hear these words and I nearly always face palm. Then my thoughts race: Why, oh, why, can’t we just do these projects separately? That way I can work at my own pace, using my own ideas, and make sure my work is the best it can be instead of trying to corral the inevitable lazy group member or two in to barely doing their part. That is, if they even do their work at all.

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It seems I always end up being the group leader, project compiler, or editor—without fail. I have spent a good deal of my group-working life being annoyed by it. Why should I have to feel like I have to be the most competent, organized person in the group? Why should I shoulder that responsibility the vast majority of the time? Why aren’t there more self-starters and competent wordsmiths among my peers?

Let’s face it: nobody wants to be the group leader. When my teachers in high school asked for groups to assign their leaders, everyone’s eyes darted nervously around the room. Such situations quickly became an anxiety-fueled game of “nose goes,” and I eventually ended up having to put my big girl pants on and say, “I’ll be the group leader.”

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But then I became, almost happily, resigned to my fate. If I am a good student and worker, if I get commendations from my professors and supervisors for my competence and organization, then why shouldn’t I lead the group?

Being a Group Leader Has its Benefits

Leadership is a valuable attribute to have, as are the associated characteristics that inevitably follow it. Why not assume your project’s leadership role if you are good at delegating tasks and following up with your group mates to make sure those tasks get done? What’s so scary about answering your group mates’ questions, providing resources, or acting as an intermediary between your group and your professor or supervisor?

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Nothing! Because these are exactly the skills that employers are looking for. They are looking for organized, competent, charismatic self-starters with good work ethics.

And that’s exactly why I stopped harrumphing and face palming when professors and supervisors declare a group task. It is just another opportunity to hone skills that I will inevitably need in the workforce. There’s hardly a discipline in which you can work all by your lonesome. You will never escape group work. You can, however, make it easier on yourself.

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How to make any group project go more smoothly:

  • Assign a good leader. Assign someone who you think is competent and reliable. If this is you, make sure you are ready for the commitment, because your group mates’ grade or position at work depends on it.
  • Be clear about communication guidelines. When your group forms, be clear about what you expect communications-wise. If a group email is sent, do you want a response within six hours? Twenty-four hours? Set limits to create accountability.
  • Delegate responsibilities right away. Define what needs to be done, what tasks should be handled by which roles, and then assign those roles to your group members. Make sure everyone knows what everyone else’s responsibilities are, so that there is no confusion.
  • Don’t slack off. Don’t submit a rough draft to the team editor that is completely sub-par (read: text lingo, run-on sentences, silly spelling mistakes, etc.). Don’t be that person. No one likes to have to spend more time editing your work than you put in to writing it. It also negatively impacts your authority as a scholar and a professional.

Generally, if these basic guidelines are in place, the group should be a happy one. Don’t slack off simply because you don’t like group work, as you will need these skills in any job. Don’t balk at being the group leader, either. Recognize it as the opportunity that it is to polish your people skills and impress your superiors.

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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