How To Improve The Teamwork In My Research Group
Research is a team game and the better your research group works together, the further you’ll go.
The idea of working in a team is that each member gets more than they would if they worked alone. That’s the main attraction of working in a team and the more obvious this benefit is to each team member, the more they’ll want to work in a team.
Some research groups are great, while others aren’t. In some research groups, it feels like some of the members want to kill each other. This dynamic isn’t productive because you want as little friction as possible between members. That way, there is no inertia you need to overcome to get them to work together. And at the end of the day, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and the idea of a team is that each member’s strengths covers for others’ weaknesses.
There are a multitude of reasons why group members may not get along. For example, there could be a rivalry, one member might be jealous of another, personality clashes, and so on. Tip-toeing around these strained relationships and accommodating them doesn’t work. As a supervisor, you want to remove those clashes because each of those clashes reduces the efficiency of your team.
How do you do that?
Coming back to the original idea presented above – it needs to be clear that each person’s success is positively affected by everyone else’s success. By doing so, everyone understands that someone else’s victory isn’t a bad thing for them…it’s actually a good thing because it also helps them succeed as well. Once they realize that, they will not only be happy to work with each other, but also cheer each other on.
So, how do you make it clear that the success of each person is greatly influenced by everyone else’s success?
You can tell them that…but humans often have hard heads (myself included) and just telling them may not achieve much.
A much better way is to show them. Make each person’s project a collaboration with someone else in the group. If there are two people working on similar things in the group, then get them to work together and have them produce the deliverables (for example, papers) together. That way, they innately understand that “that other person is vital for my success”.
So, one person works with another, then that other person works with another person in the group in a different way, and soon, everyone in the group are working closely with each other, either directly or indirectly. Either way, the success of each person helps everyone else in the group succeed as well.
In some groups, the projects don’t align that well, however, every member almost always has expertise that could help another member. By bringing them in and helping, you again, create a positive relationship between two members. While the one with the expertise may not gain much out of this, if they have someone else who has helped them, then they will quickly understand that they are benefiting by fostering this kind of working relationship and culture in the group.
The key to teamwork is getting everyone in the team to understand that their success is influenced by everyone else on the team, and so they need to work well with each other.
If you want to improve your supervision skills, then take our training: here. It’s called, “Becoming A Better PhD Supervisor – PhD Voice Training”. It addresses issues such as these and more! It makes supervising easier and more efficient.
We also have free resources for supervisors to use to develop their supervising relationship with their students. You can find them here for free.