three students discussing a project in a lab

Student advice

“You must be able to coordinate people as well as manage complex issues and optimise design.” 

- Advice from a graduate engineer

Working in a team doesn't come naturally to everybody - some people are introverted or lack confidence, some prefer to work alone, some people can be over-confident and bossy, and some people don't pull their weight, making team work less enjoyable for everybody.

It is important that you think about how you like to work, and how you can work most effectively with others. The ability to work in a team is an excellent skill that will benefit you both during your studies and your future career.

You'll have plenty of opportunities to practice during the course of your degree - here are some top tips for working effectively in a team.

Tips for effective teamwork

Top tips

  1. Take responsibility - The most important part of working as a team is taking responsibility for your role. If you don't deliver what you have been asked, the whole group will suffer.

  2. Encourage others - Some people may need encouragement to participate. And they might even have the best ideas. And some people may need to be reminded to give others a turn.

  3. Be diplomatic - You will usually be expected to work out your group roles, such as whether you need to appoint a leader, and what their role should be.

  4. Give everyone equal opportunities - When chairing a group discussion, give an equal chance to all members and help them to focus on the discussion/project/exercise.

  5. Be open to suggestions - Ensure all ideas are welcomed and considered, and what doesn't seem like a good idea at the time might lead to even better ideas.

  6. Remember to listen - A successful group will be one where all members remember to listen, as well as speak, to the rest of the team.

Strengths and weaknesses

When you're involved in group work, it can be useful to think about your strengths and weaknesses as a team member so that you can improve your skills and contribution. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you talk about yourself most of the time instead of asking about others?
  • Do you change the subject of the conversation and avoid talking about things that you might need to learn about?
  • Do you try to advise other people, or do you help them come up with their own answers?
  • Do you acknowledge others’ feelings, or do you correct them and assume that they must feel the same way you do?
  • Do you allow silences? Some people need time to speak their thoughts.
  • Do you encourage other speakers to elaborate by letting them know you are listening?

If you know you have a tendency to ‘jump in’, try to give yourself thinking time before speaking in order to let other people finish what they are saying.

Disagreement is fine, but to provide a measured response you must listen to the ‘opposing’ viewpoint first. Otherwise, you may find that other people don’t take you seriously and may be less inclined to listen to you.