Group work. Need I say more? The stuff of nightmares for many students and coworkers, these two dreaded words hold the potential to make anyone scared and discouraged.
But fear not, dear Reader. I’m here to help.
Today, I’m going to give you some tips for working effectively on a team by using my experience at the IUCN’s Global Gender Office (GGO).
If you don’t know (although you should), IUCN stands for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the oldest and largest conservation organization in the world and home to the GGO. There is a wonderfully written blog post with background and additional information on the IUCN and the GGO. So go check that out before you continue reading.
Did you read it? Ok great, let’s move on.
Let me tell you, the GGO knows their stuff. For being a team living all across the world, they are a well-oiled machine. I worked on some groups during my first year at Bard CEP, but working on a group full time taught me some very valuable lessons.
First and foremost:
Stop and smell the roses.
Maybe not literally. Well, unless you want to. You do you.
Don’t be afraid to have a little fun. Stopping to breathe can give your group a new perspective on work and motivate people to get through the home stretch. This can involve sending your teammates an interesting article, a funny video of a red panda, or simply stopping to check in with everyone.
During COP21 in Paris, the GGO team was busy preparing for side events and negotiations. This was a very stressful two weeks for people in Paris and for those of us who stayed in DC.
To get through this time, my coworkers and I who remained in DC made it a point to get together and talk about non-work subjects. Having this check in allowed us to release some stress and get through the rest of COP21 with newfound drive.
Improve yourself to improve your group.
No one is born endowed with all the knowledge of the world. And that’s ok. We’re here to learn and grow in our experiences. Group work is the perfect time to do that because you have supportive people to back you up and help you improve your skills.
During the summer, the GGO was working on a comprehensive publication called Roots for the Future: the Landscape and Way Forward on Gender and Climate Change. This nearly 500-page resource required an all-hands-on-deck mentality from everyone involved, which included authors and experts from around the world as well as everyone on the GGO team.
I was asked if I would help work on a chapter about cities, gender and climate change and I jumped on the opportunity. I was nervous. I didn’t know everything about cities, but I had to go from 0 to 100, real quick. This required a little inflated self-confidence and a drive to learn.
I started by writing down everything I knew about cities and climate change. Getting started is the hardest part, but I was surprised by how much I already knew about climate change vulnerabilities in urban areas.
Then I read articles from every corner of the environmental world. I asked myself questions and took good notes. I knew people were counting on me and I wanted to get the best information out there. This required a lot of hard work, but now I’m confident in my ability to speak and write on the topic.
Finally, I had my team read and critique what I’d written and did the same for them. Not only did this strengthen my ability as a writer and broaden my understanding of many different topics, it also helped me to contribute my best work and help my team to produce an amazing product.
And last, but certainly not least:
Cite your sources.
Don’t just write (UNDP, 2010) without any other information. Caroline taught you better than that.
Before you close all your tabs, do your group a favor and write down the full source, or at the very least a web link. This will save a lot of headache in the long run and is immensely helpful when fact checking as a group.
Now, with this knowledge in mind, go forth, work better on teams, build your skills, and change the world.
When in doubt, think “what would the Global Gender Office do?” And you’ll be just fine.