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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

The Science of Successful Group Projects

Team projects are difficult to pull off. You’re facing unfamiliar obstacles and relying on new processes. Members of your team may not have a shared history, meaning they’re leaning how to work with each other. The short-term nature of many projects means it’s hard to rally everyone around an inspirational vision.

So how can you lead your next group project to success? Surprisingly, you should actually amp up the difficulty by delegating tough tasks.

It sounds counterintuitive, but according to a study published in the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, giving a team member difficult assignments actually increases his or her overall commitment to the project.

“As an individual’s expectations of his or her performance capability are affected by the project’s difficulty, the individual will adjust his or her behavior (in terms of effort and direction) to ensure the project’s success,” the researchers explain.

In other words, being challenged will make your co-workers care more about the project’s outcome and work harder—making it much more likely that you and your team will achieve the end-goal.

However, what’s challenging to one person is a breeze for another. Before your next project begins, make a list of your team members and include what you know of their strengths and weaknesses. Then, once you’ve broken down the project into sub-tasks, you can delegate based on individual potential.

Throughout the project, make sure to ask team members if they feel comfortable with the work and whether it’s well-suited to their capabilities. If it doesn’t seem like someone is being challenged, change his or her role to make it more important or complex.

It turns out, everyone does love a challenge. Apply this concept at work, and watch your projects succeed.

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