In my experience there are three types of people when it comes to group work who actually are worth having in a group (so if you don’t fit in these categories I beg you for the sake of your group members, DON’T JOIN A GROUP). I will describe each of these types of people and where they belong in the group in order for things to go well, using people in my life as examples. 😀 Hopefully I don’t offend anyone.
The first type of person is the PUSHER. This is the person who makes lists, keeps notes, makes up a schedule, and writes themselves reminders, and when all their work is done, they sit down and look at the progress of the other people in the group and (hopefully politely) prod their group members into the right direction. This is much like myself, and often times like my good friend and co-author, E. M. McBride. When we worked together this was great, because when one of us lost track the other would be there to kick them into gear. In our four-person project, we’re the ones in charge still, having dreamed up the project. I’ve finished all my chapters and she’s done most of hers and that gives us the clout to tell other people as politely as possible that they need to get into gear.
The second type of person is the QUIET ONE. This is the person who does their work, usually without prodding unless they’re at a busy time of life, and does it to the best of their ability. They don’t do too much more than they sign on for initially, maybe even no more than they have to, and they certainly aren’t pushing other people unless someone else is holding up their own contribution. They are a valuable contribution and take a lot of stress off a pusher. This is much like my darling Natalie Cannon, who is this exact type in everything we do together, completely holding her own weight but letting my frenzied passion lead the project because I’ve sort of got an abundance of frenzied passion that does a lot of our work for us. She kicks me into gear when I’ve fallen behind because I’ve taken on too much, but otherwise she lets me run wild.
The third type of person is the BRILLIANT SLEEPER. All right, this person is completely lazy and/or busy and either biting off way more than they can chew by being a part of your project or just really unable to keep themselves on a schedule. BUT they do what they do better than anyone else and that makes up for it constantly. It takes many kicks from pushers and maybe even a prod from the quiet ones, but brilliant sleepers will come through in the end. Just be really aggressive if you’re on a strict timeline because otherwise they’re brilliance isn’t worth the cost. My dear friend Little is one of these, and while she’s so perfect at what she does and brings exactly the right element to our little co-authoring group, she’s busy, she’s a tad lazy at times, and she says she’ll have things done in a few days and you’ll get it a week later if you’re lucky. The key is to be politely encouraging and know what to expect. Every brilliant sleeper has their tendencies, and if you’re working with one you’ve got to learn theirs and figure out how to properly compensate for them. If you ARE a brilliant sleeper, you need to not make promises you can’t keep, but say you’ll TRY FOR this, or you need to finish X amount and you project that the worst case scenario is…. and give yourself a healthy amount of time. If you can’t do it, say so. I’ve been in this spot a few times myself, and the shame of not living up to my own expectations for myself transformed me into a bit of a super-pusher. The most important thing a brilliant sleeper needs to do is not take the pushing and prodding personally, because it’s not personal. It’s just business, and you’ve got a contract. You uphold your end as best you can and remember that other people are depending on you.
AND that is how you parse up group work types.
Which one are you? Know someone who’s a pusher gone mad? Know a brilliant sleeper not at ALL worth their risk? Share your stories!