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I am a student right now. Recently, I am working in a project as a leader with three other students. Due to the lack of experience, our project is progressing slowly and our members are frustrated. They do not feel sense of accomplishment in the project. I am pressured and frustrated, too. But as a team leader, I think I need to push them. But I do not know how to do. Do I help them solve coding problem or just encouragement? But if I pay too much attention on it, it would slow down my own progress.

It is a not technical question, but it is very common in software development. I hope veteran programmers would give me some suggestions.



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Yes, and the question should perhaps read "his leader skills" since this specifically refers to leading. –  Christian Jonassen May 24 '10 at 8:34

9 Answers 9

If you actually want the other students to help you in writing the project, it's going to be a lot of work. As other answerers have suggested, sometimes it really is just easier to do the project yourself. I've been in this situation throughout my college career, and it's never fun or easy.

If you want to actually get all of them involved in the project you're going to have to:

  • Try to get each team member's perspective. Learn where they're coming from, what abilities they have, what motivation they have, and what roadblocks are preventing them from helping with the project

  • Do a lot of work WITH your team members--get everyone involved in the thought process behind your project and do a lot of explanation.

  • Don't expect your under-motivated teammates to pop up with questions--they will stay silent if they don't understand. You will need to anticipate their questions and concerns and bring them up for them--or at least try to get them to ask what's on their mind.

  • Find tasks for each member to do. Even if it's an incredibly simple task that would take you 10% of the time they will spend on it, you need to get them started working on part of the project. The more significant the task (and less busy-work-ish it is), the better.

I can't say I have the best advice, but these are the sorts of things I do that help the most.


I remember working into the small hours of the night doing work that other developers either could not or did not want to.

There are several methods you can use to motivate people that should be self motivated:

  • Put your name on the code that you write, and make sure they do the same. The sense of competition could breathe some life into your project.
  • Help them with the most difficult tasks and make them believe that you helped them, not that you did it for them. When people feel that they can do something with a little help they will tend to be more motivated to try things on their own. If you do things for them, then they start feeling useless and demotivated.
  • Give them the easier tasks, or do the most difficult parts yourself as functions/classes/modules and let them use it to build the higher level stuff.
  • Have team meetings every day. divide up the work and let people give feedback about what they feel they can cope with.

When all else fails talk to your lecturer or bite the bullet and finish it by yourself.


Try talking to them; if that doesn't work, try talking to the professor. If that doesn't work, you may have to build the project by yourself. I know this isn't fair, but everyone has to do it at some point in their lives.

I've done a few "group" projects by myself. Do what you have to do to make the project work. Sometimes you'll see this in industry as well as academia. It's just a part of life, but if you complete it, you'll have something to talk about on job interviews, with future colleagues, etc.

I've felt this way in the majority of projects I've worked on for school, but it would be nice if someone had an actual answer instead :/ –  ProdigySim Feb 22 '11 at 17:00

First off, if you are the leader then call a meeting as soon as possible. Explain what the meeting will aim to solve and to bring with them what work they have done. The meeting should aim to answer the questions.

  1. What have we done?
  2. What are we going to do next?
  3. How are we going to do it?
  4. Is anyone struggling or in need of help?

Once you resolve these issues, set goals be it weekly or daily and meet again each week and cover the same topics as above, work together in the team, don't just go off and individually achieve the goals, work together by pair programming or solving problems as a group, get ideas out there, review each others work, suggest improvements and praise.

Working in a team can be very gratifying when it is done properly, and you will soon find everyone is enjoying what they are doing and also making good progress.

For point 4 to work you have to have some sort of standards, when I've done group work at uni the group members never had the same idea of what counted as good work and so their ideas of 'everything going fine' were completely different. –  Inverted Llama Nov 26 '12 at 17:14

Just in case anyone else runs across this question:

There are a few other Programmers questions that I'd suggest reading the answers to learn more on how to improve your communication skills and how to deal with people:


I sense that you are not using the right methodology for your case, since your developers are felling down and do not think that the project is going anywhere. In that case it would be useful to actually speak with them, and try to find another way of doing things, and mostly what is wrong with the current way of doing things, since this can help all of you to go to a better situation.

  1. Plan
  2. Spend time as a team and analyze the project
  3. Split the project into modules/components/milestones
  4. Assign the task
  5. Ask for the progress cc:Your professor
  6. Circulate the status with team.
  1. Meet regularly - It's much more likely people will turn up if they get into the habit and it's much less of an issue if they miss a meeting
  2. Use small targets - No matter what piece of work you give someone a lot of people won't even look at it until a couple days before the deadline.
  3. Let people own sections - Give each developer a section that they can be passionate about, they'll invest more time into it and think out design decisions much more
  4. Enforce standards strictly - They may not like you for it but if the work does not make the coding/documentation standards make sure the person knows and knows that this is not acceptable for release. If you don't do this the project will lose coherency with each developer following different standards and specifications.

When the Master governs, the people are hardly aware that he exists.
Next best is a leader who is loved. Next, one who is feared.
The worst is one who is despised.
If you don't trust the people, you make them untrustworthy.
The Master doesn't talk, he acts.
When his work is done, the people say, "Amazing: we did it, all by ourselves!"

A Great leader is willing to do what the rest of the team doesn't want to do. It is hard to encourage and inspire without taking action that is equal to or above that of the rest of the team, but it has to be done in a way that the team thinks they did it without you.

That only works if you have something to offer your team members ie if you're paying their salaries, the problem with student groups is you're not actually giving your group members anything and you have no real authority over them. –  Inverted Llama Nov 26 '12 at 17:12

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