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What To Look For In Groups

Posted Jul 24 2008 7:22am

We're always part of some groupAn2

You and I pretty much spend our entire lives in groups. We start off in a family, play with groups of young friends, attend classes school, and work in groups and teams.

So it would make sense to learn as much as possible about the dynamics associated with groups. Some years ago, organizations spent a fair amount of time educating people on the fine points of group dynamics. The research was new and fascinating. New is good. Now that that body of work has been around for a while, it's no longer "what's happening." The human condition--and certainly the organizational mind--is always looking for what's new. The world of advertising slaps the word "new" on packaging and products for a very good reason: new is still good. Old isn't bad--it just gets ignored.

There's no ignoring the importance of understanding groups. So here are some things to ponder when you are leading, or part of, a group or team.

Pay attention to these

1. Whenever one person leaves or one person enters a group,the dynamics change. Why? We learn how to function in our groups based on the roles people play, how they play them, and the balance of power and influence that results. Groups are about equilibrium.

2. That means that each time the group composition changes, it's a signal to sit down and talk. When a new member enters, the first two things that person thinks about are:

  • Why am I here?(Task/Role)   
  • Who are you?(Getting to know more about the other members and vice-versa)

3. If you skip this step, it will only be a matter of time before you notice that something is not quite right with the group.  That's the indicator to stop, get together, and clarify #1 as well as spend time doing #2).

4. When a reasonable amount ofcomfort and trustis established, you enable the group to be able tomake decisionstogether. The question then is: how will we make decisions? Which ones are left to the group, which are the purview of the leader, and why?

5. Now you are in a place toimplementand actually get the work of the group done. That means  you need to agree on "how" things will happen. Note: "How" is important because implementation is the element of group work that allows individuals to use their talents and uniqueness. People lose interest and morale can plummet when they don't feel as if they are uniquely part of the "how."

6.  If you've attended to all of the steps so far, thensolid performanceshould be the result. That might mean a great performing team at work, a terrific volunteer organization, or a healthy, well-functioning family.

Food for thought:If you find your group struggling, go back one step and see if you paid appropriate attention to the relevant issue. Keep going back until you take care of the business at that step and then start moving forward again.

Groups are a huge part of our lives; it's worthwhile to learn how they really develop. I hope this adds to your thinking today.

What would you like to add to the conversation that would be helpful to others?

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