GROUP CHARACTERISTICS MAJOR QUESTION:
- How can knowledge of groups and their key characteristics make me more successful?
THE GROUP DEVELOPMENT PROCESS MAJOR QUESTION:
- How can understanding the group development process make me more effective at school and work?
TEAMS AND THE POWER OF COMMON PURPOSE MAJOR QUESTION:
- What are the characteristics of effective team players and team building, and how does this knowledge improve my performance in various types of teams?
TRUST BUILDING AND REPAIR—ESSENTIAL TOOLS FOR SUCCESS MAJOR QUESTION:
- How can I build and repair trust in ways that make me more effective at school, work, and home?
KEYS TO TEAM EFFECTIVENESS MAJOR QUESTION:
- What are the keys to effective teams, and how can I apply this knowledge to give me an advantage?
POWER AND ITS BASIC FORMS MAJOR QUESTION:
- What are the basic forms of power and how can they help me achieve my desired outcomes?
POWER SHARING AND EMPOWERMENT MAJOR QUESTION:
- How can sharing power increase my power?
EFFECTIVELY INFLUENCING OTHERS MAJOR QUESTION:
- How do my influence tactics affect my personal effectiveness?
POLITICAL TACTICS AND HOW TO USE THEM MAJOR QUESTION:
- What are the many forms of politics, and how can understanding them make me more effective at school, at work, and socially?
IMPRESSION MANAGEMENT MAJOR QUESTION:
- Do I seek only to impress, or to make a good impression?
Can you please summary this transcript? It is a video. I just copy and paste the transcript so you can read it. Pretty Please. I need about 200-250 words count.
Understanding Group Dynamics
Peter, teams are an important part of the workplace, and we need to understand group dynamics, because there are a lot of things that happen– like time is wasted in meetings, and many other things. Why do we need to understand group dynamics?
Well, as you rightly say, groups are being used a lot in organization, whether it’s teams, projects, whether it’s just getting people together in a meeting. And the people who are conducting these meetings or running these groups or leading these teams really need to understand how it is that groups function, so that they are able to actually do things to make sure the groups function as well as possible. I mean, you’ve really got to understand the levers and the gears of how groups work if you’re going to be able to pull and manipulate those levers and gears.
I’ve found that the vast majority of people have practically no understanding of group dynamics whatsoever. So they know that something is wrong, you know– this group isn’t working well, or this team isn’t functioning– but they’ve got no idea, really, how to do something about it, except let’s get a consultant in, which is not necessarily the best way at all.
So what are group dynamics, and how do you understand them?
- The key to understanding group dynamics is to make a distinction between content and process. Let’s say a group of people are getting together in a meeting, so we have a group. And let’s say they are trying to solve, for example, a technical problem. Now the content there is, what is the technical problem? How do we change this particular production process, or whatever it is. That’s the content.
There is another channel, if you would– it’s a bit like watching television and switching channels. There’s another channel that you can go to, that you can switch to, and that’s called the process. And this really looks at how is this group working? Not what is it working on, but how is the group working together? And that’s what we mean by group dynamics. The group dynamics are how. The process of how a group is working together.
And it’s terribly important to actually try and understand that, because as I said, if you can understand that, you then can know what it is that you need to do to try and improve the group dynamics, to make the group work more effectively.
So what are the main elements of group dynamics?
Well, the first thing that you have to do is you have to be a very good observers, and that’s very difficult for people.
Even if you’re running the meeting?
Even if you’re running the meeting. And this is very difficult, because, for example, going back to that example of a group of people trying to solve a technical problem, very often the person running the meeting may very well be a team leader or a technical expert him or herself. So they’ll be very much wanting to get into the technical aspect– the what. The content.
So to go back to the television analogy, they’ll be wanting to stay on that particular channel. The reality is, you have to be very good at sometimes being able to watch both channels at the same time. And, in fact, you often hear the expression, you have to be a participant and observer at the same time. You have to participate in the problem solving session, and at the same time, you have to have the ability to kind of step back and observe what is happening at that second level of how the group is working.
So that’s the first thing. You have to be really able to tune into the what and the how.
Now, the question is, what are some of the aspects of the how? What are some elements of group dynamics? And really, there’s a number of them. First of all, there are things like, are the goals of the group clearly understood? Does everyone in the group know what the goals are, and what it is that we’re trying to achieve, and are they all committed to it? Secondly, how well do group members communicate with one another? Do they communicate honestly and openly with one another or not?
Thirdly, how well are the leadership functions shared among the group? Now, by leadership, I mean things like, if something goes wrong, do we all just turn to the person sharing and let him or her deal with it, or do we all take some responsibility for the leadership function? That’s one aspect of group dynamics.
How do we make decisions? Do we always go for voting? Do we try and use consensus? Do we just say, well, you make up your own mind? So do we get committed to decisions once they’re made? That’s a very important aspect of group dynamics.
What about conflict?
Well, how do we deal with conflict? Do we typically avoid conflict? Do we typically just get into shouting matches with one another? How well do we actually deal with and manage conflict? Very important element of group dynamics. And what are some of the group norms?
What do you mean by group norms?
- Group norms are some of the unwritten rules about how we behave in the group.
That can be quite frightening, can’t it, for a new person entering the group who doesn’t know the group norms.
Well, you usually get inculturated very quickly. Somebody will kind of take you aside and say, now listen, this is how it works around here. You never criticize Fred. Or the subject is taboo. These are some of the rules.
Another example of a group norm which I’ve seen many, many times in teams is this often unwritten rule that we look after ourselves first. We always kind of try and save our patch. So that if there’s anything happening in the organization, even if it’s a restructure or change in resources, we always make sure that we’re being looked after first. This could also be one of the group norms.
How do we encourage creativity? Do we encourage creativity? How do we learn in this particular group? Are we interested in learning? Do we encourage learning? So there are some examples of group norms.
Two final ones. Two final aspects of group dynamics. What’s the group cohesion like? Do we have a feeling of belonging to this group, or do we actually not feel that we belong to this group? That’s an element.
And finally, how do we deal with problems in the group? Do we acknowledge them and deal with them? Do we have a mechanism for dealing with them, or do we kind of sweep them under the carpet?
I’d like to look at the ways in which we influence group dynamics, and take it from the point of view of whether we’re a leader or one of the members of the group.
Yeah. Well, first of all, as I said before, you have to be very good at having this dual channel ability. You have to be able to work at the content level, but also observe what is going on. If you can’t observe what is going on, you’re not going to be able to influence the group dynamics and make that group work better. So stay tuned to both channels.
Have you got any examples of where you’ve stayed tuned to both channels, and something’s gone really astray in one?
Oh, sure. I guess I’m fairly lucky, because as a psychologist, I’ve been trained very much. And if anything, I have a bias to wanting to stay tuned at the process level, and I sometimes lose the content level.
But, I mean, I’ve often been in groups, for example, where the group might be trying to make a decision, or solve a problem, and the content issue’s terribly interesting– a technical issue, or a marketing issue, or a product development issue, and we want to talk about that. But if the group’s not working well, it’s important to be able to see that second level, to see what’s happening.
Now, it may be that it’s as simple as making what’s called a process observation. In other words, offering the group an observation of what it is that you’re seeing. Now it might be something like, look, I just want to make an observation here. I’m noticing that Fred and Mary are doing a lot of the talking here, and all of you over here are not contributing to this discussion at all. Now, can you see, you’re making an observation about one of the group dynamics, which is the participation level of the group?
Now, the group may not be aware of that, because they may have got so caught up with the technical issue. And all of a sudden, when you make this process observation, people kind of stop and look around and they go, that’s right. Now, just the fact of having made that process observation in itself might trigger a change, because all of a sudden, Maria over here might say, yeah, actually, that’s right. Look, my view is blah blah blah. Blah. And all of a sudden, the whole pattern changes and everybody starts contributing.
Another example of a process observation might be that once again, there’s a very passionate discussion going on, and you might say, look, I’ve just observed that really, we seem to be getting very bogged down on this particular problem. We’ve only got 20 minutes left, and we really haven’t dealt with these three other issues. Now, that’s making a process observation of how well we are solving the various problems on our agenda. Now, once again, just making that observation may be enough to trigger some change.
It may be that you make a process observation around the mood of the group. You might say something like, look, it’s very interesting. We were very excited and passionate talking about option A, but while we’re talking about option B, or whatever it is, I’m just noticing that everybody seems to be really flat and very low energy. Does this say something?
Now, once again, just making that observation, people might go, yeah, gee, that’s right. What does that say? Maybe that says that we should be going for option A and not option B.
So it really moves them.
Well, you’re moving them because what you’re doing is you’re changing channels, and you’re making a comment or an observation about something that usually, people are not aware of, because they’re so focused on the technical discussion– on the content. They’re kind of not really aware of what’s happening at that second level of process.
A lot of this discussion about the group dynamic centers around what is happening within a group, usually within a meeting. But can this be happening, say, in a group sitting in an open plan office, or, more currently, a virtual team who may be split geographically?
Well, it can, although it clearly is a lot more difficult to be able to make those observations, particularly if we’re talking about a virtual team where you aren’t really able to see so much what is going on. So I think the more dispersed the group is, the harder it is to actually see.
The other thing is, the more dispersed the group is, generally speaking, the more fragmented the group dynamics are anyway, because you don’t really have a kind of a group working together. So the answer there is kind of yes and no.
I’ve said that a really good technique is to make an observation, and that in itself can trigger some change. Sometimes you have to be a little bit more proactive than that. You might make an observation, but actually make a suggestion for how the group can change how it works. So you might say, look, I’ve noticed that only Fred and Jim are contributing to this. I’d really like to hear from Marie or Stephano. So you can actually make some suggestions about how the group dynamics can change.
That’s a slightly more proactive leading kind of technique, but it may be useful. The group may not necessarily like it, but very often, if it’s made in a constructive and positive way– not trying to put anyone down or alienate somebody– the group will really welcome this kind of contribution, and it can really help the group to move to a better level of functioning.
Peter, if I’m in a group, and there are subsets within the group, or little cliques, which can be very destructive, how do I deal with that, if I’m aware of that? And it’s not during a meeting, it’s just the way in which this group dynamics is working. What can I do about it?
Well, it may be that you don’t make a comment in front of the whole group. It may be appropriate to actually go and talk to either the subgroup, or it might even be one individual person. I mean, very often, in a group situation, one person is behaving in a way that is actually harming the process of the group. So it may be appropriate to approach the individual or the subgroup and give them some feedback.
What’s terribly important, though, is to be constructive, to be very, very specific, to explain the consequences of their behavior, to make some positive suggestions about how they can change to ensure that they agree that they’ve got commitment, and then to monitor how they go afterwards and give them some feedback if they in fact change, and to observe that the group is working better.
Peter, finally, have you could any tips about how we can learn and understand more about group dynamics?
Yeah. I think what’s a very useful training tool is to either maybe watch a video of a meeting, or to go in and watch groups actually functioning where you are not necessarily part of the group or involved in the technical issue. In other words, where you could go in there and just observe, and you don’t have any particular vested interest in the issue. And what that allows you to do is only focus on channel two, not channel one, to go back to my television analogy.
You might, for example, want to take in a checklist of the group dynamics that I’ve mentioned. So, for example, when you say are the goals clear? What’s participation like? How do we handle conflict? What are the group norms? Is there high group cohesion?
You go in with a list–
That’s a great idea.
And this provides you with a checklist to help you observe. Now, what’ll happen is, after a while, you’ll start getting good at it. Really nice thing to do also is do it with somebody else, and then afterwards, you can actually have a discussion– well, what did you observe? Because what you observed may be different from what the other person observed. So that’s a very simple and useful training tool, or training technique, to really help you develop the skills of understanding group dynamics.