Six Things To Pay Attention To In Groups

We're always part of some group

You and I pretty much spend our entire lives in groups. We start off in a family, play with groups of friends, attend classes, and work in groups and teams. So, woudn't it 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 good. Old isn't bad--it just gets ignored even though it's valid and useful.

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. 

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 of comfort and trust is established, you enable the group to be able to make decisions together. 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 to implement and 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, then high performance should 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 such a huge part of our lives, isn't it worthwhile to develop the related knowledge and skills that will make group life effective?


Keep It Simple Like Einstein

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, and no simpler."

--Albert Einstein

If Einstein was into simple, then why aren't we?

Whether you're an entrepreneur, coach/consultant, or someone slugging it out every day in corporate life, you know how complex things can become. But why?

3 Reasons Things Become Complex When They Don't Have To Be

1. Complexity can indicate a lack of clarity. When nothing is number one, everything becomes number one--all at once.

2. Many people view complex explanations and business presentations as indicative of superior intelligence.

I've not seen that proven to be true. Instead, they are often indicative of lack of focus and preparation, or an attempt to overwhelm the listener(s) into thinking that what is being said can't really be understood by the “unwashed.” Therefore, the speaker should be granted carte blanche to proceed with the proposal or project, whatever it is.

Note: From now on this should raise a red flag for you. Why? Because you are about to learn

Roesler Rule of Life #27:

Truth comes in sentences. B_ llS_it comes in paragraphs. If you can’t say it with a noun, verb, and object, you aren’t clear about your thought. Or, you may be about to commit #2 above.

3. We are bombarded with so much new information and imagery that our senses are overwhelmed . Our immediate reaction is:

    a. Trying to make sense of all of it in the midst of what we've already begun to do for the day.

    b. Multitasking to deal with all of it.


Einstein Gave Us The Answer To This One, Too. 

One of the principles within the Theory of Relativity is this:

"It is impossible to detect the motion of a system by measurements made within the system."

(What a great sales line for coaches and consultants!)

As individuals, we can't sort out our blind spots from within. We need a relationship with someone who will tell us the truth, give us another perspective, and with whom we are accountable to follow through.

It's an issue of honesty.

Corporations have an even more difficult time. Systems, procedures, and programs built from within are understandably (given human nature) protected and defended by those who are attached to them. Yet the only way to clearly see the reality of a situation is to have someone stand up and tell the truth about it, good or bad. That can be a career-limiting opportunity for the keen observer. Yet to make changes that mean something, successful companies will have to promote that kind of candor or shrivel and die.

It's an issue of honesty.

With ourselves and our companies, the only thing we can decide is what we will do, personally:

Will we speak the simple truth, ask for the simple truth, or claim that our lives are so complex that we can't know the truth?

And then lament the fact that nothing has changed.

3 Ways To Help Make the Complex Simple

1. Before you start the day, answer this question:

"If I can only have one result today to the exclusion of all else, what must it be?"

Pay attention to that. Let go of the rest.

2. Edit your professional language--in length as well as terminology--so a 9 year-old can understand it. Then everyone around you will know that you understand it, too.

3. When you catch yourself multi-tasking, see how you are coming along with #1. Then go back to #1.


5 Ways To Be More Coachable

Who Is Coachable?

The fact is, everyone isn't. Those who are uncoachable often think they have no performance issues and if there is one, believe everyone "out there" is the cause. In these cases, coaching isn't a very good option to produce positive results. It's kind of like one spouse dragging another to marriage counseling in the hope that the counselor can "fix" the partner. (Ever see how well that works?).

The sticking point here is a mindset that doesn't allow someone to reflect on their own behavior, a desire to change it, and their personal responsibility for the relationship. So, forcing someone into a coaching relationship isn't the best organizational solution for certain issues and individuals.

Coachable Cats


Five Characteristics Of Coachability

If you are considering coaching someone else or being coached, here are five attributes I've observed in people who successfully "own" their part of the coaching process. You might want to use this as a quick diagnostic tool.

1. Committed to Change. Individuals who don't think they're perfect, want to improve, exhibit responsibility for their lives, and are willing to step outside of their comfort zones are good candidates for a successful coaching relationship.


2. Open to information about themselves. Be willing and able to listen and hear constructive criticism without being defensive; then, synthesize their coach's suggestions with their own personal reflections on the issue.


3. Open about themselves. Willing to engage in topics that may be uncomfortable but are getting in the way of their professional development; talks about "what's really going on" so the coach can have a complete and honest picture of the total situation.


4. Appreciate New Perspectives. People who get excited about hearing someone else's take on a situation and figure out how to learn from it can really benefit from coaching.


5. Awareness about one's self and others. Coachable people already have at least a fair amount of awareness about themselves. Equally important, they use it to reflect on their behavior and how it impacts other people in the range of situations that come their way.


Communication: Where to Find the Meaning

"We see things not as they are, but as we are."
   --H.M Tomlinson

Meaning is in the Response You Get

We often deal with new ideas, with changing how things are done, with trying to persuade others about our point of view. The longer you've lived, the more you realize the number of obstacles to people automatically accepting and absorbing your information.

Maybe the greatest single stumbling block to real communication is the one-sided nature of speaking.

I know that you already know about this: intellectually. But let's face it:  Most of us concentrate on what to say and how to say it. In our zeal to  get our message across we forget that at the other end of our message is a real, live person with her own zeal, goals, and concerns. These may not coincide with ours, especially at the moment when we are about to start communicating our new ideas.

Inluence Blog Graphic.001

So, Do This:

1. Openly acknowledge the areas of similarity first.

2. Re-state why you are together and what you hope to accomplish.

3. List the areas of disagreement or fuzziness. Don't discuss them yet, just list them.

4. Identify and work through the items that have the least value or emotional attachment. This creates a quick track record of successes.

5. Get to the tougher ones, with this important element:

Explain why it is important to you.

It's a lot easier to work together when you understand the deeper issues involved. Without this, you aren't really operating at a human level--you are just exchanging information whose underlying realities may be much more sympatico and understandable than the statement given on the surface.

Remember: Meaning is in the response. The deeper, more honest the response, the more chance you have of understanding the truth of each other's reality.

How do you approach these kinds of situations?

Beware of Feedback In Disguise

Faux Feedback Disguised as 360 Assessment

About 8 months ago I was asked to provide coaching for a middle manager. During the exploratory meeting, I asked his boss how he (the middle manager) responded to the performance feedback that led to the coaching solution. The boss responded in a very generic way and shuffled papers nervously. Then, he said it: "I guess I should sit down with him again. But I think using some kind of 360 feedback tool would really be helpful."

Three weeks ago...yep, it happened again. Along with the "360 might be helpful..."

These are three different companies in three different industries with three different cultures.

Hippies_use_back_door My intuitive take: 360 Tools are seen by some as a way to satisfy the desired and useful need for feedback but to avoid having to provide it directly. So, they decide to enter through the back door.

If the object of feedback were only to provide raw data, maybe that wouldn't matter. However:

Employees at all levels want feedback and direction first and foremost from their boss. That's the relationship workers at all levels rely upon when making decisions about what to do and how to do it 

Deal With Back-Door Feedback Through Front-Door Coaching

If you're a coach, then I will assume you adhere to this principle: You don't give feedback to a coaching client that he or she hasn't received from their boss. Period.

What to do?

I explained to each boss that I couldn't continue until their person had gotten all of the "what" and "why" feedback from them; otherwise, the the coaching would be (rightly) viewed as sneaky and unethical. And, that without the boss's direct contribution, it probably wouldn't have any real meaning.

The result? Each one actually agreed. This wasn't about an evil empire. It was about people who needed some help themselves.

So the first coaching session was with the boss to identify the specific feedback and practice giving it. And yes, we still did the 360 feedback because it really was desired by the people being coached.

What to take away: Be on the lookout for back door feedback requests and, regardless of your role, point people toward the front door before proceeding.


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Steve Roesler, Principal & Founder
The Steve Roesler Group
Office: 609.654.7376
Mobile: 856.275.4002

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