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?