SOFT SKILLS MATTER)

Group process refers to how an organization’s members work together to accomplish their goals. The team leader sets the tone, however there are many strategies that can be employed to help the team become better at doing things in a supportive and collaborative manner that will be beneficial to everyone and the team as a whole. You should be aware of these issues if you are going to have a successful team.

Typically, organizations spend a great deal of time and energy setting and striving to reach their goals, however, often give little consideration to what is happening between and to the organization’s greatest resource – its people. While working hard to achieve results, it is critical that the team members’ needs be addressed. Being part of any organization is as much an opportunity to develop self-confidence, refine skills and even make friends, as it is to support a cause, maybe educate the community, complete projects, or effect change. All of these can be done simultaneously, but most likely will not just happen on their own.

The leadership of effective organizations take a close look at how members work together, which roles they fill and whether members are contributing equally. Through group process, observation, and analysis, you can more readily identify problems early, thus alleviating the need for a major overhaul as the year progresses. Your vantage point, as a team leader, provides a great opportunity to regularly observe how things are going. Depending on the frequency of meetings and an understanding of what to look for, you can be instrumental in ensuring team and individual success.

Elements of an organization which typically influence group proceedings include effective communication, active participation, collaborative decision making, and appropriate role fulfillment. When observing these specific areas you will likely see several things happening simultaneously. This is to be expected, but it can also be rather confusing. Initially, you may want to isolate a single issue. As you become more adept at observation and know your team members better, you can gradually increase your areas of focus and be better able to mentor members in a manner that will help them to reach their full potential and be a great asset to the team.

Listed below are several questions to ask yourself as you begin observing your team.

Observation
One of the easiest aspects of group process to observe is the pattern of communication within the team during meetings and project discussions:

  • Who talks? For how long? How often?
  • At whom do people look when they speak?
  • Who talks after whom? Who interrupts whom?
  • What style of communication is used (assertions, questions, tone of voice, gestures, is it respectful)?
  • Who sits where? Do the same people always sit in the same place?

The kinds of observations you make gives you clues to other important things which may be going on in the group (e.g., such as who leads whom or who influences whom).

Participation
One indication of involvement is verbal participation. Look for differences in the amount of participation among members.

  • Who are the high participants? Who are the low participants?
  • Do you see any shift in participation (e.g., highs become quiet; lows suddenly become talkative)? What are possible reasons for this in the team’s interaction?
  • How are the silent people treated? How is their silence interpreted? Consent? Disagreement? Disinterest? Fear? Etc.?
  • Who talks to whom? Do you see any reason for this in the team’s interactions?
  • Who keeps the ball rolling? Why? Do you see any reason for this in the team’s interactions?

Decision Making
Many kinds of decisions are made in teams without considering the effects that these decisions might have on other members. Some people try to impose their decisions on the group, while others want all members to participate or share in the decision making process.

  • Does anyone make a decision and carry it out without checking with other group members (self-authorized)? For example, one person decides on the topic to be discussed and immediately begins to talk about it. What effect does this have on other members?
  • Does the team drift from topic to topic? Who topic-jumps? Do you see any reason for this in the team’s interactions?
  • Who supports other members’ suggestions or decisions? Does this support result in the two members deciding the topic or activity for the rest of the team? How does this affect the other members?
  • Is there any evidence of a majority pushing a decision through over other member’s objections? Do they call for a vote (majority support)?
  • Is there any attempt to get all members participating in a decision (consensus)? What effect does this seem to have on the team?
  • Does anyone make any contributions which do not receive any kind of response or recognition? What effect does this have on that member?
  • Do you as the leader make all of the decisions or do all of the talking, or do the members also participate?

Organizational Roles
A variety of crucial roles need to be filled to ensure that the team goals are accomplished and successful.

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There are 3 types of roles:
Task-Oriented:
These roles are primarily expressed through trying to accomplish team projects.
Examples: the initiator, the contributor, the information seeker and giver, the elaborator, the energizer, and the recorder.
Maintenance-Oriented:
These roles are oriented toward improving relationships among the team members.
Examples: the encourager, the harmonizer, and the compromiser.
Self-Oriented:
These roles focus on the personal needs of an individual regardless of the team concerns.
Examples: the aggressor, the recognition seeker, the dominator, and the blocker.[/message][su_spacer]

Paying attention to these questions and roles can help you to better understand how the group is affecting its members and vice versa. When this process is well understand it can be adjusted and improved to benefit the efficiency, creativity, and productivity of the group.


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Sandy Chernoff
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.
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Chris Pehura
Chris Pehura

Good read. While reading I thought about the leadership participation model and also about neuro-linguistic programming. Do you use these practices?