We all know what it feels like to work in a team or group where there is a tense undercurrent, where the communication isn’t open and smooth, and where competition or fear, or both, infect the dynamics.
Of course, it’s the responsibility of the team leader to pay attention to these things although often they can be unaware that they are, if not the cause, then at the very least having a significant impact on the overall dynamics. Does it matter where we pay attention? You’d think not given the relatively few team leaders who actually invest time and effort in developing high-quality team and group dynamics.
For sure it’s not an easy area, especially if some toxicity or blockages are already embedded in the team. But failure to address the quality of the interactions and the relationships within and across any group severely hampers its ability to perform at its best. It also has wider implications in that it can prompt people to leave the team/group or even the organisation, not to mention the potential mental and emotional health issues caused by working in a consistently fractious, guarded, or polluted environment.
These dynamics can often feel irrelevant in the cut and thrust of the big agenda items and strategic goals that the team is working on yet it’s precisely because today’s leadership teams have complex and intractable issues to confront that they need to be paying attention to everything that can help them get there in better shape.
Solving issues in group dynamics takes courage to lift the lid and start talking and sharing more deeply.
To create an environment where openness and honesty characterise the discussions and where people feel safe and supported to bring their concerns and issues forward into the group. Here again, the team leader is key – they have to go first, they have to give this importance and take the time out in the right setting to enable these discussions to take place. And they have to put their own needs for power, control and comfort to one side.
Sometimes we may feel as team leaders that a poor dynamics situation is resolved if we simply remove a (problem) person from the team and for sure this can bring some immediate relief. But beware because the chances are that the deeper pattern will still be present – a pattern of power, authority, stepping forward, speaking out – whatever it is. Patterns don’t dissolve simply because we remove the ‘problem’.
And we might also consider the impact of leakage…if our team is dysfunctional other teams will sense it and are more likely to give us a wide berth or limit their interaction with us which brings consequences for organisational performance.
Working with systemic group coaching – seeing the full interplay within the group at all levels, mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual – is a very powerful way of discovering and exploring the patterns at play in any group. Again, it takes a bit of space and commitment to yield the results but the issues are resolved at a more substantive and significant level.
Healthy group dynamics is a thing of great power and joy. If you’ve ever worked in a high-performing team where people have your back, where communication is clear, direct, and honest, and where challenges can be brought but with a higher purpose in mind not to point score, then you know the power of healthy group dynamics.
As a team leader, it’s your job to focus on achieving this, and as a team member, it’s your job to demand this. The change agenda for our planet and for humanity is huge and the world needs groups, and the organisational systems of which they’re a part, to be performing at their peak if we are to play our part in creating a better world for all.