Training in the 21st Century

Increase Your Effectiveness in Any Group

Guest Blogger: Sharon Mulgrew,

“Computer skills are expected on a resume; they are no longer a bonus; they are now considered necessary basic skills. However the skill of the future, the most sought after skill now, is the ability to work in a team, to work collaboratively, to play well others.”  (Kate Austin, Director of Simulation and Digital Entertainment Program at UB, 2006)

We sit through boring, frustrating or ‘resultless’ work meetings every day.

We think that nothing can be done. Yet there are actions that group members can take to make their meetings and collaborative work more focused, more fun, and more effective: There is a rhyme and reason to effective work groups, and the more members know and practice the behaviors that actually help any group perform, the better the experience is for all members.

Coordinated effort and shared purpose do occur when all group members have developed clear, effective, and mutually agreed upon ways of working with each other and on the tasks. But most groups are not able to do consistent collaborative work until they pass through specific developmental stages and accomplish the group development tasks related to each stage.

First identified by Bruce Tuckman, the recognized stages of behavior and interaction among groups are Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. Tuckman later added a fifth stage, Adjourning, and I’ve found it very beneficial to divide the second stage, Storming, into two segments to:

  1. Make this difficult and confusing stage more comprehensible to group members, and
  2. Highlight the two very different learnings that are taking place in this stage
    • identifying individual strengths
    • developing effective methods to resolve conflicts.

By consciously transiting through these developmental stages—and adopting the associated task and interpersonal elements of each—members develop a clear understanding of both their shared purpose in working together, as well as how each member’s behavior can proactively help the group achieve results.

How often have you been in groups where members actively ‘clarify the task’ (a desired Forming behavior) by asking:

What are the relevant details of the tasks?

What are the results wanted?

Why are we doing this?

How will the organization use the results?

How will member skills contribute?

Who else needs to be part of the group to effectively address the task, etc.?

If the leader doesn’t do it (and they often don’t do all of it), do members?

It is much easier to work together when this is all clarified in the first stage, Forming.

The time it takes to develop clarity and mutual understanding among members is more than made up for in eventual group productivity and member satisfaction. We can take systematic steps to enhance any group’s development by identifying and explaining the specific actions and behaviors that members can use to get it all going and to keep it focused, on track, results oriented, and fun. When members know the stage-related task and interpersonal behaviors that help them achieve group effectiveness, they can facilitate their own movement through these stages and achieve effective collaboration more quickly.

What specific member behaviors have you found helpful when working as a member or facilitator of groups and teams?

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