Siobhán Cahalan | What if…we better understood Group Dynamics?

“What is is about groups that drives our feelings?”

Groups. Love them. Or love them less. Regardless how we find them, they appear in our lives. We can choose to have more of them. We can choose to have less of them.

How do you feel about group settings? How do you feel about the leader of the group? How do you feel about the other participants? How do you feel about your role as part of the group? How do you feel in your role as leader?

What is is about groups that drives our feelings? How do you behave in a group setting? Does that differ depending on variables, such as context, numbers, environment? How do you react in group situations? Are you always at ease? Sometimes at ease depending on varying factors? Or dread those times when you will be in a room with several other people?

There are many variations of a group setting, the first one we experience, most likely, family and relations. Then the various school settings, work environments and social interactions.

What are four ways which may help us view group dynamics in a new way?

We could become aware of the overlap. Reflect on our lifelong journey. What groups have we encountered along the way? What were the different environments, contexts? Do we notice a pattern? A pattern with which we relate to the group as a whole, to the other participants and to the leader? Does this pattern play out in each group, regardless of the situation or context?

We could become adept at the art of creating a team feel. Within groups and teams, we can create a good team feel. What is the art of creating a good team feel? Good structure, clear roles and responsibilities, where each person feels included, validated and acknowledged?

We could become aware of subjectivities. How do our individual backgrounds, beliefs, characteristics influence our attitudes and behaviors? What can the differing perspectives and opinions teach us about the person in front of us? 

We could become aware of authenticity. What are the real characteristics of the person in front of you? How can the amplified strengths of each person be utilized for the good of the team purpose?

Wisdom Tool Number One: Know the Overlap

What were some of the answers to the questions above? In a group do you feel supported? Do you feel like you belong? Or do you feel alone? Intimidated? Not supported? 

What group settings are you thinking about when you answer those questions? Are the answers different depending on the group or are the answers basically the same regardless of which setting it is?

How is the hierarchy in the group? How do you view the leader, the facilitator, the chair? Do you see him/her as an anchor and ally? Or do think they are a monster, a person not to be trusted? How are you different when engaging with the monster versus the ally? Guarded, close, hyperaware, doubting, threatened, defensive?

“Does hierarchy give you an overall bad feeling or good feeling?” 

Do other group members feel threatening to you? Do you feel ganged up on? Or do you view them as collegial and encouraging?

As the leader or chair, what feelings are you having? Do you enjoy or dread the role? Why are you in the role? Are you more comfortable in the role of leader or in the role of group member?

It can be interesting to become aware of the patterns which we each encounter in group settings. Has there been, and is there, a similar constellation showing up in every group situation? Do you feel this way about every person, in every group setting, in the leader role? Does hierarchy give you an overall bad feeling or good feeling? 

How do the differing group settings overlap with one another? For example, if you feel that the leader in a current group is analogous to a monster, do all leaders bear that same resemblance? How did you view hierarchy when you were young? Is there an overlap with that and how you view leaders and persons in the leader role now? Or is the leader akin to a supporter, someone who provides encouragement and validation? And always shows up as such regardless of the environment or context?

Wisdom Tool Number Two: Know How to Create a Team Feel

Groups and teams are generally not considered the same thing. Groups come together for a common purpose but may not necessarily share the same goals or work towards a specific outcome together. Teams come together for a common purpose and work together in a coordinated and collaborative way to achieve that purpose. Teams are considered more interdependent than groups, with groups having a more individual focus. 

A team working together, at its best, can feel collaborative and cooperative. Each person feels heard and there is the sense of an invisible thread subtly weaving the individuals together. The weaving encourages openness, respect and validation of each member. At its very best, it can even produce a heart warmed to the core, a prevailing air of candid sincerity and a blissful state where each person feels valued as they are.

“What is the art of creating a team feel?”

Regardless whether the collection of individuals is defined as a group or a team, how are they joined together? Do they see themselves as a bunch of disparate individuals? Or is there an invisible connection forming a sense of cohesion? Is there a value-add in creating a team feel? Does it help to support the common purpose if people feel like they belong, understood, heard and regardless of differing opinions, feel the group or team is a supportive anchor point?

Who is responsible for creating this team feel? Is it the leader, the chair? Or does each person have a responsibility? Perhaps the answer is both. The leader can act in the role of facilitator and create the platform and structure for the team feel. Once this is established, it should be possible that the team can function without the leader being present to pull it together every time. What is the art of creating a team feel? A leader can co-create a team feel in many different ways via their own unique set of characteristics. Having clear roles and responsibilities and a positive structure helps. As does holding awareness and helping each person to feel included, acknowledged and validated. 

Wisdom Tool Number Three: Understand Subjectivities

We are all familiar with SMART goals and KPIs. These help to create an objectivity around purpose, goals and results. They help us to keep sight of the big picture and hold the structure within which teams operate. 

With objectivity covered, what about subjectivity? It’s tempting to stay within the world of the objective measurements. However, a team is made up of individuals and each individual has a life going on outside of objective measurements. 

The attitude and behavior brought by each individual can be stemming from their beliefs, their environment growing up, their perception attached to hierarchy, leaders, peers and how they view their role and the role of others within the group.

“How are the systemic environments of the individual understood and integrated?”

Individuals have individual expectations and what is acceptable for one may not be for another. What is the systemic environment within which each individual operates outside of work? What is the systemic environment the team is faced with in the business scenario? How are the systemic environments of the individual understood and integrated? Do they need to be?

When asking for feedback about the same group event, individuals may provide feedback at entirely different sides of the spectrum. 

Yes, it was useful for me. No, it was not useful for me. This feedback could help to suggest where the person providing the feedback is coming from. As well as viewing the feedback as a tool to evaluate the group event, the feedback can be used as a way to get to know the individuals. What are their expectations? What are their beliefs? Based on how they experienced the event, what does it tell me about them? How is their system or/and the system of the team impacting the feedback that they provide? Does the feedback highlight another angle to the person and the situation and how can that be addressed? 

Yes, there was great participation. No, there was no participation. Where two individuals give opposite views on how participation occurred, what does that signify? Are they viewing the participation as a time event, how long did each person talk for? What is their definition of participation? Does it represent a situation where people do not feel heard? Where there is unequal floor time? Where although people may not have the confidence to communicate, they want to be included and to be heard? Does it stem back to how they felt in their family groups – heard or not heard?

Wisdom Tool Number Four: Observe Authenticity

What happens in team situations when stress occurs? Where people are pushed to their limit and become paper thin? Behaviors and attitudes may change. And what can sometimes appear is a more authentic version. The characteristics of the authentic self may become more vivid. The professional mask may drop to reveal an enhanced dimension of a person. 

“Use it as an opportunity to understand the person better”

This can be a very enlightening learning exercise. Instead of admonishing the person, realize that you are seeing them in a new light, with switches you hadn’t previously observed. 

Use it as an opportunity to understand the person better, and through becoming more aware of the strengths of the individual, greater things can be acheived. For example, if someone is a perfectionist, and things are not going according to how they perceive it should be going, this characteristic can show itself in a stronger light in a stressed environment than in a steady working environment.

Observing authenticity in others can be supported by paying attention to nonverbal cues, listening actively, looking for consistency, trusting our intuition, and being authentic ourselves.

Becoming aware of group dynamics may help us to: recognize repeating patterns in our own lives, become adept with the art of creating a team feel, become aware of subjectivities and observe authenticity and amplified strengths of ourselves and others.

“Good self-governance leads to good organizational governance.”

To further explore how you can access your innate wisdom, to better understand group and team dynamics in your life and business, leading to enhanced self-governance and organizational governance, schedule a coaching conversation with Siobhán. 

Drop a note to to set something up.

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