ANYTIME a functioning group changes in membership including when it forms, status and or role questions arise. If someone leaves the group, roles shift, the group churns. Small groups are often microcosms of the organization and reflect organizational health in the way they form, grow, perform (or don’t), ebb and end.
This post is about how groups and teams form and develop. It starts with MEMBERSHIP.
Many of us are actually quite experienced when it comes to repeated group change. It doesn’t mean we always enjoy the process. We may experience hundreds of team and group formations and dissolutions over our lifespans. Two familiar examples of this include teams of two (marriage/partners) and organization hierarchy groups. Also consider social media groups with their evolving rules of engagement.
“A good leader inspires people to have confidence in their leader. A great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.”
Status and role changes in a team or group, perceived or real, can be angst-producing and much ado about nothing. It has been a regular part of my consulting work to deal with persistent, debilitating issues that show up in surveys and reports, or those that surface in meetings or in difficult leader-staff interactions. Dealing with status-membership issues and shifting, improving group norms with grace, interest, and some helpful skill building is positive path forward.
If you are a leader or facilitator, consider helping your team members with the questions below in Step One: Membership. Key questions are:
- Do I belong here? (Research suggests job insecurity is worse for your health than unemployment.)
- On what terms may I belong? (Have the rules changed? What’s expected of me? What are my goals?)
- Do I want to belong? (Related to 1st question and next question – if it isn’t just about the work, salary and benefits.)
- Who do I have to be to belong? (Do I still fit what the organization is, and is becoming?)
- What is expected of me? ( Clarity of assignment is important.)
- Who else is here? (Another “fit” type of question)
- What can I contribute? (Help team members connect, clarify and commit to using their strengths effectively.)
Teams and groups can build greater skills in adapting to ongoing change through smart group development strategies including these, adapted from an article from the Center for Creative Leadership.
1. Establish a climate for learning. When teams create norms and practices around learning, they make learning a habit. This helps teams to achieve consistently high performance levels and allows for rapid learning and fast action when necessary.
Here are several learning culture examples I’ve seen locally:
- The director of a science unit convenes an informal coffee gathering twice a week, early in the day to discuss news and what’s happening. The expectation is set that this is a time to network productively with your colleagues about what is going on the unit to support each other’s work. Another local organization like this calls similar meetings like this “huddles.”
- Dean-level leaders (university) convene each month to discuss a book relevant to how to apply leadership principles to their academic areas. (All are expected to have read it to participate in discussion.)
Continually assess how you work together. After every 2nd or 3rd meeting, ask questions about the meetings process: 1) what’s working], 2) what’s is not, and 3) what are the suggestions for improvement. Just asking the questions changes the mindset in meetings. Add this discussion time to the meeting agendas on a regular basis.
Work with a team coach. Choose a coach who has expertise in team dynamics and process facilitation. He or she can work directly with the team to help the members become more aware of the effective and ineffective aspects of their functioning. The coach can provide the team with information about alternative approaches, encouragement and feedback about the impact of these efforts.
Capture and share knowledge effectively. Organizations and teams need systematic and easily accessible ways of handling ongoing learning. Teams may take widely differing approaches to doing this, but it is essential that they use some disciplined approach for capturing and disseminating lessons learned and best practices.
Source: Center for Creative Leadership and author Dennis Lindoerfer
High performance teams are also aided by diversity and the ability to take multiple perspectives. Three resources that can help you consider a variety of team roles are:
- The Belbin® Team Roles framework which includes roles like the Specialist (thought-oriented), the Implementer (action-oriented), the Team Worker (people-oriented) and the Resource Investigator (people-oriented)
- The Neethling Brain Instrument (my summary here), a validated 4 quadrant tool I use, is easily understood and put into use for teamwork improvement.
- My excerpted post of 6 People (Roles) You Need in Your Corner For a Great Team by Jessica Hagy, a Forbes blogger on my curated newsletter, Change Management Resources. (Now archived and still chock-full of change resources.)
The next post in this series is about Control Issues in Teams: How Do You Take Charge?
“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seeming secure, to embrace the new. But there is not real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.~ Alan Cohen, author and coach
Thanks for stopping by. Your comments and sharing of this post enrich the learning.
This post was updated in 2013 with added references and in 2021 with improved formatting and updated links. The title was also shortened and updated.