Working with my team in Group Dynamics throughout the semester proved to be a rewarding, enlightening perspective into how groups and teams work together. We encountered challenges along the way but for the most part we succeeded in setting out what we wanted to accomplish this semester and were able to reach our designated goals.
One of the challenges I encountered first in my team was the varying degrees of trust and friendship I shared with my group members. I had known Karen since we were in undergraduate classes together and had worked with her several times. Denise had been in a few of my classes before but we had never worked together previously. Lastly, John and I had never shared a class together so we maintained the least social relationship compared to the rest of my team.
The varying degrees of our social relationships worried me slightly because social relationships in teams can have a profound affect on communication, performance, and motivation (Levi, 2011). In order for our team to perform at its highest functional level we each needed to work on developing our social relationships with each other. We noticed some of our differences around the time that our first assignment was about halfway completed.
During a class session we were asked to rank ourselves in terms of stage we thought our group was in from Tuckman’s Group Development Model; forming, storming, norming, or performing. Interestingly, we all had different opinions as to where we thought our group was within this model ranging from the storming to performing stages. This signified a problem for us since we couldn’t agree on how developed we were and it caused some minor conflict amongst my team members.
At this point we worked on further improving our social relationships which we realized were not as developed as they should be for a successful team. We also focused more on creating specific roles for the group members to help with organization, time-management, and goal keeping. As the semester progressed we each completed the in class exercise to determine our behavior types based on Bolton and Bolton’s Behavior Styles.
I discovered that I was a driver and focused mostly on what needed to be accomplished and how to reach that goal. Karen turned out to be the analytic thinker who was concerned with organization. Denise discovered that she was the amiable behavioral type meaning that she tried to seek out decisions and methods, which would benefit everyone. John, the expressive behaviorist, generated much of the motivation for the group during the semester (Bolton & Bolton).
This exercise was very informative because it gave each of us greater incite into our individual characteristics and why we behave in certain ways. It also helped us greatly in moving past some of our differences and we referred back to it for the remainder of the semester. We were now able to understand why we had disagreements on certain aspects of our project and why our work styles sometimes didn’t mesh well. Interestingly, the roles and norms we had previously established tied in well to our newly discovered behavioral styles.
For instance, Karen had chosen to be the editor of our group, which was right in line with her analytic personality. Being a driver, it came to no surprise to me that I chose to be the record keeper for our group and sent out weekly update meetings to transcribe what we had discussed as a team and what every member should be focusing in the coming week.
Throughout the semester I felt that my team members and I were able to develop many of our teamwork and conflict resolution skills by working together on our group projects. I noticed that our group communication developed greatly from where it began in the beginning of the semester when my group members did not communicate very frequently and when we did it was often unclear. As our trust and social relationships fostered the psychological safety within our group the members began to communicate much more effectively by asking questions and raising issues around each other (Levi, 2011).
Similarly, the conflict resolution styles of my group members and I matured during the semester. When completing our first assignment most team members used the avoidance conflict resolution technique because we did not feel comfortable being honest with one another. However, as our social relationships improved, we each spoke up more about out opinions in a respectful, tactful manner. This allowed us to collaborate better when dealing with conflict and helped us to reach decisions that led to everyone ‘winning’ (Levi, 2011).
Although we had been using the consensus making decision style since the beginning of the semester we were also able to improve upon our administration of it. This approach is time consuming because it requires every group member to discuss an issue and all agree on it before it can be accepted (Levi, 2011). We found that it was taking too long for us to reach group decisions because no one wanted to offend anyone else or offer their honest opinion at first.
The more we developed trust the better we could discuss issues honestly in a timely fashion and make well thought out decisions quickly. For the most part I am happy with how my team members and I progressed and developed our skills throughout the semester. I feel that we were able to achieve the goals we set out to achieve in the beginning of class. I don’t think that I would change the path we went on to reach this point, but I would have liked to accomplish it sooner. If we had worked more on developing our social relationships and trust in the beginning of the semester then we could have moved on to the performing stage of group development quicker.
Similarly, if we had set out to practice good communications techniques initially then we would not have encountered some of the process loss that we dealt with during the semester. We found that communication was really essential to the success of our group because once we dedicated more time to doing it well we really saw an improvement in our performance.
I’m very proud of the creativity we exhibited when we ran into the problem of how to conduct our group observation. Since all of us were working full time and were very busy in our lives we knew it would be difficult to all get together outside of class to perform the observation. Karen came up with the idea that we could watch a video recording of her work group during a team meeting to use for our project, which we all thought was an excellent solution to our problem. Unfortunately, the video did not work when she tried to upload it to email or Blackboard. Because of this we all had to meet at Towson on a Sunday to watch the video together.
The circumstances were not ideal but I believe it gave us a chance to each show that we were indeed dedicated to the other members in our team by giving up a weekend afternoon to work on our mutually held assignment goals. Additionally, I’m quite proud of the metrics we developed to observe our group for the assignment. We all worked hard to come up with what aspects of the team we should pay special attention to and also how best to score those aspects.
It was also interesting to see each of our separate metrics score sheets because we each had differing opinions in terms of scoring. Despite this we were able to average our scores and combine them into one metric sheet. I feel that I was able to develop my team skills throughout the semester and worked to get out of my comfort zone a little bit.
Being a driver I am usually the one to take charge and volunteer to lead on projects. In the past I have offered to take on several responsibilities and make suggestions to other group members in an effort to speed the process up. Since I knew much of this class was focused on team building though I specifically set out to take a step back and work with others to develop solutions as a group. I also worked toward soliciting opinions from everyone when I could instead of merely working towards agreement on everything.
It was difficult at first because as a team we were moving at a much slower pace than I would have normally felt comfortable with, but I’m glad I took a step back because it proved that we were still able to reach our goals without having to travel at such a rushed pace. I am very grateful for the experiences and lessons I learned throughout the semester in this class because I believe that they all can be applied to real life situations. Working with teams is an essential part of any job and knowing how to work with different personalities comes along with that.
I am happy that my team consisted of one of each different kind of behavioral style because it challenged me in a way very much like I might encounter in a work group. Not all of my coworkers will be drivers so it was a great experience for me to learn how to work well with different types of people in class. Similarly, not every work group I am a part of will consist of people I know well. My group ranged from someone I had known for a few years and worked with before to someone I had only met at the beginning of the semester.
This helped teach me how to balance the disproportional level of social relationships and also how to cultivate and develop social relationships with those who I am less familiar with. Reflecting back on the semester I am quite satisfied with the work my group and I were able to accomplish. I feel that we all learned and grew in our own ways individually and as a team. As I continue on in my new company I hope to integrate many of the things I have learned this semester into my work life in an effort to replicate the team successes I experience in the classroom.
References Bolton, & Bolton. Working with Behavioral Styles. Levi, D. (2011). Group Dynamics for Teams. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc.