The knowledge of group behavior can affect the way one performs in a group setting. Group dynamics is the scientific study of behavior in groups (Johnson and Johnson, 2009). A group is two or more individuals who have interaction with each other to achieve a goal (Johnson and Johnson, 2009).
Many businesses depend on the high productivity that groups generate. In some organizations today, a valued employee is one who has the ability to work successfully in a small group or team. The knowledge of group dynamics is needed to be successful in a career. By examining valuable group behaviors and how they affect the outcome of group processes, we can better understand why this knowledge is important for a group to be successful. A valuable group behavior is positive interdependence.
Positive interdependence is the perception that one is linked with others in such a way that success is impossible without the others and that group effort must be coordinated in order to complete a task (Johnson and Johnson, 2009). When you have positive interdependence, the actions of your group members will promote the success of others. The members are open to the influence of the others and the members can count on each other. It takes the actions of the whole group to achieve the mutual goals. John Maxwell has 17 undisputable laws in his book, Laws of Teamwork. One of them is the Law of Countability. This law states that teammates must be able to count on each other when it counts. Maxwell uses the following formula for countability:
Character + Competence + Commitment + Consistency + Cohesion = Countability. When an individual has these qualities with himself and with others, then the team has what is necessary to successfully achieve their goals (Maxwell, 2001). Countability of an individual or in a group begins with character and is based on trust. Most all interaction with people is based on trust. Individual character is an important factor in building a group or team. Competence in an individual can be a very critical factor.
Character is important but without competence the advantages of character will not help in accomplishing the group’s goals. For example, if you have to make a critical decision determining the companies growth you do not want someone with just great character, you want someone with great character and the competence to be able to make the decision. Commitment of the individual as well as the group has a major impact on the success of the group.
Things do not always flow as planned in life. The group has to know they can count on each other regardless of how things are going in individuals lives or within the achievement of the group’s goals. There might be a time that certain members of the team have to carry the rest of the team to success. With no commitment that will not be possible.
The consistencies of an individual or group will be factor in the growth of the group’s dependability. Consistency is a key in building trust between members of the group and between the group and the company. Consistency is an important factor in career development also. Cohesion is a valuable individual and group behavior. Individual cohesion is the ability to hold together no matter how difficult the circumstances become (Maxwell, 2001).
Group cohesion is defined as mutual attraction among group members and the resulting desire to remain in the group (Johnson and Johnson, 2009). Cohesive groups set their goals without difficulty and have a greater chance of achieving those goals. The more cohesive a group is the more involved the members will be in the group activities and the life of the group will lengthen. The work performance will be greater in a cohesive group. The group members have a greater commitment to the group’s goals and they feel a personal responsibility to the group.
The feeling of being part of something important will promote success and productivity. The process of acceptance is when individuals promote mutual goals accomplishment as a result of their perceived positive interdependence (Johnson and Johnson, 2009). This results in communicating and understanding one another’s perspective and raising one’s self esteem. Any positive recognition for things done correctly or in a timely manner will promote similar performances (Maddux, 1986). The positive relationships promoted by cooperative efforts among members of a group will result in increased cohesiveness (Johnson and Johnson, 2009).
The performance of a team can be improved when team members provide feedback on how things are being done. In John Maxwell’s book, Laws of Teamwork, he explains the Law of the Scoreboard. The feedback is essential in the following ways: understanding, evaluating, decision making, adjusting, and winning. Maxwell states that the team can make adjustments when it knows where it stands in accomplishing the goals.
Sometimes there are many goals that need to be accomplished. For time and cost purposes, it is better to split a group into smaller teams and assign fewer goals. The result would be a team that is more focused on their mutual goals.
The church where I am employed used this method in the planning of a rummage/bazaar event. There were many different tasks that needed to be accomplished. So the chair of the committee divided the group into teams and assigned them tasks. Each team met separately to accomplish their task and then reported to the chair. This method worked very well and the event was a success.
Another reason for a group to be divided into teams could be that the group has a wide variety of talents. Dividing the group into teams by their talents and then assigning tasks will prevent the problem of members working on a task that they have no knowledge or experience in. This method would be more cost and time effective. This method is used in our children’s ministry at the church where I work. They have an annual Vacation Bible School with 200+ children in attendance.
This is an event where they are many tasks needed to be accomplished as well. For this event, the volunteers are divided into teams based on their talents such as cooking, teaching, creating crafts, etc. They assign one person to head the team and they are given the list of task that needs to be accomplished. Groups or teams are more effective in a work environment. You have groups of people working together towards one goal. However, many different elements make up a group’s dynamics and the dynamics could change with a change in membership. The ongoing changes in group dynamics makes it difficult for research about groups to remain valid and relevant.
The fact still remains that groups will have diversity and creativity which will result in the group achieving more than an individual in a shorter time. The group support reduces the competiveness and apprehension that is a part of decision making. According to Johnson and Johnson, group decision making will be more effective than individual decision making due to the social facilitation or impairment that occurs during individual decision making. When you have a simple decision, employees will do better because they have more knowledge in the area. If the decision is more complicated, the performance will lessen because there is less knowledge in this area and the possibility of failure is there.
The idea of using teams to solve problems and achieve results is based on a concept that the collective team’s brainpower is greater than the ability of one individual who is in a higher position (Bodwell, n.d.). Having employees involved in problem solving passes along ownership of the problems which rightfully belong to them (Maddux, 1986). When there is a construction controversy during a decision making process, there are several steps that will either encourage or discourage member’s acceptance. The first step is to organize the information and use the present information and experience to derive a conclusion. The next step would be to present and advocate the position to others.
Advocacy is defined as the presenting of a position and providing reasons why others should adopt it (Johnson and Johnson, 2009). In this step the group will have a greater understanding of the position and will increase their level of reasoning processes. The third step of obtaining a member’s acceptance is having your views challenged which will lead to the fourth step of conceptual conflict and uncertainty.
The conceptual conflict will motivate research for more information to counter the uncertainty and to understand the opposing views. The research for more information is called epistemic curiosity which is part of the fifth step. The rest of the fifth step would be to view the situation from an opposing perspective which is called perspective taking (Johnson and Johnson, 2009).
The last step would be synthesizing. Synthesizing is a creative process that involves seeing new patterns within a body of evidence, viewing the issue from a variety of perspectives, and generating a number of optional ways of integrating the evidence (Johnson and Johnson, 2009). The step enables the group to make the best decision and find a position that all members can accept. Leaders are an important aspect of a group.
Leaders influence others to pursue their goals and to help keep the working relationship between members of the group flowing smoothly. Good leadership will understand those in the group, and will be able to bring the members together as a team working to reach their potential.
John Maxwell states in his book, The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, that the difference between two equally talented teams is leadership. Through good leadership and example a leader can find individuals in a group that have knowledge and the willingness to learn. They can assign them to be over small assignments and then help the individuals to develop their talents. This could fall under the definition of Professor Linda Hill’s “creating the context in which others are willing to be lead”. Professor Hill also describes the concept of “leading from behind” as a way to develop leaders (Hill, 2008).
A leader wants the group members to work together effectively to achieve the goals. At times motivation and inspiration from the leader is needed to achieve the group’s goals. Leaders are responsible for identifying the goals, keeping goals primary, and encouraging others in their accomplishments of goals (Maxwell, 2001). For a leader to be effective with inspiring and motivating members, one has to have a relationship with the members. It is important for leaders to remember that anything of real value is not done alone (Maxwell, 2001). In John Maxwell’s Laws of Teamwork, he has several different laws. Maxwell’s Law of Significance is an important one to remember “One is too small a number to achieve greatness”.
A great team leader knows how to place people where they can reach their potential and maximize their effectiveness (Maxwell, 2001). Motivating people out of their comfort zones not only helps to achieve the goals but it gives fulfillment to the individual which creates self-confidence. A leader that offers great direction, focus of goals, and an understanding of the importance of each team member will have an effective team who is able to successfully achieve their goals. Good leaders will continue to lead their group or team to higher levels than they have reached before. John Maxwell list several keys to working with people and bringing out the best in them.
Transferring ownership of work to those who performed the work is the first key. Maxwell believes that everyone must have responsibility. A leader has to delegate responsibility and authority for ownership to occur. Maxwell’s second key is to create an environment where each team member wants to be responsible. Different individuals require different forms of motivation.
A good leader must know how to read people and know what motivation it will take for the individuals to accept their responsibility and be a valued member of the team. Maxwell’s last two keys are the ability of the leaders to learn quickly and encourage others in their learning; and the coaching of individual’s personal capabilities. Leaders rise to a higher level in their abilities first and then they encourage the team members to rise to a higher level as well. John Maxwell states “Modeling comes first, then leadership”. Good leaders will then help the group members to achieve their potential through guidance and encouragement.
The effectiveness of groups in a company can affect the growth of the company. A group’s performance is affected by how each individual performs in the group. In many cases, the value of an employee is the ability to work successfully in a small group or team. Therefore, the knowledge of group dynamics is very important for career success. The evaluation of group behaviors and their effect on the outcome of group processes enables us to understand why the success of a group is based on the knowledge of group dynamics.
Johnson, D.W., Johnson, F. P. (2009). Joining Together: Group Theory and Group Skills. (10th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. Maxwell, J. C. (2001). The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork: Embrace Them and Empower Your Team. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc. Maddux, R. B. (1986). Team Building: An Exercise in Leadership. (3rd ed.). Menlo Park, CA: Crisp Publications, Inc. Bodwell, D.J. (n.d.). High Performance Teams. Retrieved from http://highperformanceteams.org/hpt_cpts.htm Hill, L.A. (2008). Where Will We Find Tomorrow’s Leaders? Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMQmKHmIqY4