Many companies have embraced executive coaching and mentoring as their main approaches to promote development initiatives. But in today’s businesses these do not address the real-world, group dynamics that executives must contend with.
Behavior within a group in the organization can be influenced by group dynamics, interactions, group cohesiveness, the work environment, social influences, and leadership. We will explore each of these elements of group behavior within an organization. Groups Dynamics
“Group dynamics is the area of social science that focuses on advancing knowledge about the nature of group life” (Johnson & Johnson, 2009, pg.1). Understanding group dynamics in the business world allows companies to change their focus and production to meet the new challenges of a global market. Companies today, rely on teams of employees to help develop, design and initiate new products.
Not only do these teams work together in the same location, they are able to work across the country or around the world. Group dynamics can also enhance leadership development. Group based leadership requires leaders to work in unison so they may develop executive skill sets, tackle real-world challenges in real time, provide one another with high-value feedback, and enhance their interpersonal communications. Achieving Mutual Goals through Positive Interdependence
“Positive interdependence exists when one perceives that one is linked with others in a way that one cannot succeed unless they do [and vice versa] and/or that one must coordinate one’s efforts with the efforts of others to complete a task” (Johnson, 2003; Johnson & Johnson, 1989). There are nine types of positive interdependence which may help a group to achieve their mutual goals. Some are Positive Goal Interdependence that helps each individual realize that they can achieve their goals only when all members achieve theirs.
Positive Celebration/Reward Interdependence occurs when the group has achieved their mutual goal and they celebrate and receive a joint reward for their group success. Positive Outside Enemy Interdependence is when groups are pitted against each other and compete to achieve the same goal. They then rely on one another (feel interdependent) as they attempt to beat their competition. Positive Resource Interdependence requires members to interact and share their resources to be able to finish their mutual task. Each member comes to the group with a piece of information that is pertinent to achieving their goals.
Positive Task Interdependence takes place in the group when each member is assigned a specific task and is only able to complete their when other members complete theirs first, so each member relies on the other to be responsible. In order to complete a joint task each member of the team is given corresponding and interrelated roles that have specific responsibilities that the group needs is referred to as Positive Role Interdependence. As we see with these terms and definitions, interdependence is the necessary key that creates the need for mutual goals in groups. Groups and Research
In the field of group dynamics, Kurt Lewin and Alvin Zander performed many field experiments in their research of group dynamics. Unlike Zander, Kurt Lewin often created groups explicitly for his research. “Their studies help the generalization of results or one aspect of external validity” (Forsyth, 2006, pg. 84). It is said that research about groups is not always valid and relevant because it has to be decided whether the decisions by a group are low or high quality.
Many decisions are not possible to evaluate objectively in terms of their success or failure because their long-term effects cannot be fully measured. Also, we must assume that the decision makers are always completely informed. Effective Work Environments
Are groups or individuals more effective in a work environment? Recent reviews by Barron, Kerr & Miller, 1992; Davis, 1969; Johnson & Johnson, 1989; and Laughlin, 1980, have concluded that “groups generally learn faster, make fewer errors, recall information better, make better decisions, and produce a higher-quality product than do individuals” (Johnson & Johnson, 2009, pg. 269).
One of the reasons that groups are more effective than individuals is because of what is referred to as process gain. It is the discussions, interactions and the exchange of information that members have and will result in ideas, strategies and new insights that they had never previously thought of. Also, members of the group may share unique information not known by any of the other members and in doing so allows groups to make better decisions.
Other reasons why groups are more effective include: a group is more likely to discover an incorrect solution and reject it; there are more people to help remember all of the facts and information that is needed to achieve their goal; individuals are less likely to take risks and members of a group tend to facilitate a higher incentive to succeed. Group Cohesiveness and its Affects
When we discuss group cohesiveness we are talking about to what degree members are attracted to one another and share goals. It makes sense to say that when we have groups that engage in continual disagreements and lack cooperation, that they will be less successful than those groups whom individuals generally agree, cooperates and like one another.
There are benefits of group cohesiveness, like communication that is much more extensive, friendliness, positive interactions, feeling as a whole that results in the group acting as a whole instead of as individuals. When a group has a high level of cohesiveness, they are much more successful at achieving their goals. Also, group members will have a feeling of satisfaction that will result in their wanting to stay longer in the group and recommend the group to others. Increasing Cohesiveness in Groups
There are many activities and methods that can be used to increase cohesiveness in a group. A few of these would include, heightening the awareness of the values of membership of the group through emphasis on the benefits and the positives. Fulfill the needs of the individual members and their level of cohesiveness will rise. Increase interactions between members and you will increase their togetherness. Stress teamwork, recognize their contributions and allow members to deal with personal needs and tensions among the group. Social Influence
Social influence is the change in an individual’s thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviors that occur from the interactions with other individuals or groups. Though change can be forced or coerced by others called power, social influence is the process by which individuals make real changes to their beliefs, and behaviors. People will adjust their beliefs with respect to others in the group whom they have a connection.
Others may feel influenced by how the majority believes and an individual may change their beliefs if they feel that a member has more expertise or knowledge on the subject. French and Raven (1959) viewed social influence as the outcome of exertion of social power from five bases: reward power, coercive power, legitimate power, expert power, or referent power.
Social influence/interactions affect decision making, when the members of a group exchange ideas, suggestions and thoughts on the goals they are trying to achieve and if any one of the members tries to exert any social power. “An essential aspect of decision making is deciding among alternative solutions” (Johnson & Johnson, 2009, pg. 317). Leaders and Groups
Leaders are individuals who help guide and inspire others into action. Leadership help’s to lift individuals visions to a higher level and raising their performance to a higher standard. Leaders are an important aspect of a group because they empower each person and help to create a cooperative team. They will model teamwork and provide technical expertise, which will increase the group’s productivity. Leaders help group members understand what the vision of the team or organization is and inspire it as a shared vision.
Because groups have external conflicts, some members of a group may want to keep things as they are (the status quo) and other members may want to try new and inventive ways. Though they have opposing ideas, they are seeking to attain the same goals. When you have a leader they are there to remind the members that if they “are not working to increase their expertise, they are losing their expertise” (Johnson & Johnson, 2009, pg. 201).
Whenever a group interacts, a leader-follower relationship will emerge. There have been recent studies that suggest that leaders emerge through a combination of their own outspoken behavior and how this behavior is perceived by the other members of the group.
This person is said to have a perceived confidence and will offer more suggestions, ideas and solutions than any other member. Emerging leaders will also effectively signal their competence to the group, by making greater contributions. If the group perceives their leadership as inadequate, uninspiring, incapable, and ignorant of what it means to be a leader, they will not work together as a group or achieve their goals. This situation would cause failure for the group. Teams Verses Groups
Katzenbach and Smith (1993) provided a clear distinction between groups and teams. A group is a collection of people who are working in the same area or placed together to complete a task. The group’s performance is the result of the members coming together and sharing information, views and insights. The focus of the group is individual performance and actions within are geared toward that focus.
All teams are groups, but teams are a special subunit of groups. A working definition established by Katzenbach and Smith is, “a team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable” (pg. 112). Teams will be more effective than work groups when it comes to such things as sports.
As members of the team they each have a special skill that when put together compliments one another and helps the team win. They are committed to a common purpose which is to win games and they hold themselves mutually accountable for their performance.
School settings are also a place where teams are more effective for particular projects than work groups would be. Those include assignments that require long-term projects, activities that directly fulfill a student’s goals or career paths, projects requiring joint efforts and outputs and program-wide projects with their use of on-line technology that provide for easier team collaboration.
The synergy created within teams will result in greater learning from the team out-puts. For hundreds of years people have been fascinated by groups and the way they have formed, changed, ended and achieved their goals. The tendency of people to join with others in groups is one of the most important characteristics of human beings. These groups will leave their mark on members of the groups they belong to and on society as a whole.
References Johnson, D.W. (2009). Joining Together: Group Theory and Group Skills. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Katzenbach, J.R. & Smith, D.K. (1993). The Discipline of Teams. Harvard Business Review, 71(March-April), 111-146. Raven, B. (1992). A Power/Interactions Model of Interpersonal Influence: French & Raven Thirty Years Later. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 7:217-44. Schultz, B.G. (1989). Community in the Small Groups. New York, NY: Harper and Row.