Understand how groups develop and function

This essay examines and explains how groups develop and function. Groups are a fundamental part of our lives from social to professional, from large to small, depending on their particular environment.

Theories and models on group work practice There are different theories that help us understand how group works.

Tuckman’s theory Dr Bruce Tuckman published his Forming Storming Norming Performing model in 1965. He added a fifth stage, Adjourning, in the 1970s. Tuckman’s theory does work in new and small groups rather than big, as it is easier to follow, observe and evaluate individual members. The facilitator can easily identify the stages the group is at, and from here he/she can lead the group to the next stage.

I would associate Tuckman’s theory more with the Co-operative style of leadership, because when the group comes together, everyone has the chance to share their ideas and responsibilities. Team members’ behaviour towards each other is more open and supportive and working practice more fully reflects true teamwork. Trust and motivation is built between team members. Everyone agrees on methods and plans which will lead to achieving the set goals. Team roles are been formed too.

Douglas Theory Douglas McGregor is the creator of the theory X and theory Y. The two theories are opposite to each other. Theory X being the pessimistic as the employee does not like work and tries to escape it whenever possible and has little or no ambition of achieving the company goals. Employee needs a directive leader. Theory X leader is results-driven, intolerant, distant, poor listener, demands, etc. Companies with Theory X leadership will usually have poor results.

Theory Y is described as the optimistic model because the employee is more relaxed and can use own initiative. He/she is committed and loyal to the company and can take on responsibilities. Theory Y gives the opportunity of more leaders to be created. On the other side, Theory Y might be difficult to be put in practice in big mass productions where more control is needed. From the both theories we can conclude that staff will contribute more to the organisation if they are treated as responsible and valued employees.

Belbin Team Role Theory

“A team is not a bunch of people with job titles, but a congregation of individuals, each of whom has a role which is understood by other members. Members of a team seek out certain roles and they perform most effectively in the ones that are most natural to them.” Dr. R. M. Belbin

Belbin identifies nine team roles. Each team role is associated with typical behavioural and interpersonal strengths, allowable and non-allowable weaknesses that also accompany the team roles. The nine team roles are: plant, resource investigator, co-ordinator, shaper, monitor evaluator, team worker, implementer, complete finisher and specialist. Belbin’s Team Role Models are very useful in forming, maintaining and developing a group. For example we can use it to think about team balance before recruitment starts; we can use it to highlight and so manage interpersonal differences within an existing team; and we can use it to develop ourselves as a team players.

Sometimes however, despite clear roles and responsibilities, a team can still fall short of its full potential. This is when Belbin’s Team Role Models come into use to develop the team’s strengths and manage its weaknesses. To maintain strong team it is important over period of time to observe individual members, and see how they behave and contribute within the team. Then for each person we write down the key strengths and observed weaknesses. Using Belbin’s descriptions of team roles, we note the one that most accurately describes the person.

After we do it for each member of the team, we need to consider which team roles are we missing from the team and which strengths. Once we are clear about the outcome of our research, we then consider whether an existing team member could compensate by adopting different team role, or whether new skills need to be brought onto the team to cover weaknesses.

Adair Team Theory “Leadership is the most studied subject in the world and the least understood” John Adair (2003) Adair has developed so called Action-Centred Leadership model which consist of three circles Task, Team and Individual, which overlap. The three circles overlap because:

1. To be completed the task needs a team, one person cannot achieve it. 2. If the team needs are not met, then the task won’t be completed and the individuals won’t be satisfied. 3. If the individuals are not satisfied, then the team will suffer and the task won’t be completed again. The conclusion is that for the team to be functioning to its high standard and to be able to achieve its goals it is important all the individuals to be satisfied, rewarded and the team to be motivated to reach its full potentials.

Forming and maintaining a cohesive and effective group Group cohesion is a phenomenon that determines how well a group holds together. When cohesion is strong, a group will remain stable and effective, but when it is weak, the group may fall apart. To build strong group cohesion is important for the leader to be able to get to know the group members individually so that he/she can tailor an appreciation message to each individual as needed. The next important attribute is for the leader to be sincere with his employees. He needs to praise his employees, one way or another – that could be done in private or in public, and not just once or twice, has to be consistent and more frequent.

At the beginning of the forming of the group the leader has to set clear goals to his employees and to make sure that these goals don’t change somewhere half way through to the group work as it may derail the team. Once the goals are set, it is important to communicate with the team not through email or memos, but verbally where the leader can ask for feedback from the team members, exchange ideas in how to achieve the set goals. Here is the stage when the team roles are being set and clarified. For the team to continue its effectiveness, the employees will need the support from their leader.

The leader needs to be approachable and supportive so the group members don’t feel alone. Providing a connection between the group goals and the company’s goal will make the group members accountable, they will feel more appreciated and important in the bigger picture not only as group members, but as individuals too. All the above factors are in the core of forming and maintaining a cohesive and effective group. A team that feels comfortable working together can have an energy that creates a positive environment and work ethic that can lift a team, making it more effective. This positive environment can make team members work harder, more efficiently and more productively.

The influence of the different facilitation styles At heart facilitation is about the process of helping people to explore, learn and change. Our role, when facilitating, and as facilitators, is to help groups to work together respectfully and truthfully and to help them to explore and respond to certain issues and questions. The leader's success depends on many factors, including the kind of person he/she is, his/hers values of management, his/hers self-confidence and competence, his/hers trust in the team and how he/she copes with stress.

The manager's chosen facilitation style depends on such factors. Many managers feel they are expected to make the decisions, others feel they must get their teams involved. Some have confidence in their team; others mistrust them. Particular style of facilitation will work effectively when dealing with some people rather than others. There are three styles of facilitation: directive, co-operative and autonomous. Directive Style

When leaders tell people what to do through a series of directives, they are using a directive style of leadership. Directive leaders are focused on outcomes and productivity. They are task-oriented and driven by the need to get things done. Directive leaders are not as concerned with the feelings and emotions of their followers as they are about meeting deadlines, hitting quota and reaching goals.

There is not great deal of relationship-building found with directive facilitation style. With the directive style present the employees will not feel motivated and appreciated. Employees will feel pressured and soon will lose enthusiasm. The group will not have strong cohesion and will be less effective. If we look at the Douglas’ X and Y theory, we’ll see that the directive style would be more suitable for the X employees, but it won’t be effective for Y employees as they won’t respond. The directive style does not develop future leaders.

Co-operative style Here the facilitator shares responsibilities with the group: the leader guides the group to become more self-directing in the various forms of learning by conferring with them. The leader prompts and helps group members to make a decision, to give meaning to experiences, to do their own confrontation, and so on. In this process, the leader shares own view which, though influential, is not final but one among many.

Outcomes are always negotiated. The leader collaborates with the members of the group in devising the learning process: facilitation is co-operative. When the leader/manager uses the co-operative style the employees will feel valued and appreciated. They will want to make suggestions because they know that they will be listened to by the manager, hence they will be very motivated to perform to a high standard.

The type of groups with a co-operative style leader will have very strong cohesion and will be highly effective. Team roles will be very clear within such groups which will lead to achieving the set goals. Future leaders will grow in such groups. When the goals are achieved and the group is no longer needed, there will be sadness of breaking the group. Autonomous style

Here the leader/manager respects the total autonomy of the group: they do not do things for them, or with them, but give them freedom to find their own way, exercising their own judgment without any intervention on the leader’s part. This does not mean the abdication of responsibility; the leader just gives the individuals a space to determine their own learning. Unfortunately, such groups will feel that they are being left and will lack direction. The autonomous style grows future leaders, but can also suffer if group members are unqualified.

Why it is important to be clear about the purpose and desired outcomes for the group? When group is formed, it is important that the leader clarifies the purpose and desired outcomes for the group. The employees will know what is to be expected from them. Then the group can engage openly and effectively discussing how the goals will be achieved. It is also the stage when the team roles are being created. At the end of the meeting we should have clear accomplishment.

Analyse the importance of participant engagement in achieving group outcomes The most important thing is what the participants in the meeting have to say. The leader has to focus on how the meeting is structured and run to make sure that everyone can participate. The leader needs to make sure that everyone feels comfortable in participating, to allow everyone to be heard, to make sure that the members feel good about their contribution, to support everyone’s ideas and not criticising. If the leader follows the steps above the group members will feel empowered about their own ideas and participation. They will stay loyal to the company and will take on responsibilities and ownership.

Conclusion From this brief overview we can see the significance of groups and why it is important to continuously develop them –from one side, to strengthen their potential and from the other, to help the development of their individual members. They are a fundamental part of human experience and play a crucial role both in shaping and influencing individual lives and society itself. We saw how an effective group brings humans together and how an effective group gives birth to successful leaders. Humans always will be, as groups will be too. That makes the groups one of the most important factors of our lives. The more effective the group is, the more the quality of our lives will grow.