The word “group” conjures mixed memories of stonewalling team members; the self-presumed “bossy and overbearing,” along with wall flowers who were along for the ride. Agreement may have been missing in action – an unfortunate outcome, considering that an amalgam of viewpoints creates a superior product. How can we induce alchemy when tossed with a random mix of individuals?
I. Proceed on a common platform:
A “Team Agreement” for example includes:
- member names
- contact information
- vision statement (what the team ultimately wishes to achieve past its adjournment) and mission statement (team’s purpose);
- member strengths and weaknesses (so that assigning team roles is a more obvious task); and
- a conflict management plan, delineating:
- how the team defines conflict;
- what constitutes member clash;
- a step by step plan for addressing disagreements and relational fallout; along with
- last ditch efforts to resolve disagreement among team members (before ratcheting the issue to a higher level).
The “gelling” process of forming, storming, norming, and performing can proceed methodically, or it can be stalled as a result of intractable discord. A master plan (a contract of sorts) that guides effort toward mutually agreed upon outcomes is a must.
Sometimes teams fail to communicate, leaving members at odds when it comes to project interaction. Tools for real time collaboration include Google’s Apache Wave, Google Drive (which includes built-in video conferencing), and PBWiki. In addition, the app GroupMe allows for “private chat rooms for small groups,” a great way to get the conversation rolling after drafting an initial agreement.
II. Mix optimism into a recipe for group magic – to produce more than individuals alone could achieve. Some firms accomplish informality through after hours get togethers (which bond members as more than a random collection of folks, one absent the job/functional/hierarchical distinctions they wear at work and/or school). Commiseration on a more equal footing, where coworkers feel comfortable “letting their hair down” results in a union of equals. Employees committed to a team: (1) emphasize the concept “we;” (2) ascertain what is best for everyone else (which may or may not jibe with individual desires); and (3) refrain from conversational bullying, which includes:
- Hogging the conversation: a verbal equivalent of filibuster, in which one team member attempts to cement their agenda as the group’s one and only.
- Singling people out/putting people on the spot. Allow individuals to speak/act for themselves, instead of deciding for them what they could/should say to everybody else (saving embarrassment, humiliation, and hurt feelings for potentially wounded parties).
- Shouting/name calling. Need we say more? It is difficult to imagine grown folk acting childishly, but examples of its occurrence at work/school abound.
Whatever the tack, treating members how they wish to be treated is a recipe for productive team pursuits, and a playbook for motivation on a grander, more group-wide scale.