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Team Development -- Question & Answer Listing  
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Question / Answer

Question:
What are group norms and why is it important to establish them, particularly when the group is just being formed?

Answer:
Group norms are basically a code of conduct regarding what behavior is acceptable for the group. It is important to establish group norms – particularly when the group is initially being formed - because group members have different backgrounds, races, cultures, and experiences, group norms. Establishing a common ground for productive participation. An example of group norms for a problem solving group may include things like: respecting everyone’s opinion, limiting the amount of time a person can talk (so no one person monopolizes the floor), no smoking in the work area, what people say in the meeting room stays in the meeting room (to encourage everyone to speak up), and to keep an open mind.

Question:
What are some factors that have an affect on group decision making?

Answer:
No matter what method of group decision-making is used, it is important to understand the affects that certain factors can have on the process. For example, group members have different personalities. As a leader, it is important to recognize these different personalities and make sure you allow the diversity to support the process - not cause undue friction among group members. People often have hidden agendas such that they may try to sway the group one way or another in order to benefit their cause as opposed to making the best decision for the group. Other factors that could affect group decision-making are external loyalties, political affiliations, and social or religious reasons. Learn more about group decision-making through some of the references cited here.

Question:
What are some key things that a leader needs to do in order to get his/her organization to reach certain goals?

Answer:
Most resources on this subject emphasize that leaders should establish a rapport with group members by fostering cohesion, cooperation, and communication among the members of their organization. Leaders need to clearly communicate the organization's purpose or mission, and explain the method for achieving the goal and desired results to the members of the organization – individually and/or collectively. Tasks should be identified and clearly defined to those members responsible for carrying them out. Leaders should provide the tools and sufficient resources necessary for the group to reach a goal. Additionally, leaders should provide effective motivation to group members to encourage them to accomplish the necessary tasks and recognize their achievements along the way. Note that there are a number of resources on this subject and variations on effective leadership skills. Check with some of the references listed here for more information.

Question:
What are some of the different leadership styles?

Answer:
Leadership style refers to the manner by which an individual provides direction to, manages and motivates people. There are many resources (classes, books, seminars, etc.) available about leadership and many different views on which ones are most effective. For example, one leadership model, characterized by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey, calls for an individual to analyze the needs of the situation and adopting the most appropriate leadership style to address the situation. This is referred to as “Situational Leadership.” The basis of this model describes leadership styles in terms of the amount of direction and support a leader gives to his/her followers. An effective leader would, therefore, be able change his/her approach according to the situation, selecting the most preferred style, whether it be directing, coaching, supporting, or delegating. Other experts feel that there are three basic types of leadership styles: authoritarian; participative; and delegative and that while most leaders use all three styles at one time or another, one of them usually dominates the way they manage people. Check with some of the references listed here to learn more about leadership styles.

Question:
What are some of the different roles portrayed by group members that influence the functionality of the group?

Answer:
There are a number of behaviors that group members display that affect the dynamics of a group. Some of them increase progress toward accomplishment of the group’s objectives, while others interfere with them and cause conflict in the group. For example, there may be individuals who help clarify or interpret ideas given by different group members. They may summarize or record them, helping the group stay on track. Others may clown around, try to manipulate the group or exhibit other negative behaviors that disrupt the progress of the group’s activities. A third type of role that some group members may play is one that helps to maintain group cohesion. These are the individuals who try to ease tension among group members and bring harmony to the group when conflict occurs. Learn more about group dynamics through the references listed.

Question:
What are some of the variables that affect group dynamics?

Answer:
There are many variables that affect group dynamics such as the group’s purpose, size, and especially the diversity and characteristics of its leader and members.

Question:
What are some techniques a group leader can use to manage disruptive behaviors?

Answer:
There are a number of things you can do to manage disruptive behaviors. For example, if there are members of the group who seem disconnected (daydreaming, reading their mail, doodling, etc.), you may try engaging them in a group discussion by specifically asking them for their input. This technique also works with individuals having sidebar discussions. Sometimes disruptive behavior indicates that the group needs a break. If you need to, use this time to talk with the disruptive individual(s) about the situation. If an individual’s behavior is detrimental to the group’s success, you may have to ask him/her to leave the group. These are just a few ideas on how to manage disruptive behaviors in a group setting. Learn more techniques from the resources provided.

Question:
What are some ways to motivate groups?

Answer:
Motivating a group of people is dependent on a number of things such as: the purpose of the group; the size of the group; the needs of group members; the cohesiveness of the group; etc. There are a number of resources available that address each of these aspects of group dynamics. However, as an example, suppose you are a new Family Readiness Group (FRG) Leader. One way to motivate group members is to establish a rapport with them. Get to know group members and allow them to feel included in some of the group decisions that are made. Establish group norms to create a common ground for productive participation. Allow group members to actively participate in decisions regarding the social activities held. If you are planning a big event for your organization (whether it is an FRG, a church group, or a business unit), be sure to set realistic expectations for the group. Recognize individual talents and allow group members to take on roles and responsibilities that allow them to use these talents and grow as individuals. Set a good example yourself; be positive and encouraging. Recognize individual accomplishments and contributions of group members.

Question:
What are the benefits of group problem solving and what are some things a leader can do to influence its success?

Answer:
Group problem solving usually allows for a greater variety of options to be considered. Also, if group members are directly affected by the problem, involving them leads to greater acceptance and commitment of the resolution. Group problem solving can be ineffective if the issue is time sensitive since the more people involved in solving a problem may require more time to reach a consensus. A leader can assist in this situation by acting as a facilitator to ensure the problem solving process is timely. Leaders should encourage innovation and creativity from all group members when solving problems and facilitate group consensus among multiple viewpoints. Learn more about group problem solving from the resources provided.

Question:
What are the different stages of group development?

Answer:
Many resources on group dynamics refer to the five stages of group development originally devised by Dr. Bruce Tuckman, a renowned educational psychologist and professor at Ohio State’s School of Educational Policy and Leadership. Tuckman published his 4-stage model in 1965 (Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing) and added a fifth stage (Adjourning) in the 1970’s. The model basically refers to the way the group develops maturity, ability, and establish relationships. The leader changes his/her leadership style as the group moves through each of the stages. (Reference: http://www.gmu.edu/student/csl/5stages.html) The Forming stage refers to when the group first gets together. There is some uncertainty among group members as they are unsure of their purpose and their involvement. Members feel each other out, learning their similarities and differences. The leader’s job in this stage is to guide them, and help establish an environment where group members feel safe and willing to participate. The Storming stage is characterized by competition and conflict as group members begin to express their feelings, opinions, and concerns to the group. There is often a great deal of frustration among group members during this stage. There may be some power struggles as the group members’ begin to exhibit their individual strengths and weaknesses. Some members may be very vocal, while others may remain silent. As a leader, it is important to listen and continue coaching the group, encouraging them to begin working together. Group cohesion begins to occur in the Norming stage. Individuals become a team and begin to contribute and work as team members. Clear expectations, identity, and sense of belonging exist. The group should be most productive in the Performing stage. People can work independently, or with others – all working effectively toward shared goals. Members support each other and group loyalty is intense. Tuckman refers to the final stage as Adjourning, which refers to the termination of the group and generally includes recognition for participation and achievement of group members and the opportunity for members to say personal goodbyes. The Group Dynamics classes offered by the Army Family Team Building program refers to this stage as the Transforming stage because there is often member turnover at this point, roles are often redefined and new goals developed. Learn more about group dynamics and the different stages of group development from the references provided.
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