Archives for posts with tag: Group Development

Dear Dr. Scott, I’m working in one of the virtual groups in your online Masters class. I’m at my wit’s end trying to complete our group tasks for this first week of working together. To be honest, it’s really challenging to “collaborate” with the group when there are only 2 of the 6 of us present online in our virtual group’s wor- space! I have tried to engage our members. I have emailed them. I have posted requests for folks to jump in to the dialogue. But the clock is ticking and I’m getting ticked, too! What advice do you have about how I should proceed? It’s just very stressful trying to work with people who are not willing to participate.

Signed, Freakin’ Frustrated Frenzy in Florida


As our planet “shrinks” through virtual group work, what are some keys to building effective virtual work groups?

So I teach graduate students online. There are often virtual group projects assigned. Through the years I have seen some groups flourish and some tank. Typically, these people have never met face-to-face, and even during the project never speak voice-to-voice. Sometimes I receive a plea from a student like the email above (based upon a true story!).

What are the keys to successfully working in a virtual group? Whether for an online course (which a growing number of people across the globe partake in weekly), or a business virtual group – what are some concrete steps to building an effective virtual work group?

1.     Connect with group members as individuals; try to establish a sense of a personal relationship right away – rather than focusing solely on the tasks at hand. Ensure clarity of purpose and who the group members are right away. And most importantly in this first step, conscientiously communicate respect and value toward each person and the experiences and depth each person brings to the group.

2.     Be willing to be authentically vulnerable. By approaching conversations as a humble contributor (rather than a know-it-all), you add to a positive chemistry where insights and perspectives of others are genuinely encouraged. Operating without assumptions for why other group members do what they do helps you remain open to discovery – and encourages others to share openly rather than defend any shortcomings.

3.     Verbalize agreements in the team setting. Even in a virtual, text-only setting, committing to actions and timelines – and then following through! – builds trust in the virtual group. There’s not much beyond being dependable and pleasant that the group may know about you in the fully virtual, text-only group; following through on agreements sets the team up for continued effective work toward its common goal.

4.     When life gets out of control as it sometimes does, or when “it” happens and you can’t follow-through or engage with your virtual group as intended or planned, are you willing to “own” your behaviors? If you willingly address your shortcomings and include plans for how you intend to avoid this in the future, you help your group get over your short-lived failure. (Believe me, they most likely already know about your shortcoming! Being silent about it only causes them to doubt that you are aware of how you negatively impacted the group.) “Owning” your behavior drives the level of trust up – which is so critical for the success of a virtual group.

5.     Express appreciation for the efforts, contributions, and personhood of your group members. It is amazing how a little bit of verbal appreciation goes such a long way! Celebrate the value that each person contributes; celebrate the mini and major milestones of the group’s progress.

These keys to build real trust in a virtual group also work in building a trusting culture in a group that meets face-to-face. The difference is that in the virtual setting, you just have to be a bit more focused on investing in your group’s positive momentum  – because you can’t rely on “sensing” feelings through voice tone and body language and facial expressions! In the virtual group it becomes tricky at best to check your perceptions.

Going back to the email I received from my graduate student, Freakin’ Frustrated Frenzy in Florida, it was somewhat funny to see the debacle unfold as it came to light that the assumed “missing” and “unengaged” group members were not missing or unengaged at all! They had (all) mistakenly been dialoguing in a different area of the online work-space for the group…and had been wondering where the “other 2” group members were! No one was dis-engaged…they were just a bit confused on the correct virtual location in which to work together!

Part of the 5th key above to build trust in a virtual group includes the strategy of operating without assumptions in trying to understand the motives and behaviors of others. One of my favorite statements when it comes to communication – whether virtual or face-to-face – is: Assumptions get you nearly every time!

By Dr. Heidi Scott – Leadership and Organizational Development Specialist (who for fun teaches undergrad Communication and graduate Leadership!)

Advertisements

What does this picture tell you about the essence of TEAM?

A picture can say a thousand words. With that in mind, look at, study, and really think about the meaning of the picture above – and how it connects to the essence of TEAM.

As implications of what is occurring in this picture, consider the following:

  • How is this picture a metaphor for your team? (Whether you are thinking of a workplace project team, community group/team, athletic team, or any other type of group with more than 2 people working toward a common goal who influence one another.)
  • What does the pool of water represent?
  • What or who does the droplet(s) of water represent? How many “answers” can you come up with?
  • How many variations of what the ripples in the water represent can you come up with? As you consider your team/group, can you generate concrete examples of what the ripples may represent?
  • As you consider the list of concrete things that the ripples in the water may represent on your team, how did you feel about each one? How do you think members of your team felt? How do you think the leader(s) felt?
  • What does the calm water beyond the ripples represent?
  • How does the “pool of water” absorb the ripples as it seeks equilibrium and peace?

Team Impact…It Happens

Your answers to the questions above lead to these two – that get to the heart of improving your performance and effectiveness as a leader and as a team member.

  • What’s it like to be YOUR teammate?
  • What’s it like to be following YOUR leadership?
  • How can you change your interactions and communication on your team so that you produce a more positive impact?
  • What is YOUR ripple effect? And is it what you want it to be?

By Dr. Heidi Scott – The “Leader’s Coach” http://www.LearningPursuits.com

Sometimes when I am a part of a small group, it is easy to slide along together enmeshed in a purpose or vague “goal” of being together. And if the small group experience is not rockin’ with synergy, results, and fun – or worse yet, begins to feel like I have my feet mired in muck and I feel stuck with the group – I want out. Yet if I’m honest, most of the time that sense of needing to cut myself loose has to do with the egocentric “Me vs. We” tug of war exercising muscles belonging to the human, selfish nature within me…that’s within all of us.

Yet a small group is a system. In fact, it is much like a galaxy!

Shaping the small group – as a leader or participant – by seeing it as a System

In a small group, whom do I focus upon most? Why, ME, of course! Yet just because I may think of myself most as I consider my small group, or just because I may see my world as just that…MY world, doesn’t change the fact that earth is just a piece of the galaxy. And the galaxy is a vast system of interconnected elements.

When the term “galaxy” dances across my mind, the scene becomes one of the backdrops for a Star Trek show. You know, where you see the stars out in a vast blue sea of “forever” on the screen, with an occasional meteor or falling star whisks by – threatening the safety of the Starship Enterprise and life upon it had it connected?

Using this metaphor of the Starship Enterprise zipping across the galaxy may illumine the SYSTEM characteristics of small groups.

And why do we care? This knowledge can help us effectively shape the course of life and work in a small group – as a leader or participant.

What do I need to remember?

  • 1 change = BIG change. If there was an oxygen leak on the Star Trek Enterprise, the entire starship was at risk. In a system (and small group), there really is no such thing as an inconsequential change. For example, enter or exit a new member to your small group – YIKES! This could place the small group at risk of disintegration. At the very least, it may change how the group optimally functions.
  • A system is like a living organism; it is continuously adapting to the environment and micro-changes in order to continue. A small group innately seeks stability. It tries to manage its stability by controlling the degree and rate of change.
  • A system (whether a galaxy or small group!), continually seeks Dynamic Equilibrium. Much like a system, a small group has an invisible control panel where it monitors the “desirability” of change. Dynamic Equilibrium in a group or system is the delicate balance between change and stability. A group’s Dynamic Equilibrium Control Panel manages change, promotes success and growth, and knows the limits of pushing for that success without placing the group or system in utter chaos…where the threat of disintegration is real.
  • Small groups and systems seek survival at all costs – usually through Adaptability. With changing conditions, small groups respond with modifications (when needed) to its rules, procedures, and boundaries.

When we consider how small groups ARE like systems, we begin to see how we are NOT separate individuals “attached” to a group. We are part of a web of interactions, and we and our movements are connected to one another. We influence one another. We individually impact the focus, strength, and effectiveness of the group. There is an extreme degree of interdependence among all members of a small group – because it is a system.

So as a leader or participant of a small group, knowing that even though I am but one member I DO highly impact my group’s welfare hopefully keeps me mindful of how I choose to interact with my small group.

Because in all truth, my actions, words, and attitudes as I connect with my small group contributes to the overall “ripple effect” of energy in the group. Either I generate life-giving growth to this system, or I drain it by tapping its resources to simply try to adapt and sustain itself.

So which are you when it comes to leading or participating in a small group?

As you reflect, are you a Life-Giver? Or are you a Resource Drainer?