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Derailed by Group Dynamics

Group dynamics causing some tensions in your group?

Even when you are aware of the “forming, storming, norming and performing” stages of groups, and even in situations where a group has been working together cohesively for awhile, a community builder can be side-swiped by interpersonal “stuff” that lurks and disrupts a collaborative working environment. 


Here are two practices that will help prevent getting derailed from making the impact you want to have.

  1. Focus on the positive. In his book, The Secrets of Facilitation, author Michael Wilkinson offers tips for dealing with behaviors in a group. Catch participants being positively engaged and give them some attention, a head nod, a smile, or get them to have the floor to share an experience. Ask for their thoughts; people are more likely to engage (and stay engaged) when they feel they are contributing and offering value to the process. 

  2. Apply a facilitator’s observation lens. In the book The Skilled Facilitator, Roger Schwarz talks about two sets of knowledge and skills that assist a facilitator to help intervene in group dynamics. First, you need to know what type of behavior to look for…the ones that reflect key dynamics of the effectiveness of a group. Establish quick ground rules with every group- as the key way to know and identify a behavior that is in contrast of agreed upon principles. Second, a process for diagnosis is needed…figure out how you will observe and make sense of behavior. Facilitators have to deal with high-level inference (such as control and trust) that cannot be observed directly but must be inferred. The next steps are to decide whether, how and why to intervene. If you do intervene describe the observed behavior in an open and non judging way and share your intent in addressing the dynamic.

Remain grounded, stay curious with others, and clarify any behaviors that may be rippling in the room.

Ask yourself:

What are the behaviors that best boost a collaborative spirit?

How can we work through the obstacles in a way that everyone feels respected AND we meet our strategic goals?

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