Groups & Teams

I've been working with groups and teams for many years, and I have found that there are some things in common for all of them, even though the agenda and tasks may be different.

  • People want to belong and be accepted: and at the same time they want to remain individual.
  • Members of a work group want to achieve the group tasks: and at the same time they want the social process to feel 'human' and reasonably friendly.
  • Individuals often need to learn that it's normal and healthy for people to be different from them; I've found that once they learn more about the ways in which people differ they are much more comfortable with working with those differences. Some brief work on learning styles(eg Honey and Mumford), personality types (eg Myers-Briggs typology) or team roles (eg Belbin's model) is often the catalyst to a team becoming much more effective.
  • In helping work or learning groups, it's essential to explore and develop a clear sense of what the team or group is contracted to achieve - why are they there, the desired outcomes, the criteria for success, what their communication is like, how they grow and learn from the inclusion of new members. These are the kinds of topics that a group facilitator can help a group to address.

Irving Yalom's model of human needs has served me well. He states that our key needs are for Attention, Recognition, Acceptance and Value  in that order. In a group setting I see that as meaning that each person wants to feel that they matter to the group and to the facilitator, and will be heard: to be recognised as an individual with their own style, learning preferences and basic assumptions: to be accepted for being the person who they are are: and to be valued for their own experience and what they can contribute to the group.

Sometimes these personal needs can be expressed in unattractive ways, and in a working group that needs to be dealt with. I've found that if behaviour is responded to with those four needs in mind, most people settle in to working effectively with their peers.