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GROUPS

There are so many times in our lives when we come together in groups. There are all sorts of connections that bring us together with other people. Work teams, mothers groups, sporting groups, parents of kids sporting groups, workout groups, study groups, volunteer groups, friends groups and the list goes on. Sometimes these groups come together for a purpose, a need, a common interest or they are enforced for work or studies.

Sometimes we are randomly put together with a group of strangers and the most amazing things happen. Sometimes we are randomly put together with a group of strangers and the most awful things happen. Sometimes in groups we find friends, business partners, mentors, supporters and teachers. Other times we struggle to create effective and meaningful connections and possibly even face friction and hurt.

I have had a lifetime of groups in all areas of my life. I have led numerous teams in my work both directly and indirectly. I have been the line manager, I have been the influential stakeholder, I have been the leader of change and I have followed others in a group. Outside of work I have led sporting teams, created groups of friends and participated in study groups.

Most groups generally follow similar steps as they develop and grow. Some of these steps are faster than others and they are not always sequential. Groups develop in their environments and for their purpose but they can also retract under different circumstances. Tuckman’s[1] model of development discusses the forming of a group, the storming of a group, the normalising of a group and then the performing of a group.

If you reflect on the groups you have been a part of or are a part of right now, think about what stages they may have been through. Forming of a group can be fun, intimidating, awkward and interesting. Once people settle into the group, there tends to be some storming between people. This happens as people reveal more about themselves, their interests and desires from the group and people reveal their preferred way of interacting or not interacting with each other. Normalising of the group can be soothing and in some cases boring but it settles the conflict and pushes the group into performing whatever it is that they came together for.

And then the group ends. Sometimes this is welcomed and sometimes, this is really difficult. I recently ended a group at University and it was very difficult to let go. The group was empathic, knowledgeable, supportive, funny and respectful. I participated whole-heartedly and I learnt so much from my colleagues, I was happy and growing in this group. It has been evidenced that happiness creates an environment of superior learning for people.[2] Last year I ended a different University group and I was very pleased it was over. It was fractured, egotistical, inauthentic and immature. Upon reflection, I learnt less about the topic and more about human group interactions and toxic groups.

We can’t always choose our teams or our groups. But if you take a few minutes to recognise the group as a unit, your role in the group and where along the group process you might be? There maybe an opportunity to restart the group with an open discussion on how it will progress? To push the group the next stage? To eliminate or call out non-contributing behaviours? Or to even ride it out and reflect as a group at the end of the task.

There are so many times in our lives when we come together in groups. Taking a moment to reflect on your groups, might provide the opportunity to relish in their support and contribution to you or it could provide the opportunity to review and reignite their meaning to you.

For a further conversation about coaching, please contact me: louise.bodlander@llbc.com.au or my contact page. 

[1] Tuckman, Bruce W (1965). "Developmental sequence in small groups". Psychological Bulletin. 63 (6): 384–399.

[2] Veenhoven, R. (1988). The utility of happiness. Social Indicators Research, 20(4), 333- 354.

June 2017

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