How to Improve Group Dynamics in 6 Steps (Plus Tips)
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Working in groups is often a crucial part of running a business or being part of the workforce. The success of the company's employee groups or departments can ultimately influence the overall success of the entire company. Understanding the dynamics of work groups, meaning how they work together and what factors affect their ability to do so, can help you organize more effective, productive, and cohesive teams.
In this article, we define group dynamics, explain how to improve them, offer some potential benefits of focusing on your group's dynamics, explore potential consequences of poor dynamics, and provide you with helpful tips for improving and maintaining good dynamics long-term.
What are group dynamics?
Group dynamics are the factors that influence how a group works together and, ultimately, the level of success they achieve in doing so. These dynamics depend heavily on the specific roles that each team member assumes, and the behaviours they exhibit while part of a team. For example, you might have a team leader in a management position who exhibits shy behaviours and doesn't communicate regularly with team members. Even though they're assigned a management role, they naturally fall into a more reserved role in the team through their behaviours.
How to improve group dynamics in 6 steps
If you're trying to improve your group dynamics at work, it's important to understand how they work. Here are some steps you can follow to both increase your understanding of your group's specific dynamics and learn how to improve them:
1. Analyze each team member's assumed and assigned roles
To understand your team's dynamics, it's important to first understand where each team member fits into the team. Analyze each member carefully and consider where they are in the team. They might be in a leadership position, a support position, or something more independent. Once you identify their assigned role, think about their assumed role, which is where they fit in while they're working. The assigned and assumed roles may not match, which can mean taking action to reconcile the two to create a better team dynamic and improve work consistency and quality.
2. Assign fitting roles based on skill level, experience, and personality
Once you understand everyone's roles in the team, you can reassign roles if necessary. Consider the assumed and assigned roles of each team member and see if you can move people around to better match their skill level, experience, or personality. For example, if you have a team member who displays natural leadership qualities, always takes initiative, and is a great support figure for other team members, you might put them in a leadership role to maximize those skills. Consider where projects and team members can benefit from filling skills gaps or switching roles between different team members.
3. Communicate frequently and be available to your team
One of the most important steps in the improvement process is improving the quality and frequency of your communication with your team. As the team's leader, it's important to understand how they feel, listen to their needs, and communicate your own needs to them often to reinforce your position as team lead or manager. Establish a dedicated communication channel for the team and set clear office hours when they can reach you. You might use project management software, a dedicated email thread, or a messaging service. A standard, universal platform can help you stay in contact and reduce confusion.
4. Take time to get to know each team member
When you communicate with your team, you start to understand more about who they are as people, not just employees. This can be crucial to forming lasting bonds with the people you work with, which can ultimately result in greater trust between you and the team, and potentially improve the quality and consistency of their work. Good work relationships can also improve team morale, helping everyone feel welcome and respected. Take time to get to know each person on your team. Learn about their goals, desires, and personal motivations and show respect for them as a person.
5. Set clear, actionable expectations for the team and each project
Once you understand your team members and can communicate more effectively, it becomes much easier to set expectations for the team or individual projects. Setting clear expectations reduces the room for errors or misunderstandings and helps everyone understand their contribution, resulting in greater accountability. Set clear expectations for each team member, even if you meet in person with each person to discuss individual expectations. You can also write a list of expectations to keep on file as a reference for the team.
6. Host regular check-ins or meetings to ensure everyone has what they need
Regular check-ins or meetings are a crucial component of good communication between you and the team and can help you reduce errors by identifying them more quickly. For example, if you host weekly meetings with your team, they can notify you sooner about errors that affect the project deadline. You can notify the project stakeholders sooner, address the error as quickly as possible, and potentially save the project and company time and money. Ensure each team member has what they need, including supplies or tools to perform their job and professional or emotional support during challenges.
Benefits of improving the dynamics of work groups
Improving the dynamics of your groups can have many benefits for an organization, including:
Higher quality of work: When teams work well together, they can submit their best work. Higher-quality work can help improve a company's reputation, or public image, and potentially its earnings.
Greater trust: Teams with strong dynamics tend to be more trusting both of each other and of the team leaders or managers. This increased trust can mean greater team cohesion, honesty among team members, and a positive work culture.
Greater cohesion: Teams with strong dynamics can learn more quickly how other team members work and respond to challenges, allowing them to expect certain behaviours or actions and act accordingly to keep the team cohesive and productive.
More independence: Strong dynamics in a group can make the group itself more independent, which can allow managers to focus efforts elsewhere to help improve the company.
Possible consequences of poor dynamics for groups
If your team suffers from poor dynamics, you may encounter a few of these consequences:
Greater conflict: Teams with poor dynamics might come into conflict more often without good communication and clear expectations. You can avoid this by making conflict resolution skills a priority for each team member and focusing on improving communication.
Weaker leadership: Weak leadership can be a cause of poor dynamics, but also a potential consequence. Some leaders may become demoralized or disinterested in leading the team with poor dynamics.
Less accountability: Teams with poor dynamics often encounter a lack of accountability, both on an individual and group level, which can cause mistrust and affect the quality of the team's deliverables.
Tips for improving dynamics long-term
Here are some tips for improving and maintaining strong team dynamics long-term:
Address problems quickly. Addressing problems as quickly as possible can help prevent morale effects and show that you're an effective leader and team player. Once you identify a problem, immediately begin thinking of solutions you might implement and share them with the team.
Focus on feedback. Use feedback from your team to improve your leadership performance, and offer constructive feedback to each team member to help build a more responsive, cohesive team that understands its strengths and weaknesses.
Identify barriers. Identify barriers to team progress or cohesion and focus on eliminating or reducing them. These can come in many forms, such as cultural, spiritual, language, or value barriers.
Watch closely. Watch your team closely and learn about each team member. Focus on analyzing their behaviours and values to learn who they are as a person, so you can better reach them when you communicate or set expectations.
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