Pack #6

Leadership & Group Dynamics

It's irrational to think a group of humans is rational. This is the same mistake that in economics is called 'Homo Economicus', the idea that humans are always rational agents. In this pack we take the rational approach of looking at a group real underlying dynamics and how we can help a group to become a high performing team.

Episodes

Section Introduction & 'Homo Economicus' - Pack 6

Introduction

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This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

Groups of humans are complicated. We all have thoughts, feelings, quirks, behaviours that sometimes make life in a group difficult. This is true of any group. Whatever their governance. And to me I think one of the keys is to just acknowledge that. Of course the aim is to have a great group dynamic that helps everybody feel positive and creative, but moving our focus from our end goal to the process of developing as a team can be a far more balancing place to be. The process of becoming a better team which understands each other better is really valuable and a great journey to go on.

What I call the ‘organisational engineering’ view on organisational change is guilty of the same old ‘homo economicus’ error, that is to say the error of viewing "humans as agents who are consistently rational”. It is irrational to view groups of humans as rational and allowing for the fact that humans are irrational is actually far more rational. So in this and subsequent packs we’ll look at some basic models and exercises that help our groups of irrational humans to grow and understand each other better.

Integrative Model of Group Development

Theory

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This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

There are plenty of interesting group development model, one of the most thorough and particularly the most descriptive ones is Suzan Wheelan’s model, The Integrative Model of Group Development. I’ve found this model to really help groups namely by describing their behaviours so clearly, and by being a great framework for a good conversation. Here I’ll summarise the model. The stages are:
1. Dependency and Inclusion
2. Counter-dependency and Fight
3. Trust and Structure
4. Performance and Productivity

Stage 1: Dependency & Inclusion
This first stage is sometimes called the cocktail party. That awkawrd small talk stage. It the stage that we have when a group first gets together, but it is also a stage that many groups remain in for ever. In this stage group members are most motivated by not feeling excluded from the group, so people will tend to stay safe with their opinions and tread waters very carefully. We often don’t want to standout. And prefer to stay included and safe. The focus isn’t on the work but on our need for inclusion. Since our energy is spent on our need for inclusion, I suggest explicitly spending time there and working on getting to know each other better. And as I said, this is just as needed in a group that is starting up, as a group that has been in Stage 1 never really knowing each other for years. Here the group will tend to want direction. Whilst historically this has meant direction from a leader, in self-organised teams, I think this can come from process, a purpose, a framework, just something that gives direction.

Behaviours in this stage include:
• Try to get to know one another
• Are very polite to one another
• Require structure and order
• Initiate few or no serious conflicts
• Bring up lots of suggestions for group activities, of which few are followed up

Stage 2: Counter-dependency and Fight
This second stage has a bit of a dramatic name but it seems right nonetheless. This is the groups teenage stage many ways. They will rebel against the leader, will want to walk away from convention and are jockeying for position, looking for their role as an individual. It’s in this stage that conflict starts to emerge. Sometimes this conflict is visible, but often the conflict is simmering and perhaps all the most destructive for it.

Stage 2 behaviours include:
• Attempt to convince the others of which views are the right ones
• Form subgroups and demonstrate less group spirit
• Show that they are avoiding being influenced by others
• Increase the frequency and intensity of conflicts
• Attempt to take or avoid leadership with the help of others
• Give one another feedback which is often cutting and aggressive
• Rebel against the formal leader
• Attempt to reduce the stress caused by conflicts by running away to irrelevant activities.

The thing that is perhaps most important to note about this stage is that in my experience, it is the most important and valuable stage. Almost every group I have seen will shy away from this stage. That slight discomfort, or the difficulty in overcoming our conflict leads us to either stay in a latent conflict for sometimes years, or to slip back to stage 1 where we’re very polite but not very real with each other. This stage is the perfect time to become a real team, to learn about each other, to learn to manage conflict. Where most groups tend to slip back to small talk, I urge you to use this stage as a moment for openness, for sharing, for vulnerability. If so, the group can move to stages 3 and 4 where the gold is and where very few go.

Stage 3: Trust and Structure
For the very few groups that make it through stage 2 to stage 3 the rewards are great. The group often feels this sense of celebration and invisibility, this sense of ‘if we can get through this then what is possible’… There is a huge sense of trust earned from successfully managing conflict. Focus is now moving towards the tasks. However, this can sometimes not necessarily or at least not happen immediately with this kind of subtle ‘we’re better than other teams’ spirit that can resemble stage 1 small talk. The difference though is that this team has navigated choppy waters.

Behaviours include:
• Increasing clarity on the objectives to be attained by the group
• Adapting roles and tasks so as to fit in with the tasks and objectives of the group
• Starting to deal with conflicts as they arise.
• Demanding collective solutions
• Showing satisfaction because they believe all conflicts have been resolved (warning)
• Demonstrating a great need for unity
• Sometimes becoming more playful than interested in the task
• Focusing their energies on maintaining personal relations and avoiding a return to the earlier stages, counter-dependency and fight
• Showing warmth and consideration.

In my view, this is a group that has a first taste of what is possible but it hasn’t fully settled. It isn’t the norm. An increased commitment to each other other and to openness will lead us to stage 4.

Stage 4: Performance and Productivity
Now the team is able to truly focus on the job at hand. Our energy has moved from worrying what everybody thinks about us and where we stand to the job at hand. Conflict in this stage can actually increase in frequency but is seen as an opportunity for growth. Therefore conflict can happen more often, in smaller amounts and be resolved very quickly. Relationships that reach this stage can have conflict openly, quicker, more directly and learn and grow through them. This is a team that gets better and better, and uses feedback as a tool to do so.

Behaviours in this stage include:
• Being clear about tasks and objectives
• Being clear about their roles
• Perceiving tasks as the responsibilities of the group, rather than as individual responsibilities
• Perceiving conflicts as shared problems that are valuable and provide opportunities for further development
• Using feedback as an instrument for developing the group and its efficiency
• Feeling a sense of security because everyone knows they are appreciated and needed within the group
• Demonstrating warmth and fellowship without demanding ownership rights
• Not being threatened by or jealous of pairings or subgroups
• Making decisions through discussions which encourage opposing views
• Being aware that it is possible to actively improve the group’s processes.

Stage 5: Termination
Briefly, there is a actually a stage 5 in this model which is termination, which is kind of a group disbanding and grieving process. This essentially suggests to us that when a project ends and particularly if a  group disbands we should celebrate, evaluate, learn and have a closure experience or we will end up taking it into other groups. I see this stage as nothing more than a request to evaluate and learn together.

I find this model pretty valuable. If taken seriously, it might not offer a final image of how all groups always are, but I really believe it can offer a decent compass for navigating group situations. For seeing groups as something to get better at. As something to invest in. The way to move through these stages is to promote openness, to always try to make invisible dynamics visible and discussed. Create time and space which are psychologically safe to hear each other out. To learn to get to know each other in Stage 1 on a deeper level, to give each other feedback consistently particularly through stage 2, and then to maintain that level of openness.

IMGD Workshop

Workshop

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This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

This is a workshop aimed at helping a group to understand their dynamics better, to be open about them, and to move towards seeing it as an ongoing process of improvement possible through dialogue.

The workshop is simple. It requires two things:
• A facilitator, this is key
• For the behaviours for each stage of group development to be written down on separate flip charts.

Then it goes something like this.
Put all the flip charts face down on the floor in a row.
After introducing the theory of group development briefly, reveal the first stage and explain it to the group. You could even use the previous voice recording if you like and pause after the first stage.

After the stage is complete, ask the group to share their reflections on this. What do they recognise? Have they seen this behaviour in groups they’ve been a part of before? Perhaps professional but it’s worth also including social groups as the same theory applies. Then also asking them if they see this behaviour in themselves? Or in the group?

Then, repeat this for each stage.

After all stages are complete, ask the group to stand where they think the group is. Or ask them where they think they are in respect to the group.

It’s important throughout all this to ensure there is no right or wrong and no judgement. Being in Stage 2 for instance can seem to be a ‘bad thing’ because many cultures feel uncomfortable with conflict but in fact this can easily be framed as something positive. That acknowledging we’re in Stage 2 is the kind of openness and vulnerability that can lead to a group growing together.

To wrap up the workshop I often ask the group for suggestions to move through the stages to become a more high performing team. And I’ll offer my own advice which is basically: be open. Be open with each other. Be open to improving. Creating workshops and sessions which ask us to open up. Have structured feedback sessions openly as a group…etc. One simple task can be to simply plan a by weekly ‘openness session’ whether it’s feedback, reflection, sharing stories, whatever it is. But openness is more or less the tool that helps a group grow.

Finally I might ask each person to commit silently to an action they will take to contribute to the groups growth.

These sessions can be really transformative for groups and if they’re momentum is maintained it’s amazing what can happen. And remember that whilst the model itself is no doubt very useful, it’s actually the quality of the dialogue that helps the group grow and as a facilitator that is your main goal.

Facilitative Leadership

Perspective

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This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

An understanding of distributed teams, mapped onto an understanding of groups, requires us to revisit some of our traditional leadership views somewhat. Namely it asks us to revisit our view of command and control leadership.

A useful spectrum to see this by is that the more immature a group is, the more it needs direction, as it matures it needs coaching and eventually it requires very little. This is sometimes known as the mandate spectrum where on the left of the spectrum a group needs lots of direction and has a small degree of active involvement as you head to the right hand side of the spectrum this gradually flips towards a situation where the group needs little direction and has huge active involvement to the degree where they set their own direction. I’ve also seen it articulated as a need to tell, then sell, then test, then consult, then co-create. This was created by Peter Senge who really is the father of much of the theory behind the learning organisation movement. I think it can be useful to see this spectrum both as a way to navigate our situation but also as a goal to aim for, to try and nurture a team and gradually take it further and further towards the right of this spectrum.

Source: movelearning.com

I have to say however that even the tell and sell parts at the beginning of this spectrum don’t necessarily apply in my view. Or at least that the potential 'strongman leadership’ interpretation is unnecessary, and simply prevents a group from learning to learn, it is stealing a groups autonomy and therefore clipping that groups potential. A leader is really there to help the group be an autonomous vehicle that learns and self-improves.

But what of that initial need for direction? How to do it without the boss? Well whilst I don’t doubt that perhaps some groups do require some more traditional direction in the form of telling, I think direction can come in other ways. We can get direction from a strong sense of purpose, or from a rallying dream or vision, or from a strong set of values that we genuinely value. We can also get some direction from basic process or structure that keeps us balanced, such as some of the frameworks like feedback loops and team guidelines I recommended in the self-organised teams pack. And we can co-create all this and I would argue that the process of co-creating will take of us from a group of humans, to a team.

So it is perhaps possible that the new leadership paradigm is entirely facilitative in that a leader is there to help us find our own direction early on. To help us take ourselves through the stages of group development. To help us choose our own minimum viable structure. To help us co-create our own purpose. That in the initial stages a leader is there to hold us together, to create structures which help us to get to know each other better, that helps us get some of key ingredients in place and that is the guardian of the process of what it means to be a group and does all that through facilitation.

Openness & Trust

Perspective

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

I’m often ask the simple question “How do you move through the stages of group development?”. The answer is easier said than done, but it is simple nonetheless, the answer is openness. Openness in all of its senses. Let me break that down a bit.

Openness to others
By this I mean to hear each others ideas out properly without judgement or negativity. To be truly open minded to somebody else’s feelings, thoughts, opinions. To be open to them. This fulfilment of our need to be heard can be remarkable in its ability to create trust between people.

Openness with others
This asks us to give a bit of ourselves. To offer ourselves to others. To share things about us that might not have been shared in traditional work environments. To show vulnerability. To admit fragility. To ask for support. To ask for help. This not only invites people to connect but helps role models that behaviours.

Openness together
This openness should happen 1-2-1 in order to build relationships, but its also really important to have these moments openness all together as a group. Something really amazing happens when openness happens in front of a the whole group. This can be sharing something valuable to us in front of all. Or it can be powerful 1-2-1 feedback in our groups company. The whole group grows from that.

The theory goes that all this openness leads to a substantial increase in trust. And that that trust creates the conditions for openness to occur. And the virtuous cycle has been created.

Work Sheet

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Facilitating A Reflection Session

Team Session

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

A fantastic way to build openness in a team is to run a facilitated reflection session.
This episode is designed to help you do just that. For a group of 5-7 people I would probably schedule about 1h30mins and ask everybody to just bring a notepad or paper, and a pen.

First of all, you will need to set the environment up nicely. I would always recommend having people sit in some sort of circle and ideally I wouldn’t have any tables between people. It’s often nice to do this in a cozy environment where there’s sofas or something but this part is key. What you want, is to create an environment where people feel safe, open and potentially contemplative.

You’ll start the session with a quick check-in asking each participant how they’re feeling.

Then you’ll present the purpose of a reflection session. Now a reflection session is one whereby we try as a group to harvest all the learnings we can gain from a period of time working together. These learnings will probably come from some deeper unpicking of a situation and notably it’s impact on us. So to help guide people through this process I would give them a few questions for them to reflect on silently on a sheet of paper or notepad by journaling for about 10 minutes. The questions I often ask are:
* What has happened over this period that has affected you? (Observation)
* How has this made you feel? (Feeling)
* What can you learn from this experience? (Learning)
* How will you apply this learning? (Application)

Each participant journals through these questions alone for 10mins.
During that 10mins it’s important that participants are silent. Working alone with their thoughts of feelings.

Then we come back together.
For a new group, I would ask them to share their reflections in turn, 1 by 1 going round the circle. For a more experienced group no order need apply.

As the facilitator there are a few things to keep an eye on.

The first is when opening up the sharing part of process make clear to the group that this is a space for sharing, not comment. It’s useful for people to ask for clarifying questions, but not to judge or comment on other people’s reflections. The richness from this process comes from hearing often quite diverging views.

Another really useful guideline is to ask people to really share from their perspective, so you might need to occasionally help by kindly suggesting they speak from the first person “I” rather than generic “yous or wes or ones”.

Finally, just really invite everybody to listen fully and give everybody sharing their full attention.

Once everybody has spoken, you may want to ask people how the overall process was. I often ask “any reflections on the reflection”. As I’ve said in previous episodes whilst the content of the conversation can be really insightful, it’s the process itself that seems the most rewarding.

You may finally, want to ask the group to check out.

Work Sheet

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