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Paying Attention to Group Dynamics

Have you ever had your meeting fall apart because your group just won't say anything or take a risk to say something creative or out of the box? Or perhaps there is one subgroup of people that always objects to the suggestions of another subgroup?

Any time a group of people comes together, group dynamics are at play. Those dynamics can affect your meeting's success. They also can change the way you need to design your meeting -- or the tools you need to choose for doing the task. For example

  • If you are working with a group that has worked well together in the past, you can skip the personal introductions. However, a new group needs to get to know one another before they can get to work, try new ideas, or take risks.
  • If newer teachers' impatience to try new ideas is sparking resistance from veteran teachers who have seen lots of changes come and go, you will need to intervene to help each group be heard and value each other.
  • Does the group regularly let one particular person do all the talking? You will need to choose one of the tools that ensure all the voices are heard and valued. (We will present some appropriate tools in upcoming entries in the Great Meetings series.)

Key Points To Take Away

--- The dynamics in your meeting group can impact its success.
--- You need to identify the particular dynamics in your meeting's group.
--- Design your meeting and choose tools to help the group be successful.

Even if you know everyone well, take time to think about the impact of the dynamics on your specific meeting. Then, make design changes that will help the group work together more successfully. The following checklist of group dynamic considerations might help you as you plan your next meeting.

  • Are there external forces such as organizational expectations or culture that might impact the group's performance? For example, a budget crisis or a difficult union negotiation might impact the group's ability to work together.
  • What is the history of the group? Have participants been working well together in the past, or have they been struggling?
  • What habits has the group developed? Do they tend to come on time or late? Engage in discussion or hang back?
  • What is the membership of the group? Are there old and new members, sub groups, a changing membership? Are people there by choice, or because they are required to attend?

For more information about the stages of development, order your copy of Great Meetings! Great Results today.

NEXT WEEK IN GREAT MEETINGS: Exploring the stages of group development.

About Great Meetings

Pam Plumb and Dee Kelsey are your facilitators in charge of Education World's Great Meetings series. They are also authors of the popular guide to meeting facilitation, Great Meetings! Great Results. Together, Pam and Dee have more than 40 years' experience facilitating change and training meeting leaders.

Learn more by clicking the links below:

* Read biographies
Learn about Pam and Dee.

* Read a "backgrounder"
What will you learn from this series?

* See the Great Meetings archive
See past articles in the series.

* Visit the Great Meetings Web site
Learn about the book, training workshops Pam and Dee offer, and more.

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