Finding the Courage and Tools to Get Better Outcomes in Group Settings

Finding the Courage and Tools to Get Better Outcomes in Group Settings

Something seems to happen when we get together as a group or team in the workplace. It’s like some invisible set of rules takes over (which, in fact, it often does). Having good in-the-moment awareness and a functional set of tools for understanding and working effectively as a collaborative group can be invaluable.

Sample scenario #1: Emily dreads the Wednesday staff meeting. Oliver is bound to brag about his weekend exploits before things get going, Hannah will bring a bunch of sugary baked goods to pass around, and Henry will always be playing Angry Birds under the table the whole time. Just once she’d like to tell people what she thinks of their behavior. Meanwhile, she makes shopping lists on her notepad.

Sample scenario #2: Jacob tries to have good relations with his cubby neighbors. He does his best to keep up on their birthdays, family changes, and other life events. He seems puzzled when he doesn’t get cooperation from his team when he wants to organize after-work bowling parties and poker tournaments.

Why will this help me at work? Unless you truly work solo all day long (tempting, I know), you’ll have to interact in group settings. Most of us rely on our personalities, which are necessary, but not sufficient. Being able to specify which decision-making model you’ll be using, having an empathic way of dealing with unhelpful interruptions, and bringing awareness about how your team has a low risk tolerance can help you increase your results and your satisfaction.

Why is this so difficult at times? Most of us received our “training” around the family dinner table, in terms of power, interactive conversations (or not), and decision making. Add to that the fear of speaking up given the risk that the “boss” just ”might judge you as not being smart enough or worthy enough, and it’s enough to keep many of us from taking appropriate risks. Lastly, there’s often someone who pushes our buttons, and without the practiced skill of supportive confrontation, we avoid starting a potential conflict (and mutter to ourselves or someone else).

Your frank self-assessment:

  • What’s your sense of being able to be both observer and participant in a group setting? Can you see what’s happening with some degree of objectivity, instead of being “swept along”
  • How do you see yourself in terms of the ability to find the sweet spot between avoidance and aggressiveness? Are you able to “step into the conversation” when it is needed and appropriate?
  • How do you define “team”? This is not as easy as it sounds. Once you have this, what roles are needed, and what is your current versus ideal responsibility?

My tips:

  • The trick is to get better at “process,” not “content.” Most groups (and meetings) focus almost exclusively on the subject matter of what they are organized to do, and not nearly enough on how they communicate, interact, resolve conflicts, and so on.
  • Schedule breaks between meetings. It amazes me that the myth of the back-to-back sixty-minute appointment or meeting still exists in most workplaces. Since we all need a minimum of five minutes (ten is better) to hit the restroom, check e-mail, and get from point A to B, consecutive hour-long meetings inevitably set us up for being three to seven minutes late for the next one.

Action for traction:

  • If you are the leader of a team or meeting, do some research on group norms, then facilitate a discussion on what you want to consciously keep doing, what you want to stop doing, and what you want to add in terms of your process.
  • Ask those you trust if they see any difference between your attributes and competencies on a one-on-one basis versus a group setting. If so, what shifts would be helpful for you to make?
  • See if you can get your group to open up a different balance between knowing who’s in the room on a personal basis as opposed to just professionally. Sometimes when we take the risk to share more of ourselves, it models appropriate vulnerability and acceptance.

Baked-in benefits:

  • You’ll get better outcomes in decisions, deadlines, and deliverables.
  • There will be a more open, collaborative, and collegial atmosphere.
  • You’ll spend less time with negative thoughts and feelings.

Excerpt From: Flip Brown. “Balanced Effectiveness at Work. How to Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor without Driving Yourself Nuts.”  Published by: Starr Farm Press