Group Process

Topics: Group dynamics, William Schutz, Facilitator Pages: 8 (2412 words) Published: January 16, 2011
2.1 Group process: inclusion
A cornerstone for facilitators is to understand what happens to people in groups. To do this, we need to look both at what people set out to achieve, the task, as well as how they get along – the processes of group activity. People often behave quite differently in groups and teams from one-to-one settings. Some people become quiet, others turn into bullies or tormentors, some become jokers. For the facilitator who has to rely on others for getting the job done, this can be daunting. Why is it that a meeting feels electric one moment and awkward the next? Why do some people refuse to communicate while others do all the talking? It becomes easier to understand the process level if we take a practical example. Imagine that you are in a team meeting and two people start arguing. Do you feel embarrassed? Do you try and stop it? Do you join in? When people work together in groups all sorts of things go on – allegiances are made, cliques are formed, feelings are acknowledged or overlooked, reactions are triggered – and this all makes up the group dynamic or process. If we try to pretend it doesn’t happen, doesn’t matter or doesn’t belong in the workplace we are fooling ourselves. Such behaviour is the lifeblood of the group or team and the facilitator who develops an understanding of such activity is in the best position to help the team overcome any difficulties. As facilitators, it is useful to have a theoretical map to navigate through this minefield of group behaviour. A useful model here is that provided by Will Schutz who used three simple words to sum up what takes place in team or group dynamics at a deep level – inclusion, control and openness (see model overleaf). This section and the following two sections explore these issues in more detail and give ideas for interventions that will help facilitate the group process in the arenas of inclusion, control and openness. Inclusion and exclusion issues are typically unspoken and form part of a hidden agenda that may not even be in the consciousness of the people involved. For example, in one training group a new member joined the course and appeared to be welcomed by his peers – lots of introductions and smiles – but the group then proceeded to make witty asides and share injokes which served to exclude the new member. In this kind of situation, a facilitator may well choose to draw attention to the group of its behaviour. The difficulty you may often have, however, is of sensing that something is wrong but not knowing what the problem is or where to begin to address it. This happens because a great deal of group behaviour occurs ‘out of awareness’ or in covert ways. It is the skill of the facilitator to heighten their own awareness so that they can raise to the surface the unconscious behaviour of group members that is impacting on the whole group. There is a maxim for facilitators that suggests ‘you will always experience what a group cannot tell you about itself’. You may experience this as feelings, thoughts, body sensations or as an intuitive insight. This level of communication is part of the magic of facilitation and requires practice, trust and non-attachment. The focus is about using all our resources, wherever they come from, and putting them to use in order to serve the group, typically by making interventions about the ongoing process. It is also useful, when it comes to inclusion and exclusion issues, for the facilitator to notice and to be aware of the variety of behaviours people use in groups to attract attention or interest and, in so doing, make themselves more prominent. The group joker, for example, typically adopts this approach both to stay safe (hiding behind humour) as well as to gain recognition. The underlying interpersonal fear here might well be that of being ignored, and the personal fear is of being insignificant, unimportant or worthless. Although their external behaviour is very different, the same underlying fears...
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