UNDERSTANDING GROUP DEVELOPMENT THEORY
Four stages of group development are commonly experienced in groups that are organized for a specific activity. As you read the description of each stage, note that activity is occurring in both the interpersonal relationships of the individual members and the task functions of the group as a whole.
In the Initial Stage, personal relations are characterized by dependency, and the major task functions concern orientation. Individual members tend to depend on the leader to provide all structure; the group members lean on the chairperson or advisor to set ground rules, establish an agenda, and do all the (leading). Issues have to be specified. The nature of the work itself has to be explored so there is a common understanding of what the group has been organized to do. Common questions at this stage include the following:
- Why are we here?
- What are we supposed to do?
- How are we going to get it done?
- What are our goals?
In Stage Two, personal relationships are characterized by conflict and the major task functions concern organization. The group will experience interpersonal conflict as it organizes to get work done. Common questions at this stage include the following:
- Who will be responsible for what?
- What are the work rules?
- What are the limits?
- What is the reward?
In Stage Three, personal relations are characterized by cohesion and the major task functions concern data flow. It is during the third stage of development, assuming the group gets this far, that people begin to experience a sense of group feeling. They begin sharing ideas, feelings, and information related to the task. During this period, people feel good about what is going on; they feel good about being part of a group; and there is an emerging openness with regard to the task.
In Stage Four, which is not experienced by all groups, personal relations are characterized by interdependence and major task functions concern problem-solving. Interdependence means that members can work individually, in small groups, or as a total organization. The activities are marked by both collaboration and competition. The group’s tasks are well-defined, there is high commitment to common activity, and there is support for experimentation with solving problems.
- Ask for volunteers by show of hands or passing a sign up sheet. (Interest is a great motivator!) However, this method can be impersonal and you could be “stuck” if no one signs up.
- Appoint someone. Sometimes a member lacks self-confidence and won’t volunteer; appointing them demonstrates your confidence in them.
- Assign through a committee, taking the pressure off an individual and reinforcing organizational structure.
- “Best fit” of person with the task is the most effective. Try to spread the enjoyable and responsible tasks around, giving more members status and value.
How the Group Benefits from Delegation
- Members become more involved and committed.
- More projects and activities can be undertaken.
- Greater chance that projects will be completed.
- Members get greater opportunity to develop leadership skill.
- Greater likelihood of filling leadership roles with qualified, experienced people.
How the Leader Benefits from Delegation
- Leader is not spread too thin, and is less likely to “burn out.”
- Satisfaction of seeing members grow and develop.
- Leaders gain more experience in executive, administrative functions.
- Leader helps prepare future leaders.
We always do it that way. We don’t have enough time for that. Who would be interested, anyway? If you have ever heard these comments as you strive for action within your group, perhaps what your organization needs is a little refresher on motivation. Motivation is the key to move members to action. Wondering how to motivate? Try some of these tips:
- Determine common goals of the organization.
- Find genuine value in each member.
- Use language to validate — “Thank you!”
- Approach tasks from the members’ perspectives.They will have more to identify with that way.
- Try a new twist on an old routine (give each group meeting a theme, etc.).
- Provide incentives (treats, music, etc.).
- Create your own strategies!
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