Want to find ways of helping your team work more effectively efficiently with game-changing results? You’ll need to look into ways of improving team dynamics. By focusing on group dynamics psychology, you’ll be able to tap into techniques and approaches that vastly boost effectiveness, and also improve morale as your team members find their most productive place within the group.
Here at Eventwise, we’re absolutely fascinated by the psychology of group dynamics. After many, many years of hosting fun, enjoyable, and result-driven team building events and activities, we’ve gained a real insight into how teams work, and how groups of people have the potential to take their working relationships and interconnectivity to new heights. In this week’s blog, we’re going to be taking a closer look at improving group dynamics, and how group dynamics in the workplace can be addressed and understood on a deeper level. By doing so, we’ve found that it’s easy to uncover simple steps and techniques that help your team not only work more efficiently with one another, but which also help every individual team member better understand their role, their place, and their importance within the group.
We’ll also be focusing on the psychological and sociological definitions of group dynamics, the causes of negative group dynamics, and how problems can be addressed and solved in order to vastly improve this all-important aspect of your workplace. Read on to find out more!
Improving Group Dynamics in the Workplace
Imagine for a moment that you’ve brought a team of the brightest and best people in your company, and you’ve tasked them to solve a particular problem that your department is facing. Everything looks positive, and you have absolute faith in each individual team member. How frustrating it must be, then, to find that decisions cannot be made, consensus cannot be reached, and the project is stalled before it even begins.
Why does this happen? Well, it most probably comes down to a whole number of factors relating to the group dynamics of the team you’ve constructed. For example, you might find that one team member is highly critical of another colleague’s ideas. Their fault-finding may be holding back or discouraging others from sharing their own approaches. Another colleague may not feel confident in putting forward their ideas, and instead ends up simply agreeing with a more outspoken team member. Yet another colleague may be blocking the flow of discussion by making discouraging noises, or by making humorous comments at the wrong moments… and before long, nobody is able to communicate openly or comfortably, and thus the well of ideas dries up. Sounds familiar?
These are absolutely classic examples of poor group dynamics, and psychologically, there are a whole host of reasons why they come about (far too many to get into in today’s article!). Whatever the individuals’ reasons for struggling in this way, the result ends up being the same: morale is damaged, engagement is blocked, and the project fails to get off the ground. It goes without saying that this is a long way from being the ideal situation… and in order to understand why it happens so often, we have to first understand what group dynamics as a concept actually is, and then how to identify the cause of the group failing to reach the right level of dynamism.
What Are Group Dynamics?
Back in the 1940s, a social psychologist and change management expert by the name of Kurt Lewin coined the term ‘group dynamics’. He noted that, when individuals come together as a group, they have an automatic tendency to take on distinct roles and behaviours. Group dynamics is, therefore, a description of the effects that these roles and behaviours have firstly on the individuals, and then on the group as a whole.
More recently, Lewin’s ideas and theories have been grasped wholeheartedly by researchers, and the approach has become a central pillar of good management practice in the 21st century.
It’s easy to spot a team with top-notch group dynamics. Team members have a great level of trust in one another, they communicate openly with mutual respect and they work together to reach common goals. Researchers have also discovered that good group dynamics can affect teams in other, more subtle ways, too - they’ve found that when teams have positive group dynamics, the individuals in the team are almost twice as creative as an average group.
What Causes Negative Group Dynamics?
Both team leaders and team members can contribute towards the creation of a poor team dynamic, and often, it happens without anybody even realising it. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common factors which cause this to happen.
Good teams require a strong team leader; a dominant member of the group who can take charge, provide clarity and inspire the team to come together to achieve great things. When a team lacks an individual with these qualities, a lack of direction, infighting, confusion regarding goals and objectives, and poor focus invariably results.
Excessive Deference to Authority
Team members often want to be seen to be agreeing with a leader, or someone with leadership qualities. While this can have a positive angle, all too often it leads to people inhibiting their real opinions and thoughts.
Blocking is when team members behave in such a way that information flow in the group becomes disrupted. This can happen through people withdrawing from discussions, putting each other down, being overbearing in their own opinions, or joking at inappropriate times.
Does a desire for consensus often block your team from reaching the right conclusion? If so, then your team is suffering from groupthink. This phenomenon stops people from exploring alternative solutions to problems and usually comes about as a result of dominant personalities forcing their own opinions to the fore.
This is when some team members are happy to sit back and let harder working colleagues deal with all the challenges by themselves. Freeriders might actually work well on their own projects, but when it comes to teamwork, are likely to limit their contributions.
This occurs when team members are afraid to let their ideas show, or to share their thoughts in a group, as a result of feeling nervous about being judged harshly or even punished for ‘getting something wrong’.
How Can You Improve Team Dynamics?
There are many, many different ways of improving group dynamics in the workplace, and your exact approach will depend on the nature of your team, and the goals you are trying to achieve. However, the following methods should work well for teams of all types and sizes
Nip Problems in the Bud
If you recognise that any single member of your team is behaving in a way that can negatively influence your group dynamic, it’s always best to act quickly in order to challenge the behaviour. One of the most effective ways of doing this is by providing detailed feedback to the team member, and showing them how their behaviour is impacting others, before making positive suggestions of how they can interact more effectively. Many of Eventwise’s activities are great for encouraging team bonding and positive communication, for example the Artworks activity, which is designed to help team members communicate effectively and ‘see the bigger picture’.
Teams with poor dynamics often find that they struggle to understand their role within the group. One way you can tackle this is by creating a team charter, which defines the group’s mission and objective and helps everybody recognise their personal responsibilities. Make sure that everyone has a copy of the charter and refer to it regularly.
If you’re unsure of who should be assigned which role in your group, you can try getting involved in a team building activity which allows different skills to shine. Something like an Escape Room or the Generation Show with Eventwise would do the job very nicely, while also providing a fun day out for all involved!
One of the best ways to help develop group dynamics is by getting involved in team building exercises which tighten those team bonds, allow new team members to really feel like they’re part of the company family and flatten the hierarchies which sometimes build up in corporate teams. There’s a lot to be said for some good old fashioned fun, and an activity like It’s a Knockout is a fantastic method for showing that you’re all in it together, and you’re able to gel as a group while having a great time.
Build on Communication
Good team dynamics is all about open communication. This comes from trust and a sense that everyone’s input is valued and considered. As team leaders, you have a responsibility to keep everyone informed of every new development or change to a project, and to take the time to listen to feedback, concerns, and new ideas in a positive manner.
Pay Close Attention
Poor group dynamics often arise without team leaders necessarily realising it. If unanimous decisions are being made all the time, this actually could be a bad sign that groupthink or free-riding is going on - if this is the case, you need to explore new or different ways of ensuring everyone has their voices heard. Anonymous sharing of views can be effective, as can team activities wherein everyone has the chance to get out of the office, have some fun, and build up their confidence to get their voices heard.
Group Dynamics, Psychology, and Hitting the Right Balance
As we’ve seen, group dynamics is one of the most important things to keep in mind whenever you’re working with a team of individuals. Hitting that right balance, and making sure that everyone feels involved, valued, and able to offer their input will always result in better team working, and many of the points made above will help you get that sweet spot of happiness, productivity, and open communication.
At Eventwise, we really care about helping teams come together, have a load of fun, and discover their potential in a whole host of different ways. Over the years, we’ve enjoyed working with countless corporate groups in London, and seeing how doing something like a cookery course, a murder mystery, or something totally off the wall can make a massive difference. If you want to work on your group dynamics, and feel a day out of the office doing something enjoyable can help, we’d love to hear from you soon!