The importance of group process

Group process.  The term sends some managers and employees who “just want to get things done” regardless if it is the right thing to do to check out.  “Let’s just move on!” is the mantra as impatience undermines the importance of group process.

So what is group process? Why is it important to forging accountability in how people work together in engaged, qualify-focused, collaborative and humanly satisfying ways?

What is group process?

How an organization’s members work together to get things done is the definition of group process.  Considerable attention is so often given to establishing goals and achieving them. Rightfully so.  Organizations collapse when they can’t get things done through the people they hire.

Here’s the rub.

To expedite things, executives decide on the goals and hand them off to managers, supervisors, team leaders and Project Managers to execute through employees. Then metrics and KPI’s are applied. If goal achievement is too slow, then pressure is put on managers who in turn put more pressure on employees.

The human side of HOW people work together, however, often results in spending a great deal of time, resources and human energy to achieve them. Effective group process consequences are measurable when you track cost savings and productivity improvements in an organization’s bottom line and not just KPI’s.

For some managers, getting work done and goals achieved feels like the constant pounding of a square peg into a round hole.  I hear things like, why do I have to babysit employees day in and day out? Why can’t they just get things done and do what they are told?

The obvious solution is brushed aside.

Why is the importance of group process significant to forging employee accountability?

True success is achieved when the work side of operations is balanced with the skilled side of human operations. Understanding what people need to work together cooperatively, to collaborate and achieve goals with quality and a felt sense of personal satisfaction is an obvious solution.

Typically, organizations spend a great deal of time and energy establishing and striving to reach goals but give little consideration to what is happening between and to the group’s greatest resource – it’s members.

Early on in my career, I wanted to know what makes work groups high functioning, quality-focused, productive, cooperative and successful.  I qualified success to mean that not only was work being achieved efficiently, employees accomplishing the work had a felt sense of personal satisfaction.

I studied all the available group dynamic research in Education, Psychology and Business.  Out of this emerged 6 Principles that are required of all high performance teams, group process and the qualities skilled leaders bring to the table. The six principles are Trust, Interdependence, Genuineness, Empathy, Risk resolution and Success.

Twice vetted for reliability and validity in measuring the quality of the six principles in group performance, the six principles form the acronym, TIGERS®. They also contribute to the group norms and behaviors necessary for keeping how people work together high functioning.

What this means to group process and accountability

When employee input is considered for what employees need to operate in trustworthy, interdependent, genuine, empathetic, risk resolving and successful ways, heightened employee interest occurs. The caveat is if employees consider their leaders and the organization to be trustworthy.

When employee ideas are implemented there is more ownership of them.  It is the ownership of decisions like these that opens the door for all employees, including managers and senior executives, to be accountable for them and for maintaining them. It falls to leaders to tend the boundaries of those decisions and guide employees to implement them.

One very accomplished manager on LinkedIn announced that employees aren’t accountable. They shouldn’t be expected to be.  In organizations with top down edicts and expectations without regard to how people work together, she’s right. Those organizations will continue to waste time and resources attempting to cut down trees with a butter knife because their “work only” strategy doesn’t cut it. If accountability for group process is desired at all levels of operation, there is a better way.

What group process skills require consideration?

Effective group process can be broken down into defined skillsets. This makes achieving effective group process and defined leadership skills predictable and measurable.

The skillset categories for effective group process include:

  • Problem-solving
  • Decision-making
  • Conflict resolution and management
  • Communication
  • Group and personal boundary management

These are the skills that employees who want to be accountable desire to master. These are skills that serve your organization and every aspect of a person’s life.

Employees who want to be accountable tend to be more entrepreneurial, high potential, and desire connections and emotional attachments to an organization such as a felt sense of belonging. They have bought into your mission and vision for why you exist — until they don’t. In organizations that continue to try to chop down trees with a butter knife without regard to how employees work together, these are the employees who quit and are quickly snatched up by other organizations.

Here’s the irony

In a recent New York Times article, by Sydney Ember and Ben Casselman, the authors write, “For nearly two years, companies have complained that they are caught in an unending cycle of hiring and training workers, only to see them leave in a matter of weeks or months. Constant recruiting and training drains management resources, and new hires often do not stick around long enough for that investment to pay off. Veteran employees are often asked to pick up the slack, leading to burnout.”

The work training examples addressed in the article involved training in how to operate a machine or existing tech. These are technical skills, the hard skills to perform work. Nothing on how to problem-solve, make decisions with accountable outcomes, resolve conflict with others, communicate for mutual understanding (whether you agree or not) or establishing boundaries. Perhaps the examples given expose the leadership mindset that group process training is soft-skill fluff.

The results of soft skill training on an organization’s cost savings and productivity improvements including profit, however, is measurable. For example, after the rollout of leadership training that involved group process leadership skill improvements, one organization we served saved thousands of dollars in risk management operations. It seems that when leadership group process skills improve and employees are involved in group process behavior decisions, employees get hurt and sick less.  They also tend to stick around.

There is a saying that employees don’t quit work. They quit managers.  Perhaps they quit organizational culture AND the management skills that drive it instead.

Adding to the irony, is lack of focus on organizational culture. Even though culture transformation can be sensible and easy to roll out one great cross-functional team at a time, the leaders of butter-knife-tree-chopping-down-organizations are afraid if they invest time and resources in training on group process skills, employees will leave. They don’t want employees to leave after training them. Workforce researchers, on the other hand, report that the majority of employees stay. And the benefits outweigh the loss incurred by an employee’s resignation.

So where can you go from here?

Here are some resources to consider in digging deeper into the TIGERS 6 Principles and effective group process:

Copyright TIGERS Success Series, Inc. by Dianne Crampton

TIGERS 6 PrinciplesAbout the TIGERS 6 Principles™

The TIGERS 6 Principles empower Executives and Consultants with a comprehensive collaborative work culture and leadership system to resolve avoidable talent, engagement and work community problems that stunt growth.

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