Two weeks ago, we talked about the 5 dysfunctions that groups commonly face. In short, there are truly not many totally unique problems when it comes to group management. Almost everything comes down to what you’re doing or not doing to build group trust and encourage a depth of connection.
Aside: maybe you immediately saw something in our previous post on this that rang true. Maybe you’re curious but still need to investigate further. If that is the case, fear not! Here is 5 Dysfunctions author Patrick Lencioni’s checklist that will help you self-assess if you’re not quite sure what’s going on with your group.
A group without trust is like a house with no foundation
For our purposes today, let’s move on and assume you know you’ve got a group trust problem. ANY of these five dysfunctions are going to be a limiting factor in your group’s ability to smash goals and lean into active co-creation, but as we mentioned trust is the foundational need that leaders should triage first. Dealing with a lack of group trust FIRST will have a cascade effect that can simplify your efforts in rectifying other problem areas. And at Groupizy, we’re about nothing if not streamlining.
Why is trust important in group management? Buy in.
Trust allows groups to be bigger, badder, more productive, more deeply connected, and more flexible. Group members who trust each other are not afraid to experiment with bold ideas, not afraid to take chances, not preoccupied with manicuring their image as a defense strategy, and not afraid to ask for help. Simply put, group members who trust one another are more willing to invest their energy and resources more deeply in group goals.
Leaders who are part of the group circle of trust are able to empathize more, help more, and serve more efficiently. When trust is present, groups are more likely to show up authentically and creatively, because members and leaders are no longer oriented toward self-preservation and defensiveness. In short, trust creates the foundation for group health. Without trust, groups wither and die, no hyperbole.
What should leaders be doing to build group trust?
1. Be self-reflective.
This may seem obvious, but it’s such a heavy hitter we need it not to go unsaid. Leaders can mitigate their blind spots by checking in with themselves, auditing their reactions (over- and under-reactions included) to group stress. A strong leader makes auditing their leadership approach a priority. If what you’re already doing is appropriate, then it can certainly stand the sniff test. If it’s not, why wait to regroup? Pin reflection time to the top of your list and don’t let it go. Check in early, and check in often.
2. Go first.
Leaders should model the behavior they want to see become the cultural norm for the group. Examples of this can include being open and humble about personal failures and errors in judgment when it comes to leadership responsibilities, demonstrating transparency around decision making, and also demonstrating a generosity of interpretation when it comes to the intentions, words and actions of others. Assume the best and give the benefit of the doubt. When leaders do this, group members are more likely to be transparent and open with their questions and needs.
3. Signal boost and empower.
Being a good leader includes being a vocal supporter and cheerleader. Share gratitude when members do something awesome. It takes courage to go out on a limb or to give feedback or to be vulnerable in public space, and leaders should validate and thank members who lead the charge on risk taking in this way. When people contribute a little extra, don’t ever take it for granted.
4. Embrace discomfort.
Discomfort and growth go together like peas and carrots. Leaders can embrace a growth mindset by looking at these temporary phases as opportunities to learn and develop stronger praxis. Uncomfortable conversations or periods of group tension are not failures, and they are not avoidable if your group is doing good and consistent work. So, embrace the unavoidable and demonstrate for the group that these moments lead to massive breakthrough and need not be feared. No emergency here at all, just healthy tension. When discomfort is allowed into the group process instead of being swept under the rug or made to be taboo, group members are invited to stay in it and work it out instead of defaulting to overwhelm and fight-or-flight. Getting through these sticking points is a massive group trust builder.
5. Build a culture of openness:
Keep feedback loops open, build perspective and experience sharing into the normal flow of group meeting structure. We welcome, we share news, we download on what’s happened since the last meeting, we do a round of open reflection on what’s working and what’s not. Make it such a repetitive and expected part of group communication that members never feel blindsided or singled out or in fight-or-flight overload about feedback sharing. Leaders: ASK for feedback often and be humble enough to stay flexible if that is what you want the group to also be able to do!
6. Encourage predictability:
This is a big stabilizing factor. Openness and feedback sharing can have a cost if the feedback is tough or sensitive in nature. Leaders can provide support to the group by following up and demonstrating over time that these major breakthroughs in communication and learning are not going ignored. Leaders can show the group that 10 times out of 10, when people lean into openness and trust, giving the benefit of the doubt, cooperative collaboration, feedback sharing, etc. that the end result is a higher level of connectivity and appreciation. Don’t let members feel that going out on a limb will leave them…..out on a limb. Followup and follow through.
7. Use good group management tech:
No mystery here. Good tech solidifies transparency and accountability. Leaders don’t have to do it all all alone. Democratizing the organizational toolbox levels the playing field for members. Where are the documents, where is the schedule, does everyone have access to the minutes and bylaws, is there an open and efficient process for decision making and communication? Using group management software that has your back on simplicity and transparency will mean that all of your other effort is not going to waste. Groupeasy can do all of that and more.
Some of these tips may feel like baseline interpersonal skills, and that is absolutely correct. For some leaders, these things are absolutely natural. For others, they are not, and that is ok! If you’re looking to build group trust, you may have an impulse to jump straight into a team building exercise. Whether or not a Spartan Race is a good avenue for building trust in your group is not something we can say with any certainty. But based on our years of experience both facilitating and participating in groups, as well as doing the technological housekeeping for groups of all types and sizes, what we can say is that good leadership is mandatory for good group trust. And as we often recur back to, the soft skills of leadership can also be learned, honed, and sharpened. Next week: SWOT analysis for auditing group health.
The Team at Groupeasy