Group management mistakes can lead to group failure

Group Management Mistakes: Command and Control Leadership

You’re managing a group. You’ve taken on a leadership role because you have a deep interest in the cause, and you have the resources and experience level to rise to the challenge. You’re dedicated to getting GOOD at group management. Brilliant! Stick with us over the coming weeks as we cover some common group management mistakes to avoid.

Command-And-Control Leadership: Collaboration killer

At Groupizy, we’ve noticed that there are a number of common reasons that groups fail. One huge roadblock to group management success is a command-and-control leadership approach. This style of leadership, where all information and decision-making flows through the leader, does not work well in a collaborative group of friends,  volunteers, or a community cohort. Even the most well-intentioned leaders can slide into this management style because of the challenges to organization presented by group app scatter. Command-and-control is inherently inflexible, hierarchical, and it creates a huge barrier to group member input and autonomy. Furthermore, it rapidly leads to leader burnout, and creates significant issues when it comes time to pass the leadership torch. All of that can spell doom for group longevity.

Group management mistakes lead to collective fatigue

Here’s what happens with command-and-control dynamics: The long-term success and growth of the group is limited to the work capacity of the leader, the group’s information hub. Decision-making grinds to a halt because it cannot happen without leader input. Group members who may very well desire to contribute more become fatigued by the barriers to swift decisioning and communication. Frustration increases for group leaders and members as communication continues to breakdown. As the group gets bogged down in procedural dysfunction, the previously energetic and passionate leader burns out. If they decide to step away from the role, succession issues arise because the group leader has not built any transparency into the system. Nobody in the group really understands how the group stays operational except for the weary, outgoing leader. Without a sea change, the group cannot go on.

Does this sound familiar?

Groups often passively fall into command-and-control dynamics because of a few common scenarios.

The first scenario is this: an energetic and well-intentioned leader is in charge of a fledgling group. They see that there is a lot to keep track of and they may desire to keep from scaring new members off with a long list of responsibilities. In an attempt to keep the fires stoked for the long-term benefit of the group, they take on too much. Cue juggling-knives-on-a-beach-ball.

The second scenario (which could be happening at the same time as the first): the group is organized around using a handful of single-purpose tools like email, calendar apps, survey apps, etc. As information, documents, and processes get spread across various platforms, people begin to lose track of what is where. The leader has to work double time to answer questions and put out fires, and eventually only they understand how the scatter is organized. They have now, perhaps inadvertently, become the heartbeat of the group because they have the access, the lists, and the first-hand experience with the tools. Nothing can possibly happen without them.

Great group management means using efficient technology

The first problem to solve is the technology problem:

The most practical way to begin the decentralization process is to streamline! Instead of cobbling together multiple apps, find a group management platform that supports multiple functions! The group can better live into the future if everything is organized one place. Efficient uses of technology are a great way to build transparency and trust into the identity of the group.

With the scatter problem solved, the group can co-create and share accountability for big decisions and chunks of work. There is no need for the leader to take on a hero role. Asked how leaders can help to create a culture of shared responsibility, US Army General Stanley McChrystal said:

“What you can do is tell people how to think about things and the broader mission. There’s a great line we used to use in Afghanistan: “If, when you get on the ground, the order that we gave you is wrong, execute the order that we should have given you.” Think about the responsibility you’re giving your subordinates when you issue that instruction. You’re looking for them to use their best judgment.”

Of course, your fellow group members are not your subordinates in battle! But the same wisdom has group management carryover. Good group management means ensuring that everyone a) has a shared understanding of the mission and b) has efficient tools that support the group process. Now, the group becomes nimble enough to collaborate effectively and to pivot if need be without massive energy leaks. And the leader becomes better able to steer, troubleshoot, and motivate without throwing their sanity to the wind.

Next up: Lack of shared mission

Happy Grouping,

The team at Groupeasy

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