First, seek to understand

We have been discussing effective group facilitation stratagies and witnessed 2 great presentations tonight.  The two groups presented on topics such as how to have risky conversations, getting out of the “drama triangle”, how we contribute to grop problems,  etc.   These topics all pointed to the relevancy of being really aware of your inferences, attitudes, and biases. Our presentation next week will touch on finding your own voice, and we are going to dig deeper into this subject. What past experiences make you do (and think and say) the things you do??

Being in many groups, and especially my current group in this class, you make inferences all the time based on something you see or hear about a person.   Are we seeking FIRST to understand, not judge? To understand where people are coming from, we have to ask questions.  Do we just take in what we hear/see/know (data) and I go to our own summary of conclusions.   It takes  a long time getting to know people before you before you can respond.  It takes patience on everyone’s part, something many people don’t have time for.   

The Gound Rules in Chapter 5 of our facilitation text are great rules for all types of relationships –  work teams, facilitation, solving business problems, and basic communication.  Every conversation and interaction can be an opportunity to practice how to understand others more through questioning.  Once we can really listen with openness, and have the INTENT to understand and have postive outcomes, we will be contributing to the problems at work in teams.



Men and Women in teams

We do not have any men in my 612 class.  There ARE men in my 603 class.  Ah… a new dynamic.

Granted, in 612, we are attempting to make teams really work the way they should.  The process is still bumpy, but I am starting to see why you need to go through the phases of development, spend time together, have objectives, deal with conflict, etc.   Great –  us gals are all working from the same textbook here!

In 603, well, we are not really following these processes of group development and organization, and it shows. We also have a man in my project group.   Nice as he can be, funny and interesting, but he is a man.  He wants to get this project checked off and then he can get married, graduate, and move to Maryland. That’s the plan he shared upfront.

He told me the other night “you all talk too much…talking about girl scout cookies and work, etc…you’re making the project too complicated! I am not driving to another group meeting”.  And he meant it.  He posted his outline and thoughts four our assignment on the wiggio board hoping that would end our “flow of ideas”  for our group teaching assignment.  But we kept talking after class on Thursday, and we added stuff to boot. We are driving him insane. Why won’t these women STOP talking, communicating, chatting, sharing, and making friends?!!   We compromised and we are going to “skype” him in for our final meeting. 

Is it a girl thing, or are we just engaging in group socialization? Not to stereotype, but I am sure he knew when he joined a group with 4 women, there was going to be a lot of talking. 

Everyone is not going to take the group organization process seriously or understand why spending time together is important.    Also, the diversity issue is apparent.   Men and women have different perspectives, and that is the real world.

The accountability and trust question

One of the interesting and complex aspects of team development for me is accountability.  In simple terms, it means being responsible.  Every team member should have some level of  significant involvement that leads to the team goal. Can this be measured?

I’ll bring up my marriage – my ultimate example of teamwork (have I talked about this before?) Anyway, when we got married, we agreed that we would not have “roles” or concrete tasks.  In other words, we never agreed that Steve would take out the trash, and I would cook dinner.  We assumed that it would cause too much stress if someone could not do their part one day, and we would start blaming each other for slacking on the job.   So the agreement was – do what is right – communicate if you feel something needs to be done.   I take out the trash when it stinks, and Steve will cook if he is hungry! Just get it done.  There is no such thing as 50/50.  “It’s Hogwash!”  as my father-in-law says.

So my marriage team is built on trust and love.  We just do what is right and act and give out of love.  What about a team with people at work or at school.  We’re not married or under a contract of any kind, so our “giving” is out of motivation, where we see oursleves in the team, and well, our level of trust.   Do I trust that my teammate at work will follow up on my client as we agreed last week?  Will my teammate in class finish those last minute edits on the paper? What if they don’t – It will come back on me!

Accountability is tricky.   You want everyone to participate with the same enthusiasm and care, but then again, how do you measure that everyone has been equally responsible?  I hear this complaint a lot in team environments – someone is not doing enough.   I don’t know if a team ever has perfect balance of tasks, but everyone should care.  We all have the same goals, right?  

Communication is key.  Life is not always fair or “even”. Sometimes you will do more, and sometimes your teammates will do more.  Everyones contribution may not be of the same impact or effort level.  Sometimes it is perception of teammates, but nothing is measurable.

At some point, maybe not early on in the group formation, the team has to trust each other.  Trust that we will all get it done together.  You have to trust in each other, and communicate when you can’t do your part so the the team can adjust and flex.

As the Muskateer’s motto proclaims “All for one and one for all”.

Bad Church Business

My dad called me yesterday.  He rarely calls me and if he does call, it is a brief call to discuss a piece of business (like to confirm if I am coming over on Saturday).   Yesterday, he called to vent about some bad church business going on in Williamsburg.

My parents have been to the same church for about 50 years. That’s right, since they got married in 1960. They had the same pastor until 2 years ago.  Let’s call the new pastor Rev. Pete.  Rev Pete was voted into the church on a marginal vote.   It is still questionable today if he was legally elected.  My parents personally are not impressed.  

Rev.  Pete is not a strong leader of his group, the church.   He has never verbalized his vision or any goals.  He has his favorite worshippers that he confides in. He only shows up on Sundays and is rarely available during the week.   My parents are suspicious about where he is Monday-Saturday.   My folks have little respect for him, as well as a several of their friends.  They liked the original pastor, let’s call him Rev. Joe.   Rev. Joe was a great leader for 48 years. Some members were tired of Rev. Joe, so they like Rev. Pete.   Rev. Pete is easy going and does not require much.  He does not push the envelope.

The church, a group of about 300 members, is now split.   All of the smaller teams within the church (auxillaries and mission teams) are now confused about their purpose (budget, member roles, etc) because Rev. Pete has not been clear about resources or direction.   The teams are now breaking apart, members’ roles are blurred.  They do not know the goals, so now competition and “back-biting” have seeped in. Ugly.

Some church members will call other members on the phone and talk about how “bad it is”.  They talk about how poor communication is, what a bad leader Rev. Pete is, and thier frustration over lack of clear direction in the church.    They are also talking about other church members – who is on Rev. Pete’s side and who is on the “we need to get him out of here” side. This is called gossip, and my mother is in the middle of it.  The church group is split (many members have left) and the small teams are now ineffective.   Members are mad at each other, and there lacks cohesion. Nobody is talking about a solution.

My dad called to vent.  What should he do?  After 50 years in a well- run, defined, predictable group of church members, how should he deal with this?   He mentioned that the last church finance meeting, it seemed like there were two different churches there:  arguing and confusion.  Not a nice scenario for church members.  My dad barely gets a word in at the last meeting, due to the arguing. He is distraught.  

We came to the conclusion that gossiping on the phone was probably a bad thing, and mom should stop. We also agreed that the lack of respect for a leader has far reaching implications.   Rev. Pete never properly socialized into the new church environment.  People have not really spent any time with him, so he’s still a stranger.  He  probably does not know how his lack of clear vision, direction, and communication is causing all the smaller teams in the church to turn on each other and become unable to complete thier missions.   No one is dealing with the problem, they are just going along, waiting to see what drama errupts next.   

When do you leave a group or team?  Is two years too long to operate this way? Even more, all this bad business disrupts the worship experience.   That’s the whole purpose of church. Have they forgotten why they are there?

I hope that someone will school Rev. Pete soon.  Perhaps a brave person will talk to him and make some suggestions to build cohesion.  Some ideas may be spending time with his members ona personal level, making his role as pastor clearer, announcing his goals and make it clear for each team, and making himself available more.

Members do not have to stay in a group. Like any business or organization, without a contract, members may leave, and then it’s too late to make it better.

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall

My group is in it’s forming stage.   I get the feeling that we are a little behind in this phase, but I’m glad we are getting there.  Some of the other groups seem much further along than we are in the group development.   I started to ask, “Do they have more chemistry than my group?”  Maybe the others are more organized and motivated.

That’s OK, I have faith in my group, Mosaic.  We are all so different, yet our goals are clear, and I can tell we all want to do well on our projets.  No excuses for fatigue, work schedules, etc.  We are a team and we have a mission.

This week, we were still working on our charter.  We had fun finalizing it, and doling out roles.  We decided to give out fun role names, not the traditional roles, like “timekeeper” or “agenda leader”.     Each person had to describe the role she wanted based on her strengths (that was our team decision, to work from our strengths).   I could not articulate my strength in the team.  I finally started talking out loud, and talked about how I am always the planner/organizer.  I also stated that I like to talk – a lot.   I am the one to talk about the “possibilities” and usually end up directing and summarizing what needs to be done.   I am the overseer of my team. They call me the RingLeader.

I am not sure if I like that name or not, but it suprised me.   My team told me that the names I suggested for myself were not “big” enough for me and I should give myself more credit.  They told me that they liked my ideas so far, and I had a leadership strength.  It’s our third meeting and that is what they see in me?    I started to think that I do not give myself a lot of credit.   I was just going to be the “planner’ or “content organizer”. 

 I also shared with the others what I saw in them as well.  Maybe I suprised them with my feedback too. I am still learning about my teammates. We are all really different in terms of interests and work styles, but they are already my mirror.  The team name Mosaic (my contribution) was a name to describe our diversity.  It also describes the reflection, like  shiny mosaic tile.   We are each a mirror for each other!

Jumping In

Some things in life you just have to jump in and try them.

I do not like being new at something.  Like going back to school after 22 years.  I know this was strictly my choice, and I am the one who started down this journey, but this is uncomfortable.  

How is it that I spend 22 years working and having a family and then I stop the flow of life to do something totally different and unfamiliar. This hurts a lot! 

But I look back and wonder how I got my application for graduate school done.  How did I get through the process to receive (hopefully one day) my  VA Dependent Education grant.   I also managed to get a VCU ID, VCU email, registered for classes, a parking pass, and textbooks.     Well, if I can do all of that in about 8 weeks, I know I have something in me that knows how to get it done.   When I want something, I just jump in.

If I mess up a paper, misspeak in a group meeting, or completely mess up my wiki, blackboard, PB works, wordpress, wiggio and other technology I am supposed to be using but may not now of yet, what is the worst thing that will happen??  I’ll have to jump in and fix it!

As my husband says, “Honey, take it one week at a time, you’ll get it all done”.  See how much faith he has in me!  Why am I so worried?  I have to learn how to learn some new stuff.   I think at the end of the semester, I will surprise myself.  I may get tired, I may cry, but I’m in it now, so I’ll press ahead.

As I work in a group in this Groups and Teams class, I have to work with 3 strangers on 3 projects that are a considerable part of my grade.  I wonder if am I the only one worried that we don’t know each other and now we have to rely on each other?  I’ll have to jump into the process and see what happens :).  We have 4 different personalities.  I wonder if they can tell I am nervous about this whole thing.  I am nervous about graduate school in general, not just my group.

Did I mention I have another class on Thursday nights?   Oh, yeah.  I have a group project there too. There are 4 more strangers in that group.

So how will I make it in school and these groups?   The same way I have tackled life.  I have to take one day at a time. Everyday is a learning experience, whether I am in school or not.  I have to learn how to soothe my aching anxiety over being the new kid on the block.  I’ll learn how to write, how to do group projects, how to use all the new gadgety technology.  (First lesson:  write all the passwords on an index card)

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