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Entries from June 2015

3 signs that you are in a group not a team

25th June 2015
Teams and GroupthinkThink about the last time you were part of a
group, where someone proposed an idea that you thought was quite poor. However,
everyone else in the group agreed with the person who suggested the idea and
the group seemed set on pursuing that course of action.
When you see this happening it’s a pretty good
indicator that groupthink is occurring and preventing creative thinking,
effective decision making, efficient problem solving and goals being met.
What is Groupthink?
It is a psychological phenomenon in which
people strive for consensus within a group. In many cases, people will set
aside their own personal beliefs or adopt the opinion of the rest of the group.
People who are opposed to the decisions or
overriding opinion of the group as a whole frequently remain quiet, preferring
to keep the peace rather than disrupt the uniformity of the crowd.
Why does groupthink occur?
In many cases, people end up engaging in
groupthink when they fear that their objections might disrupt the harmony of
the group or suspect that their ideas might cause other members to reject them.
Members place emphasis on everyone agreeing and want to be on good terms with
the group no matter what the cost.
Situations where the group is placed under
extreme stress or where moral dilemmas exist also increase the occurrence of
groupthink, as does a strong persuasive charismatic leader.
Team effectivenessSymptoms of groupthink
These fall into 3 broad categories:
Over confidence in the groups power
Limited thinking about a problem
Pressure to comply within the group
confidence in the groups power
You will see the group
become overly optimistic and take big risks believing they are invincible.
Alternatively you see members of the group rationalize thoughts or suggestions
that challenge what the majority is thinking.  This causes them to
ignore warning signs.
thinking about a problem
There is a belief that
whatever the group does it will be right as they all know the difference
between right and wrong. This leads members to ignore
possible moral problems and ignore consequences of individual and group
You may also get members stereotyping. This leads members of the in-group to ignore or even demonize
other group members who may oppose or challenge the group’s ideas.
Pressure to comply
The majority directly
threaten the person who questions decisions by telling them that they can
always leave the group if they don’t want to agree. Direct pressure to conform is often placed on members who pose questions, and
those who question the group are often seen as disloyal or traitorous.
members of the group take it upon themselves to discourage different ideas from
being expressed in the group. These “Mindguards act as self-appointed
censors to hide problematic information from the group.
This can result in people who have doubts to
hiding their fears or misgivings.
How to Prevent or Minimise Groupthink
There are steps that you can take to minimize
this problem when you see it occurring or prevent it from happening:
  • Breaking up members into smaller independent
    teams can be helpful.
  • As the leader of
    the group avoid stating your opinions or preferences when assigning tasks. Give
    people time to come up with their own ideas first.
  • Discuss the group’s
    ideas with an outside member in order to get impartial opinions.
  • Encourage group
    members to remain critical. Don’t discourage dissent or challenges to the
    prevailing opinion. Encourage alternative views and challenging of ideas.
  • As the leader be
    absent from many group meetings to avoid overly influencing decisions.
  • Have a process in place for
    checking the fundamental assumptions behind important decisions, for validating
    the decision-making process.
  • Utilise group techniques like brainstorming and six
    thinking hats when exploring a problem. 

It would be great to hear your stories on where you have
overcome groupthink, so please share them. We can all learn from your success.
important thing about groupthink is that it works not so much by censoring dissent
as by making dissent seem somehow improbable.”
James Surowiecki

The single most common mistake of team development

15th June 2015
Team EffectivenessThe most common mistake I have come across is people saying
they are part of a team when in fact they are really a working group and the
difference between the two is palpable. You’ll understand this if you’ve ever
been part of a high performing team!
When you are on a true team there is an energy and
enthusiasm that can be felt, they are clear about their purpose and there is a
commitment to deliver individual as well as collective results. 
Katzenbach and Smith define a team as a small number of
people with complementary skills who
are committed to a common purpose,
performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves accountable.
  • Do you consider yourself to be part of a team?
  • If yes, do you ever spend time reflecting on how you are
    performing, or how you can make significant performance improvements?
  • Do you hold yourself individually accountable and mutually
    accountable with your team mates? 

If you don’t consider yourself to be part of a team you’re
likely to be a member of a working group where you interact with team members
primarily to share information, best practices and make decisions to help each
individual perform within his or her area of responsibility.  There is no common purpose that binds
people together or joint work products that call for a team approach or mutual
So What?
All teams start out as a working group, an array of
individuals coming together to get a job done. As a leader it’s important to
recognise this as the development journey from working group to high performing
team takes time and effort not just from you, but from every member in the
The question is do you want to harness the collective
energy, skills and experience you have to deliver outstanding results?
If you
do then the journey is worth taking.
There is no one best place to start, or one best thing to
do. What I would say is hire an experienced facilitator or team coach to
support you and the team to get there.
Team EffectivenessAs the team leader you need to be seen as part of the team
which is why using an external facilitator is worth it – it also demonstrates
that you are prepared to be led which signals to the team that any one of them
can take the lead when necessary
Indicators of High Performing
So where are you and your team on the scale from work group
to high performing team?
Use these indicators as a starting point and use a 1 to 10
scale where 1 is low and 10 is high. It will hopefully give you some idea of
where to start if you want to enhance performance.
  1. Trust – the team trust one another to get things done
  2. Healthy Challenge – the team are prepared to challenge each
    other to achieve the optimum result possible and accept this as an essential
    way of operating
  3. Commit to action – when a decision is made they all commit
    to delivering and deliver what is needed when it’s required
  4. Accountable – they hold each other accountable and are ready
    and willing to give each other honest feedback on contributions made
  5. Focus on Results – they focus on what collectively has been

If you know there is work to be done and you are not quite
sure where to start email me and
we can explore options to move forward.
 “When a gifted
team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines instinct with boldness
and effort, it is ready to climb.”

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