Corporations, organizations and schools on many occasions call for individuals to work in small groups. In order to solve problems, these teams usually need to communicate. In as much as there are people who prefer to work alone when tackling problems, team work performs better than individuals working alone. Small group communication is very effective in offering diversity of perspectives and the fact that group members have the opportunity of taking defined roles. In small groups, members must always be willing to communicate freely and openly with other members of the group in order to achieve the desired results. The diversity of experience and perspectives brought by each individual is very effective in achieving great results.
The Roles of Group Members in Group Communication
Every person in a small group is expected to play certain roles within a particular group. In as much as some roles may directly relate to the task aspect of the group, others promote social interaction within the group. The third set of roles of members in a group is usually self-centered and may even turn out to be disparaging for the group.
Group Task Roles
Group task roles are very effective in assisting the group to focus on achieving its objectives. Effectual group members must always serve a myriad of roles. In as much as some members may prefer to look into few specific roles, it is always better for roles to be spread more evenly among the members with the roles being frequently alternated. This is because of the fact that focusing on specific roles may turn out to be counterproductive. In completing a group’s task, the role of the initiator-contributor is usually to generate new ideas that the group should work on. The information-seeker or giver, together with the opinion seeker or giver ask for or give facts on opinions.
Both of them are also required to inquire about clarifications on the topics being discussed as well as present particulars and views of group members. Within the group, the role of the elaborator is to explain the ideas within the group while giving relevant examples for the sake of clarifications. The relationship between ideas is shown by the coordinator while the orienter shifts the direction of the group’s discussion. The group’s actions are usually measured by the evaluator-critic against some objective standard. The evaluator-critic, as the name suggests, evaluates the group’s decisions while at the same time questioning the practicability or the logic of the suggestions.
Eventually, he/she provides the group with not only positive, but also negative feedback. The role of stimulating the group to a higher level of activity is usually played by the energizer. The procedural-technician carries out all the logistical roles of the group while all the records of the group’s actions are kept by the recorder.
It is not always possible for a particular group to be task-oriented at all times. Due to the fact that group members have a myriad of interpersonal relationships, it is vital for these relationships to be nurtured for the sake of effectiveness of the group . If at all the group members are going to be effective, their satisfaction is very necessary. This calls for the social roles which are also effective in group building and maintenance.
The encourager or harmonizer at all times provides the members with positive reinforcement through social approval (Cragan et al., 2009). He/she also acts as a mediator just in case of differences that may arise between the group members. The role of the compromiser is always to move the group to the position that is favored by all the group members. The expediter on the other hand assists the compromiser in keeping communication channels open. Within a group, the work of the standard setter is usually to recommend standards for the group to accomplish. The role of the follower is usually to go along with the group and accept its ideas.
The group task roles and social roles are very effective in assisting the group in achieving its goals. Individual roles are usually dysfunctional and counter-productive. This is because they are very instrumental in limiting the group from achieving its goals. The group’s effectiveness in terms of productivity and personal satisfaction are also seriously hindered by individual roles. While attacking other group members, the aggressor also deflates the status of others. The blocker on the other hand opposes progress of the group. The recognition seeker usually calls attention to him or herself while the self-confessor seeks to divulge nongroup related ideas or feelings. Finally, the dominator affirms control over the group by manipulating other group members.
Processes of Group Problem Solving
In the world today, group decision problem solving is actually a part of everyday organizational life. A lot of time is spent by many organizations on meetings aimed at solving problems or making some type of joint decision. Solving problems in a group is an intricate affair that entails processes.
The Input Phase
Gaining a comprehensible perception of the underlying problem is the ultimate goal of the input phase. It commences with identification of the problem with a clear and concise account. Identification of the problem involves a precise description of the present circumstances and the desired occurrences. This is very vital in communicating and discussing the ideal problem solving process. In this phase, the group must realize that something is amiss and requires correction, or something is threatening and necessitates prevention. Consequently, the group must also know that something could be inviting and needs acceptance or missing and needs to be provided.
The best way of beginning a problem solving process is by brainstorming. Members of a group can put down possible solutions by presenting their perceptions. Alternatives are then shared amicably within the group in a non-judgmental fashion. As they continue to brainstorm, members of a group can then organize, sort out, and prioritize problems. This should then be followed by the formation of a hierarchy of the most to the least vital.
Stating the criteria to be used in evaluating possible alternatives to the problem is the next step of the input phase. The efficacy of the preferred solutions should also be discussed. Throughout this step, it is imperative to state any acknowledged limitations of adequate alternatives. It is also fundamental to categorize the criteria to be followed as either indispensable for a victorious solution or simply preferred.
During this second step, brainstorming should be properly used. Members of a group can quickly indicate possible criteria for use in the evaluation of alternatives. It is also important to consider personal values, feelings, and attitudes in regard to the group’s task. The practical factors in relation to how the possible alternatives can work should be put into consideration.
The generated criteria can then be shared in a non-judgmental way using appropriate procedures. The most vital criteria are then placed into different categories after which, a preliminary selection is made. A thorough evaluation is then carried out in relation to their rationality to the given problem statement. In the next step, these criteria will then be adapted based on essential facts that have been acknowledged.
The final step in the input stage is to gather information relevant to solving the problem. In most cases, the quality of facts is more vital than the quantity. As a matter of fact, collection of too much information can eventually confuse the situation in stead of clarifying it. A clear analysis of the facts can then be established in terms of problem statement and criteria. All non-pertinent facts should be eliminated at this stage.
The Processing Phase
The processing phase involves the development, evaluation, and selection of alternatives that can tackle the problem. The first step involves the development of possible solutions and alternatives. Thereafter, an evaluation of the alternatives is done vis-à-vis the stated criteria. The group should discuss the pros and cons including the interesting aspects of each alternative. A written evaluation ought to be done with the elimination of alternatives that are clearly outside the bounds. Only alternatives which the majority consider as relevant and correct should be given further consideration.
The next step in the processing phase is the development of a solution which can effectively decipher the problem. In case of complex situations, it is important to combine effective solutions. It is vital to mull over the worst that can happen in case the solution is executed.
The Output Phase
The output phase involves the development and actual implementation of the solution. It involves a provision of sufficient details of the plan to give room for successful execution. The development of the plan requires that the major phases of implementation are put into consideration. It is usually vital to create a timeline including diagrams of the most important steps in the implementation. The right plan is then executed completely and circumspectly in relation to the developed steps with minor and appropriate modifications.
The Review Phase
The next step involves assessing the execution of the solution, which is basically an ongoing process. Prior to assessing the efficacy of the solution, some determination regarding the comprehensiveness of the execution needs to be considered. This is a vital stage since the implementation of the solution is vital for the evaluation of its efficacy. The next step, which is the evaluation of the effectiveness of the solution, is also fundamental . The outcomes are evaluated in light of the account created at the commencement of the process. The solution ought to be reviewed with regards to its effectiveness, its impact on the people involved, and the degree to which it is treasured by the group members.
The Effectiveness of Individual Communication Styles
Within any given group, communication involves the spoken and the unspoken. This implies that the implied and explicit messages are expressed and exchange in relation to ideas, information and outlook. In any two way communication, the two parties not only talk each other, they also listen to each other as well. This is very helpful in getting and conveying feedback, as well as the elucidation of suspicions, misunderstandings, and confusions. Eventually, members of a group are in a position of understanding each other.
Determining individual communication styles depend on a person’s level of directness or openness. An individual’s level of sincerity is determined by listening to how much the person talks about him or herself . People who are very open prefer to share information and are generally very relaxed with sentiments. This means that soon after meeting new people, they open up and speak explicitly. When it comes to directness, this is easily determined by how an individual is willing to take risks and his/her mannerisms. While indirect individuals treasure safety, indirect folks take charge of circumstances.
It is important to get to know how to communicate with each individual depending on their nature. For individuals who are open, it is vital to let them be comfortable first before anything else. This is because they usually express themselves freely before getting down to business. Most individuals who are reserved do not share information about themselves. This means that anybody communicating with them need not to ask them particulars about their lives. This will only make them feel very uncomfortable.
Individual communication styles are very effective in helping people to understand how communication preferences affect decision making, group effectiveness and cooperation. Strategies are also developed for better group communication. Consequently, an improved understanding on the group cooperation is developed with the realization of advanced output and enhanced bottom line outcomes.
Dynamics and Themes of the Group
A group is two or more people interrelating with one another in such a way that each individual influences and is influenced by each person. A group can only be defined as a group if the members interrelate with one another, share goals and objectives, are socially attracted to one another, and have a common uniqueness which differentiates them from other groups (Levi, 2011). A group is usually in a position of sharing experiences, providing opinion, pooling ideas; generating insights and providing a ground for psychoanalysis of knowledge.
The development of groups is a process that is dependent on the personalities of the people forming the group. This is because the developments of groups involve bringing people together from different backgrounds. They also bring their past experiences, coming with particular set of expectations, and personalities. The manner in which a group develops over a period of time is determined by the expectations and priorities of the members.
Life Stages of a Group
The first stage is the forming stage. This is the stage where members get involved with one another, and introduce themselves to one another. For the sake of clarity and comfort among the members, strong leadership is needed from the group leader. Storming is the next stage in which the members begin voicing their individual differences. They also join others who share similar beliefs. Members ought to be highly involved with one another while voicing their concerns in order to feel represented and understood. It is therefore imperative for the group leader to assist members to voice their views in order to arrive at a consensus.
The third stage is norming. At this stage, members are beginning to share familiar dedication to the principles of the group. This includes the overall goals and how they can be accomplished. It is imperative for the leader of the group to clarify goals to each member. The leader should also establish a proper structure fro the achievement of the group’s goals.
The forth stage is performing. This is the stage in which the group is running with efficacy to accomplish its goals. The style of leadership at this stage is usually very indirect with members registering stronger contribution and concern in the group’s development. The last stage of group development is closing and celebration. At this stage, it becomes clear to all the members that the group has realized its objectives. This point in the life of a group must always be acknowledged to avoid the feelings of skepticism on future efforts of the group.
During the life of a group, some particular themes are bound to emerge. Themes are developed by describing how they apply to various members of a particular group. They are usually very instrumental in maintaining trust and making internal dialogue explicit. In most cases, themes bring interactions into here and now situations. When it comes to creating and maintaining trust, members of a group are asked to express their views and thoughts on what they think about the group.
Cohesion is the degree in which members of a group are wiling to arrive at common aspirations and group distinctiveness. To be consistently successful, high interaction groups need high task cohesion . However, for low interaction groups, cohesion is usually of little importance for the realization of success. The degree to which members are willing to get along with one another is known as social cohesion while task cohesion is the extent to which members collaborate in order to accomplish the group’s objectives.
Cohesion is usually affected by a group’s stability. The longer a group is together with the same members, the more stable it becomes. Consequently, similarity is another factor. If the group members have similarity in terms of age, skills, and attitudes, cohesion is developed. The size of the group also matters since cohesion is quickly enhanced in small groups. Additionally, when group members are pleased with each other’s performance, behavior and conformity to the norms of the group, cohesion is established.
This is the tendency of members of a group to minimize their efforts when they are part of a group. This usually happens when members believe that their efforts will be of little consequence in the group’s activities. Again, it may happen when members have a dislike for hard work while assuming that their lack of effort will be overlooked.
Loafing among members of a group can be avoided with a high level of performance being employed to improve a group’s productivity. Subsequently, cohesion can be improved with the development of positive group dynamics.
Attitudes and Skills of Group Members
Attitudes refer to the preferences of an individual or a group of people towards or away from certain people, events or things. It also refers to the perception and fortitude from which individuals or groups approach particular issues. The kind of attitude an individual has shapes his/her decisions or actions. In as much as attitude may refer to individuals, groups of people may also have attitude. For a group to actively participate in its activities, a number of key qualities are necessary for the success of the group.
First and foremost, there must be respect for individuals within the group and the group in general. Members of the group must also posses a strong sense of dedication and accountability. According to Shulman, it is also imperative for the members to openly look at alternate solutions, new opportunities and means of improvement. Inventiveness, novelty and insight are also very necessary. Each member of the group must also be eager to play a part without always having to direct. Self-confidence and the ability to trust in others are also vital.
Any group that wishes to accomplish its objectives must always have a shared vision in which there is a concurrence on the ideal actions that need to be undertaken. A group must also trust in its collective efficiency. It also should treasure the skills of dealing with one another.
For a group to be effective in its endeavors, members of the group must be flexible and be in a position of rapidly adapting to events. It is also vital for them to exchange ideas timely, completely, and accurately. Shulman asserts that there should also be a clear and appropriate expression to one another. Members must also be willing to plan, combine forces, and contribute in approaches to solving problems. Conflicts that may arise within the group should also be resolved with common contentment.
Every member of a group should support and build the confidence of other group members. Each individual should also see the issues and problems in their context while being sensitive to the environment of the situation .
Effective Participation and Leadership in a Group
Within any group, participation is an essential process. This is basically due to the fact that the rest of the processes depend upon the participation of the members of the group. In most cases, the level of participation of various members in a group varies. In as much as some members may be participating actively, others may be passive or withdrawn . Participation in actual sense includes involvement, concern for the task, and straight or indirect involvement to the objectives of the group. Lack of participation of the group members spells a death knell to the existence of the group.
Factors Which Affect the Participation of Members of a Group
One of the key factors which affect the participation of group members includes the substance or the mission of the group. The task ought to be of significance, relevance and importance to the members. The physical ambiance of the venue should be expressively, socially and physically calm. The psychological atmosphere should be non-threatening and accepting.
The level of interaction is also fundamental. This basically implies that adequate information should be accessible to everyone at a level everyone can easily understand. Verbal participation and body language is an indication of involvement in the group. The manner, style and tone in which members participate is imperative.
Effective Leadership in a Group
The effectiveness of a group is usually enhanced by the presence of a leader to keep the members motivated on the process of achieving their goals. Any group will not be in a position of achieving its objectives in case of poor leadership. In as much as it is important to have a leader, he/she must posses the essential qualities and skills in order to be effective. A leader must be aware of the nitty-gritty of the task of the group. Unless the leader is well conversant with the work, the group may lose focus.
An efficient leader must also set an example to the rest of the group. Laziness and dishonesty on the part of the leader hinders the effectiveness of the group. Such a leader cannot expect his group to be scrupulous and frank. Consequently, a leader should avoid biasness. Having special favorites is detrimental as all the members should be treated equally. Any effective leader must possess patience as a virtue. Guiding members of the group to enable them learn could be intricate and patience is needed.
Another important skill that a leader should have is constructive feedback. This implies that the leader needs to congratulate his group members if they perform well. Additionally, the leader must also rebuke the members in case of any wrong doing. However, it is important for criticism to be constructive and not debasing. Motivation should always come from the leader. This encourages members of the group to gladly contribute towards the success of the group.
Being a leader does not necessarily mean that the suggestions made by others are useless. As such, a leader must always be in a position of accepting constructive ideas of other group members. Consequently, a leader should have oodles of consideration and constantly focus on the betterment of the group.
The effectiveness of any group is dependent on how members closely work together. This is also determined by roles equally played by each member. The vantage point as a group member gives provision for great opportunities to regularly observe the happenings in a group. Depending on the frequencies of meetings and the understanding of what an individual is looking for in a group, one can be in a position of being instrumental in effecting group and individual success.