Continued from an earlier blog entry:
Stage One – Inclusive Forming
Even if you all know each other you still must form as a group. There is no skipping stage one, though of course if you’ve worked together often and well, stage one could be relatively easy. By taking an active rather than a passive approach, forming is a developmental stage that can be managed in order to ensure effective group process and, ultimately, productive work.
Therefore we call the first stage “Inclusive Forming” because inclusion is the key component of the forming stage. Here’s what to look for while forming. Here also are possible interventions towards the goal of constantly increasing the productivity of the group and any meeting. As mentioned, even if you seem to be the only one aware of these dynamic stages, you can likely help the others.
When you observe the group you notice that: 1) Some are being silent…2) one comes late…3) one person is constantly interrupted…4) another has a pattern of talking at great length…5) and still another is new to the group. These are forming, or perhaps with the long talker, storming (control) issues in Tuckman’s sequence. Inclusive Forming holds a key to minimizing needless conflict and managing differences in a constructive manner during the storming phase.
In the order mentioned above, you might say: 1) “Tom, is that issue of concern to you or those on your work crew?” 2) After the late one has settled in, “Mary just before you came in we were discussing…” 3) Some group members are more prone to wait and/or give their time to others. You must be active to bring them in. “Mike, I think you wanted to say something.” 4) A riskier suggestion -Those who talk long often repeat the same point over and over. Therefore, interrupt after their first paragraph and say, “Just a minute…I want to make sure I understand you and also that others get to comment. Do you mean that, ‘…………..’? Did I get it?” “Yes? No? OK, but before you continue let’s hear from others.” 5) “Susan, welcome! In case anyone doesn’t know, would you tell us your job responsibilities?”
The formal leader, or whoever is aware of these dynamics, can initiate bringing order and clarity in this beginning stage. There are also formal topics of inclusion, such as the team and meeting’s purpose, current agenda, the team member’s roles, etc. Of course many are anxious when a meeting begins. Many are still thinking about unfinished tasks elsewhere. You can help them “arrive” and be present and engaged in the meeting!
Of course the suggested statements above are merely illustrative. Each situation is unique. You will invent what is best for you given your tendencies, your dominant conflict style, and the urgency of the moment. The fundamental issues in Stage One are: How will this go for me and the group? If I am not the leader, how will the leader handle the group, including inclusion, conflict, and managing the task? Why am I here? Why are others? What is the purpose of this (formal or informal) gathering? Will anyone listen to me? Can I focus on what is happening immediately in the meeting and on what the other participants are saying, especially the new or quieter attendees when they risk speaking up? As goals and roles are clarified, who should be here and who is missing? Who speaks first? Is anyone listening in an active way? How do we help each bring their own unique expertise to bear on achieving our goals?
If you are aware of the importance of these issues, you can then help bring both clarity about goals and of the important role of each participant. Aided by your interventions in the Inclusive Forming Stage, the group is now poised to minimize any negative aspects of the “Storming” Stage.
Next segment: Dispersed Participation (or how to engage as many as possible)