Team Dynamics and Facilitation
Much of my work is with teams. They may be teams within a large organisation, or individuals in a smaller organisation that form different teams according to what they are doing. Team dynamics move and shift depending on the organisation. Some teams are fairly static in their make up, role and function, whereas others are pretty fluid. Some team members know each other well and function solidly as a team. Others are less sure of themselves as a whole.
Teams are often brought together to share knowledge, input ideas, say what they think and combine their wisdom and experience. This may be to create a strategy or action plan, to problem solve, to create a team vision or reflect on a project. Or it may be more about the team’s own development and dynamics; the way individuals communicate with each other, how well founded their team trust is, and how well they collaborate. Or even simply to identify their team culture.
When I work with a client to plan some facilitation work together, it is important to be clear on the specific objectives of the workshop. It is equally important to understand the context. This is when it is vital to take a step back from the session planning and to learn a bit more about what is going on around it.
What ARE the team dynamics?
Planning a session is not just looking at what a team can do, what individuals are capable of, or what you can get from them. It’s about the team’s willingness and openness to getting together in the first place. A team may be perfectly able to generate ideas for a new product or service for example, but they might not want to. Or they may be in desperate need of a conversation about the way they communicate with each other. But there may be all sorts of reasons to not have that conversation, yet.
Often, diving straight in with grand expectations that a team is going to produce what you need won’t work. Sometimes they need a gentle lead in, a warming up, an on-boarding to help them understand their value in the process. This will enhance their willingness and enthusiasm to contribute. A keen team that really gets stuck in will benefit more from a facilitated session than a team that’s just towing the line to please management.
So what does this mean in a practical sense? How can you make sure the team is going to be in a good place for a facilitated session?
- Aim to understand if there are other things going on that are going to block the progress of the discussion. Is there an elephant in the room, something that is more important to your team members than generating actions for the strategic plan?
- Is this the right time, or are there other things that need to happen first? Perhaps some 1:1 conversations, or an employee survey for instance.
- Consider what has been done before and what happened to the outputs. Do they relate to the work you are doing now? Perhaps there has been some previous work that didn’t land well. It’s good to find out what that is and why it wasn’t embraced by the team.
- Consider where everyone in the team is at. If some people have discussed the team vision more times than they care to remember, whereas others have never even thought about it, that can set the team dynamics astray. Don’t wait until the start of the session to discover this. Find out who has been involved in what, and how you can bridge the mismatch.
- Often people are only willing to get involved in something if they know it is going somewhere. Do what you say you are going to do with the outputs as this will encourage people to get stuck in next time. Showing your team that their time is valuable and inputs valued is more likely to elicit buy-in and participation.
- Recognise that the context surrounding a workshop or session will be different for everyone. If there are other, more important or more pressing issues for them to address, this might not be the right time.
How do you judge your team members’ willingness to get stuck into a conversation or discussion about something? If you need a hand in deciding whether now is the right time to set up some facilitated sessions, or if you want to figure out those team dynamics before getting stuck in, get in touch.
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