It’s a privilege to witness a group of 24 people move from a disjointed collection of individuals to a high functioning team. Nearly each time we run the JOFC workshop, this is exactly what happens. I want to share with you some of the insights and lessons we’ve gleaned from facilitating groups through this experience that might help you help groups reach this state. We share our suggestions for how facilitators and participants can show up to facilitate the emergence of a high functioning team, and how to recognize its emergence.
What Does it Takes to Invite the Full Brilliance of Groups?
- In the JOFC workshop we created a confluence of structures that weave throughout the 5-day journey. After reviewing our approach, you may notice that the shepherding of a fully functioning group resembles the natural cycles involved in the parenting or nurturing of any living thing.
- We design structures of individual involvement that increase in complexity and responsibility over time.
- We introduce increasingly challenging activities that require the application of multiple skills practiced over time.
- We purposely introduce and nurture the formation of factional subgroups. This is a natural stage of group evolution that allows smaller groups to create community with one another.
- Later in the process, we offer challenges that require the resources of the entire group which encourages them to reach outside of these factions.
Facilitator Attitudes and Behaviors
There are certain attitudes we hold about groups in general and certain behaviors that reflect these attitudes that we believe impact the unfolding of a highly functioning group.
- We share our knowledge of a skill and how it will help the group meet its goals, followed by opportunities to practice it.
- We teach participants tools to be as present in the moment as possible and encourage them to cultivate their awareness around what’s happening within the group at multiple levels.
- We believe and act as if the collective intelligence of the group will guide us in helping it emerge and we listen to it’s promptings.
- We expect and look for synchronicities and encourage participants to do the same.
- As the group matures, we gradually decrease facilitator interventions and contributions, culminating in nearly complete withdrawal from the group.
Participants Attitudes and Behaviors
There are certain attitudes and behaviors that we observe and encourage in participants that we believe also impact the unfolding of a highly functioning group.
- Participants have a strong desire to be part of a high functioning group.
- Participants appreciate the complexity of groups and are patient enough with themselves and others to allow the groundwork to be done.
- Participants are willing to give their all to the group’s task but are not attached to particular outcomes.
- Participants share and make requests to meet their personal interests, desires, and needs.
- Participants offer each other honest and respectful feedback.
- Participants understand that no one reaches true community on their own. They reach out to participants to whom they feel less of a connection and seek to bridge divides.
Recognizing the emergence of a highly functional team
- The sound of the group shifts. The sound of the voices at work in subgroups takes on a hum or buzz. Voices seem to be attuned to one another. The sound of a contained but vital flow that could be likened to the sound of a happy hive of bees.
- The silences are profound. There is an energetic sense of peace, calm, ease…a supreme presence that makes the silences feel very full. One of our recent participants, a police officer and K-9 handler, brought his German Shepard into the workshop during the last two days. During the time that we sensed the group had reached a state of high-function, we noticed that the dog had fallen asleep. The room was very active, but there was a peaceful, almost sacred sense in the room.
- Expressions are more clear, direct, even poetic. People are less tentative about sharing their observations, perspectives, and feelings. Communication is more authentic, concise, and respectful. There are few wasted words. Often what’s shared seems to contain a quality of wisdom and eloquence that didn’t exist before.
- The group becomes more important than the individual. When a group coalesces into a highly functional team, there is less concern with individual needs. The group has evolved and aligned to meet a greater need that transcends and includes individual needs.
- The line separating personal and work life begins to blur. There’s something about being part of a high functioning group that shifts our view of ourselves and the world. Being part of such an organism fulfills many of the needs we’re all after. One participant made the following comment at the close of one workshop: “When I started this workshop on Monday, I was planning on quitting my job. Now, that’s changed. I’m going back next Monday and I think it’s going to be OK.”
Have you even been party to a highly functional team? What did it take to get there? I’d love to hear about your experience. And, if you’re part of a group that’s far from high functioning, what might you do to help them take the next step? Please Add Your Comments below to share your thoughts, stories, and experiences. I’d love to hear from you!