Have you ever felt like you do better in one-on-one conversations instead of navigating the dynamics of a group? Or have you ever felt like one person in a private situation and then when you get around a group of men or women, you feel like someone else?
The way you behave and interact with people can shift depending on the situation you’re in (thank you evolutionary power of adaptability!), but there are some key leadership skills you want to keep top of mind, no matter who is in the room with you.
Especially if you’re a leader in business who wants to create powerful, positive relationships with your team.
The first thing you need to know as a leader (or aspiring leader) in business, is the power and importance of group dynamics. Understanding group dynamics is key in creating a great company culture and environment where your team can thrive. It’s like Simon Sinek says, “The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.”
According to a study from the University of Exeter, groups of people become less adaptive to changes in their environment, routinely deferring to the decision making of the less-aware group instead of taking stock of personal values and context to reach important conclusions. That means if there are problematic group dynamics present in your team, the innovation, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities of your team are undercut.
In order to combat this, you first want to make sure that you’ve got the right people in the right positions. Using behavioral assessments like the FIT Test are excellent tools for that. The FIT Test assessment, for example, measures innate characteristics of how a person thinks or is truly “wired,” versus how they may behave. It has a +95% accuracy rate.
Once you’ve got that under control, you want to make sure you’re practicing intentional leadership so that group dynamics and groupthink don’t override your ability to act and think as a leader for your team.
Groupthink is often commonly referred to as mob or pack mentality. It’s a phenomenon that happens when people are in a group and being part of that group shifts their behavior or influences their decisions. As a business leader, this is something you need to be hyper-aware of.
Within business, Groupthink often happens on a smaller scale. It’s why you’ll see people act one way one-on-one and then shift personalities once they’re in a group setting.
For example, there might be a trio of people in the workplace who (in between laughs) will often poke, tease, or make fun of other team members when they hang out together. Yet, each one individually might be understanding, considerate, and have strong boundaries.
As a leader, it’s important that you’re aware of groupthink and how it affects your team—it prevents creativity in brainstorming sessions. So when you’re in meetings, you want to make sure you’re praising and promoting different perspectives, thought processes, and individuality so that your people have a reason to bring their unique talents to the table.
Remember, you guide the ship—hold fast to the vision and check in with your people to make sure they’re feeling good about the group dynamics at play in your working environment.
One of the best ways to avoid groupthink from popping up within your team is to set an example of how you expect team members to interact with one another.
Setting The Example
As a leader, how you treat your team members is crucial. It signals to every other person on your team how they are to interact with their coworkers, sets the culture, and establishes your values. There are a few simple, yet powerful ways to set a great example for your team as a whole, that will also help strengthen your relationships amongst your team members and keep group dynamics healthy.
The first practice to implement is active, engaged, effective listening. Most women (more so than men) are often conditioned to wait until someone is finished speaking before they take their turn to express. So in business settings, it can be common for women to feel as if their voice isn’t heard. The simple act of listening and giving your female team members a voice in meetings goes a long way in building social capital with your team.
For example, establishing a practice in group meetings where each person expresses their thoughts on a project can be a great way for all members of the team to feel included and heard. Likewise, regularly checking in with all team members individually gives your more shy team members a private platform to share their thoughts and feelings. By actively listening and helping them create solutions, you create an emotional bond and loyalty with your people.
Forward movement, creating an environment of contribution, and listening to your people so that they feel safe at work, drastically reduces churn rate and sets a powerful example for how each member of the team is to conduct themselves. By practicing the acceptance and celebration of different thoughts and contributions, your team feels valued and more readily offers their most innovative ideas to the group.
The second practice to implement is inclusivity. This one can be a little tricky, because odds are you’re not actively trying to exclude anyone. However, excluding people could be as innocent as finding yourself drawn to speaking with the other men in the room or allowing a more outgoing team member to dominate your group (or private) conversations. To avoid this, simply make sure you’re talking to everyone in the room. Go from group to group and make sure you give your time and attention to everyone on your team.
The final way you can set a great example for your team about how to treat one another and reduce employee turnover is to be mindful of unconscious bias. According to the University of California, San Francisco, “Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.”
In other words, your epic brain is built to organize things into different categories so you can cut down on the amount of energy it takes to think through decisions — often life-saving decisions. The downside is that your brain doesn’t always know what attributes need to be sorted into which bucket.
For example, during your childhood, if you raised your hand in class to share an idea and your teacher or classmates ridiculed your thoughts, it can be difficult for you to share in group settings now because your subconscious may have decided that groups and authority figures aren’t safe.
Everyone has unconscious biases that develop. The key is to overcome them so that you create a healthy working environment. Some of the best ways to overcome unconscious bias are to:
- Get more experience with people and situations that stretch your comfort zones.
- Make diversity an important part of your daily experience.
- And create a structured decision-making process that questions why you think a certain solution is the right one.
All of these practices will help you become a more powerful leader in business and help you increase team member retention, while consistently improving your relationships with your cohorts.