Updated: Jan 30, 2019
You work in groups. Make them better.
Think of the last time you held a meeting. How did you run it? People who like talking, talked, right? What procedures are in place to ensure that everyone's idea was heard? How did you handle that one negative person?
There are several different options for you if you are leading a meeting or meeting as a group. But first, let's start with why this is important and some potential problems you may be facing.
1. Nobody talks
2. The wrong people talk, and the the right people don't
3. You have a hard time managing conflict and using it in a productive way
4. The negative voices neutralize the majority of positive people
5. At some point, your time runs out and have made no decisions
There are several strategies for improving your meetings and regulating difficult people. Your leadership strategy should be flexible to the needs of the group. If people are expressive and talk often, your role is to help them organize their ideas and move forward. If people are quiet and analytical, your job may be to gain their input. A few strategies for managing groups are as follows:
a. Consider having people write down 2 ideas privately on paper before beginning a discussion
b. Go around the room and give everyone the floor for 2-3 minutes and then move on
c. Use a ranking strategy to rate potential ideas--this can diffuse direct disagreement
d. Choose how a vote will be taken and the percentage or number of votes required to move forward; do this before the ideas are presented
Remember, research on groups shows that the more diverse a group is, the harder it is at first. But in the end more diverse groups have been shown to produce better outcomes than more homogenous groups! If you are a pretty homogeneous bunch, watch out for groupthink, which is where the group guards against criticism and discourages any negative opinions. A few definitions, for those interested:
i. Functional conflict: conflict that helps the project move forward and refines it (good!)
ii. Interpersonal conflict: between two or more people (bad!)
iii. Procedural conflict: how something will be decided
iv: Groupthink: a group's overconfidence and avoidance of any negative idea that can lead to disaster!
v: Synergy: the group works together well creates an outcome that no individual could alone, even with time
When done correctly, groups are a great way to get work done.