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Time Management and Group Dynamics

Respect Everyone's Time

How time is used in your initiative can make or break its overall success. Consider that the more responsible the intermediary is with everyone’s time, not just that of employers, the greater the chance of focused discussions and value-add. Here are some tips to stay on track: 

  • Continue to meet regularly, but always have a clear objective for each meeting (never meet for the sake of meeting). Be cautious with the time offered by all members, but particularly by employers. As the initiative evolves, the partnership may meet in-person less often. This may be in part due to uptake of alternative communication mechanisms, such as blogs, webinars, conference calls, etc.
  • Build a focused agenda so that all participants know what to expect and where they might add input.
  • Always offer the results of the immediate next steps undertaken since the last meeting, as a way to show progress and as a mechanism for making next decisions.
  • Re-visit budgets, timeframes and goals regularly so that partners are on the same page, have aligned expectations, and are grounded in both achievements and any possible missed opportunities.
  • Highlight wins and successes along the way, regardless of the partnership’s maturity. Connect wins and successes to the vision and goals of the partnership.
  • Ensure that everyone leaves meetings with clarity on next steps, including their responsibilities, and a clear idea of how next steps and responsibilities are important to reaching end goals.

Understand Group Dynamics

Helpful to any entity responsible for coordinating and facilitating a diverse group of individuals and interests may be a reminder of the necessary and inevitable stages of group development. These stages have been named and described in many different ways. 

  • Perhaps the best know is Bruce Tuckman's Framework: Forming – Norming – Storming – Performing – Transforming;
  • Another framework that we can all likely relate to is: First date – honeymoon – reality hits – settling in – growing wise together;
  • And another version: Groping – Griping – Grasping – Grouping

While the order of these phases generally portrays the phases or cycle of group development, even high-performing groups may revert back to an earlier stage. This may be in reaction to changing circumstance, such as changes in leadership or membership. 

Respect and Manage Different Styles of Participation

Closely related to an understanding of group dynamics, your initiative may also benefit from the following considerations:

Understanding personalities, communication styles, and problem solving approaches are a skill set that a good intermediary staff person should hone. These skills will help the partnership to avoid making inaccurate assumptions or mis-guided conclusions; as well as help them develop focused problem solving approaches to identifying and meeting their challenges.

Decision making by a group can be hard, but it can be done. Intermediaries are responsible for facilitating decision making by the partners in order to keep the initiative moving forward. The process should start with a challenge or issue, move to divergent ideas about possible solutions, be sifted through a set of assumptions and doubts, and then converge into a group-wide decision. Want to see that in a graphic? Unanimous decisions will not always be possible, but the group should reach consensus whenever possible (consensus = the solution may not be everyone's first choice, but everyone can "buy-in" to the decision). And don't forget that the partnership should be lead and driven by the industry members, so their thoughts in the decision making process need to be weighed very heavily.

Managing Conflict requires some acceptance of conflict as a natural occurrence, understanding why conflict occurs, and offering viable alternatives to overcome diverse beliefs.