POWERING WORKPLACE PERFORMANCE

8 OCTOBER, 2022

IMPROVING GROUP DYNAMICS IN THE WORKPLACE: A GUIDE

Group or team dynamics are critical for organisational success. Without positive team dynamics, your business can’t fully leverage the potential of employees and tap into their skills and experience in the most effective way.

So what are team dynamics – and how can you manage and enhance team performance by improving these dynamics?

What are team dynamics and why are they important?

At its simplest a team is defined as two or more people working together interdependently to meet a specific goal or purpose. A team could exist for the long term, or come together for just a few hours to work on a project.

Team or group dynamics can be understood as how the team members’ distinct roles and behaviours impact other team members, and the group as a whole. The term encapsulates the unconscious, psychological factors that influence the direction of a team’s behaviour and performance. Though it can be difficult to quantify positive team dynamics, it’s easy to spot when they’re working well or not

What do positive team dynamics look like?

Group and team dynamics matter because they support meaningful factors like:

  • Creativity and innovation
  • Productivity and effectiveness
  • Trust amongst team members
  • Empathy and understanding.

For example, a team with positive group dynamics is likely to be productive while working towards collective decisions. Members trust and listen to one another, and the team will likely demonstrate mutual understanding and self-corrective behaviour. The healthy team also shows accountability and responds constructively to feedback in order to improve future decision making.

Benefits of good team dynamics for organisations

Why is it so important to understand the team dynamics meaning and value in an organisation? Since group work is integral to organisations, addressing group dynamics can lead to greater work outcomes, customer satisfaction and an improved bottom line. Group dynamics can also help drive your organisation forward in meaningful and relevant ways while improving workplace diversity and cultural engagement. Here are more of the specific benefits.

Encourage innovative problem solving

When multiple people feel they can bring their diverse ideas and knowledge to the table, this cultivates the creation of innovative, creative solutions.

Drive productivity in teams

Greater efficiency and productivity is found when employees can divide work between their skillsets and strengths to deliver the project as one.

Prevent communication breakdowns

Close group dynamics encourage high-quality, transparent communication which is powerful in both a constructive and conflict-resolving sense.

Boost employee engagement

Positive group dynamics help to align members on shared goals, which can boost employee engagement and even lower turnover rates.

Support employee health and wellbeing

Team members feel supported and heard, and the organisation’s approach to leading and developing people feels genuine.

In contrast to healthy team dynamics, poor group dynamics can disrupt successful decision making, breed distrust and lead to poor outcomes and wasted resources – which is why it’s so important to optimise team dynamics in any organisation.

Strategies for improving team dynamics in the workplace

Though you can’t force great group dynamics, you can certainly nurture them with a tailored approach. Let’s take a closer look at exactly how to improve team dynamics in the workplace through a number of practical strategies.

Diagnose the reasons behind any poor dynamics

Conduct a diagnosis of what is going wrong in your team by doing a team health check. Observe your team at work and conduct individual interviews in a private, safe and confidential space. Talk to other relevant people, such as customers and line managers, to find out as much as you can about your team’s problems.

As you do, be aware of the common causes behind poor group dynamics.

  • Weak leadership
    Weak leadership – where the team lacks a strong leader – can pave the way for a dominant team member to take over, resulting in a lack of direction and conflict.
  • Authority and groupthink
    Excessive deference to authority can have a stagnating effect on teams, as people would rather agree with the leader than offering innovative ideas and opinions. Groupthink can have a similar effect.
  • Blocking behaviours
    These can include aggressive, negative, withdrawing, recognition-seeking and even joking behaviours, which can block the flow of information in the team.
  • Free riding
    Some team members taking it easy at the expense of other colleagues can lead to poor group dynamics and outcomes.
  • Evaluation apprehension
    Team members may hold back their opinions and ideas as a result of feeling they are being judged harshly by other team members.

Other potential causes of weak group dynamics can include poor communication and a lack of focus, which can be addressed through the next few strategies.

Define team roles and accountabilities

Teams and individual team members need a strong focus to thrive. By creating a team charter and offering clearly defined roles, you can motivate team members to address their responsibilities and work together more effectively. A clear charter helps you set clear behavioural and outcomes expectations. It also provides standards by which underperforming team members can be held to account.

Establish strong leadership in the team

Where weak leaders can stir up conflict and disengage team members, strong leaders will provide support and guidance to team members without causing conflict or micromanaging. Leadership programs and skills training can be of great benefit, both for team dynamics and for many other aspects of organisational success.

Resolve team conflicts quickly

If you see a team member engaging in unhelpful behaviour, work to address it quickly. Speak to the team member directly and invite them to reflect on the behaviour and how it might be adjusted to support the team’s goals. Conflicts can happen even in the healthiest of teams, so encourage open discussion of the conflict and help guide team members to a resolution, allowing your team to return to a state of positive group dynamics.

Continually evaluate and improve team performance

Leaders should always be paying attention to teams and gently assessing where improvements can be made. Reinforce positive behaviours for group dynamics like successful collaboration, sharing of ideas, trust and respect. Look out for unacceptable behaviours such as bullying, groupthink and freeriding so these can be addressed right away.

Build an inclusive team culture

A supportive, inclusive team culture is the cornerstone of effective collaboration. Use team-building exercises to encourage stronger relationships between individual team members. Create a workplace that supports employee well-being, success and enthusiasm for work. Value diversity, and think about how you can build trust and respect among team members.

Encourage open communication channels

Open communication strengthens group dynamics by giving everyone a voice and raising awareness of issues before they become major problems. Keep team members updated about project changes and news so they feel included and alerted to what is going on. Ensure both opinionated and quieter team members feel their voices are heard. Give your team tools to drive open communication, and encourage team members to communicate clearly to each other.

Excellent group dynamics can facilitate employee productivity and satisfaction while allowing your teams to reach their set targets on time. However, even teams with excellent dynamics will still require ongoing observation, correction and guidance – so be prepared to continue providing your team with the leadership and support they need to thrive.

Positive team dynamics start with training

DeakinCo. offers tailored workforce solutions to help your business master the shift from knowledge to capability and thrive in a rapidly changing environment. To find out more about how we can help with leadership skills and workplace training for your teams, contact us today.