Like people, groups undergo defined growth stages. Also like people, some groups grow up relatively quickly and smoothly, while other groups are dogged by erratic starts and stops. I’ve led groups that advance through the 3 developmental growth stages we’ll be talking about with minimal struggle. They pick up the usual bumps and bruises along the way, but nothing seems to stop them from progressing. I’ve worked with other groups that struggle with growth. They can’t agree on basic guidelines, they get bogged down by other’s opinions, and they find it hard to accept responsibility for their decisions.
This blog identifies the three defined and universal group growth stages. The next few blogs will address how you help facilitate groups through the three stages.
Stage One: Membership
In membership, a group is getting comfortable with themselves, you and with the purpose of the meeting. Their primary questions is; “Do I belong here?” Therefore, very early in the meeting, individuals will begin to task of seeking membership in the group. They will attempt to clarify roles and responsibilities. Some will express their membership needs in an expressive., open manner while others will seek to belong more quietly. No matter the approach used, almost all participants will look for some way to fit into the group.
Stage Two: Influence
In the second stage, group members seek a greater degree of interaction with one another. Participants work at and work through issues, ideas and problems. This is a busy time for both the facilitator and group members. Personal and professional needs are expressed in this stage. As challenging as this stage can be, it is also a time when individuals begin to bond with one another. Through the successful resolution of issues and challenges, participants form professional relationships. They assert their interdependence with the group and their independence as individual members.
Stage Three: Authenticity
In this highest stage of group growth, participants start to “be real” with one another. The group is productive and powerful at this stage. A level of trust has developed and if all has gone well, this will be an emotionally and socially satisfying phase. Participants are no longer limited by the hesitancy of the membership stage or the confusion, conflict or clarifying that takes place in the influence stage. They have worked at and through group issues, problems and challenges and are capable of being highly productive.
Group growth is very dynamic. As a facilitator, one of your primary roles is to help groups progressively advance their way to stage three if possible. However, something or someone can move them back to membership in a relatively short period of time. So the facilitator has learned to be a constant observer and catalyst to sustain and encourage group growth.
Just how does the facilitator do this? That is the topic of the next few blogs!!