Reyer: Steer group dynamics to suit your skills, preferences

  • Article by: LIZ REYER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 22, 2012 - 7:02 PM

QMy company is going more toward working in teams, and, while I like some aspects, I really think better on my own. How can I be successful in this new environment?

AClarify the aspects of a project that you do well in teams, and find ways to carve out solo time for other portions.

The inner game

Settle into a calm state of mind in which you can think through what you like the most about working with others and working alone. Recall one of your best experiences on a team, and create a detailed image in your mind of the factors that made it stand out for you. Do the same thing with less positive experiences, and then use these to create your vision of the ideal team experience.

Now consider your company's expectations, and how this new expectation is being communicated? Is it formalizing current working structures, or is it truly a change? If it's a change, try to gain an understanding of the goals of the new approach.

Also look at how this change has been presented. Is it a mandate to "improve" your work style, or a more general message to all employees? If it's the latter, don't assume that you, personally, need to change. If it's unclear, ask your boss for clarification.

Finally, consider your level of discomfort with the new approach. It could range from mild preference to strong anxiety. If you have strong concerns based on your ability to be effective in groups, identify resources to build your skills and expand your comfort zone.

The outer game

Realistically, all team projects combine group and individual activities. In order to be able to have the latitude to do more of your work on your own, it's in your interest to energetically participate in the portions of the projects that are group-oriented. This, of course, will have to be tailored to your personality; if you're generally quiet in groups, you may need to push yourself a bit, but without trying to create a whole new self. The point is, step up to have a role within the group.

However, some activities may fall into a gray area, in which they could be completed either collaboratively or individually. One example may be brainstorming. In many group processes, this is entirely a group-oriented process. This can exclude people who need time to ponder or who are reluctant to speak up in groups. However, there are alternatives, such as posing brainstorming questions in advance, or having an approach that involves writing ideas on Post-its to share with the group. The more of a presence you have in the group, the more you can influence decisions like this.

You may also be able to step up quickly to have solo tasks assigned to you. Naturally, for any solo tasks, your follow-through and communication need to be optimal.

If you've determined that you'd like more training or need to otherwise build your comfort, make a plan to do so, enlisting support from your boss as needed, and from friends and family as well.

The last word

Get involved in order to help steer group dynamics to suit your skills and preferences.

What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at liz@deliverchange.com.

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  • Resources

    Sunday January 22, 2012

    www.idea.org/blog/2005/12/02/dealing-with-different-personalities/

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