Leading Blog






01.20.10

What Your Group Needs to Become Extraordinary

Extraordinary Groups
Why do most groups fall short of their potential and only a few groups become extraordinary? To find out Geoffrey Bellman and Kathleen Ryan say we need to dig deeper into the wants, needs and motives that cause people to work together. They define an extraordinary group as one that “achieves outstanding results while members experience a profound shift in how they see their world.” They exhibit:
  • A compelling purpose that inspires and stretches members to make the group and its work a top priority
  • Shared leadership that encourages members to take mutual responsibility for helping the group be successful
  • Just-enough-structure to create confidence to move forward, but not so much as to become bureaucratic or burdensome
  • Full engagement that results in all members jumping in with enthusiasm, sometimes passionately and chaotically, regardless of role
  • Embracing differences so that group members see, value, and use their diversity as a strength
  • Unexpected learning that translates into personal and group growth
  • Strengthened relationships among members characterized by trust, collegiality, and friendship
  • Great results, tangible and intangible
In Extraordinary Groups, they present the Group Needs Model. Extraordinary groups experience a transformative shift “because the group experience satisfies core needs that members intuitively bring to any group they join.” The model identifies six core group needs forming three pairs:

Extraordinary Groups Model
  1. The Individual: Acceptance of self (knowing and accepting ourselves for who we are) while moving toward one's Potential (sensing and growing into our fuller and better selves)
  2. The Group: A Bond with others (our shared sense of identity and belonging) that grows while pursuing a common Purpose (the reason we come together)
  3. The World: Understanding the Reality of the world (understanding and accepting the world as it is and how it affects us) while collectively making an Impact (our intention to make a difference and our readiness to act)
When two or more of these needs are experienced you are likely to describe the group experience as memorable. While it might seem to happen by chance, it's a choice. Any member of a group, aware of these needs as expressed in a group setting, can take the steps necessary to move that group to a more transformative, extraordinary experience. Meeting these core human needs is accomplished best in small groups (2 to 20 people).

To accomplish this, you want to be a facilitative leader as opposed to a directive leader. With the group needs model in mind, the authors suggest that you “stand back from your group to consider the individual members, their collective purpose, and the world in which they operate” and ask “How might this group experience meet those needs?” Then consider the eight indicators of extraordinary groups (listed above) to see if they are present. Do members of the group seem energized, hopeful, connected and positively changed?

A group leader needs to frame an inspiring purpose, lead with a light touch, keep the issues discussable, manage the world around the group acting as a buffer and facilitator, make sure the right people are on the team (those people with the knowledge, skills, or experience to tackle the group’s purpose), and integrate the Groups Model into their approach. Ask yourself questions like: “How will this meeting meet the needs of acceptance and potential, bond and purpose, reality and impact?” “Where and how can we use our differences as a group strength?” “Is there enough room in the agenda so that members have time for those more in-depth and sometimes complex conversations?”

Extraordinary Groups offers practical advice on implementing the Groups Model into your own group situation. All of the suggestions offered are accompanied by examples, reflection questions and sample actions for both you and the group. By paying attention to group needs you can more consistently transform ordinary groups into something more energizing, connecting and affirming.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:02 AM
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