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Leading groups and teams

Some people are natural born leaders – which is important because in most societies around the world, every group whether large or small tends to operate with a degree of hierarchy. This could be a popular child at school… the captain of a football team… The leader of a tribe… the village elder… The director of your department…

But many people are thrust into positions of leadership without really wanting to be one - “I loved my job before I had to manage all these people” might be something they’d say. Some people become managers because they have been promoted and happen to be very good at the technical part of their job. But that doesn’t mean they are going to set the world alight when it comes to how they manage their people! If you’re one of those people then it’s important to know that’s ok. You can only be who you are. Keep in mind though, as you climb the ranks, there are many effective tools and tricks you can learn to become a more confident, effective leader. If this applies to you then thinking about your own role in the position of responsibility you find yourself in, will only serve both you and your team, and help you to become even more effective.

Teams large and small have a natural rhythm, and the group dynamic can often be characterised in a broad-brush fashion – ‘they are a noisy / creative / challenging / intelligent / insert any adjective! etc etc group’. It’s important to manage the natural cadence of the group and facilitate the dynamics to make it as healthy and productive as possible. A good manager and leader will do this in a variety of ways, for example by checking the group temperature, and working to diagnose issues or concerns that affect the group as a whole, or by continuing to foster dynamics that are already working such as the qualities of helping one another, or supporting each other well in busy or difficult times.

It’s important to manage the natural cadence of the group and facilitate the dynamics to make it as healthy and productive as possible.

Yet groups are of course made up of individuals. People have their ‘place’ and fulfil a role that is made up partly of their technical ability, but also their ‘softer skills’ – which are often more aligned to their innate qualities and abilities. For example, you may be the Social Media Manager in your team, but if you are an expert party planner and natural organiser in your family and social life, chances are you will become the go to person for this type of activity too. When you manage a team, it is crucial that you learn the unique skillset (and development areas) of every individual within in it. It’s true that group effectiveness is greater than the sum of its parts (a group will often take on a life of its own) – but we mustn’t forget that individuals within groups can significantly disrupt the natural flow of the wider group. So we must pay attention to each member of it, in order to ensure the survival of the group as a whole. This can happen in various ways, for example working with someone in the workplace to identify their strengths and motivate them further with additional projects, promotion or recognition. Or, you may uncover an individual’s development areas – and this is a really really important area not to shy away from (see ‘The art of giving feedback’).

In summary here, balance really is the key to successful group leadership. Balance relating to managing the team as a whole, as well as individuals within it. Balance relating to managing good as well as poor performance. Doing this part of your job well requires confidence, intuition, strong and clear communication and a high degree of self-awareness. A good therapist will be able to help you develop your own skills and abilities in these areas.

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