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Group Process Feedback September 18, 2007

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Feedback.
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p5130012.jpg  Wasted time! How much time is wasted in meetings by people engaging in non-productive behavior? Have you seen people on your team interrupt each other, be critical when an idea is proposed, belittle others in the group or engage in side conversations? These actions drain the energy and effectiveness from teams. Unfortunately most leaders do not know how to reduce these non-productive behaviors. The Big Dogz know how to address this issue. They use a technique called Group Process Feedback. Group Process Feedback is effective because it provides feedback about a behavior, not a person.  Most people who are engaged in hindering behavior are not aware that their behavior is having a deleterious effect on the performance of the group. Sometimes this behavior is defensive or it may even be a behavior that the person feels is needed to move the team forward. Here is an example: Jim is constantly interrupting people. Sometimes, he finishes their sentences for them. You feel this behavior is keeping the team from being more effective. Let’s take a look at how we might handle this outside of Group Process Feedback. You approach Jim and inform him that his behavior is not very professional and you think he should stop it. Imagine the response you would get from Jim with that approach. Next, you might consider discussing Jim’s behavior with another team member to see if they feel it is irritating as well. Together, you decide that Jim’s behavior is not effective and you wish he would stoop. Ahhh, you both feel good about this exchange. Unfortunately, Jim does not know that his behavior is adversely affecting the team. The probability that Jim will change this behavior is slim or none. Now, let’s use Group Process Feedback. It is my turn to speak and I say “I observed someone interrupting others and it hindered.” Jim may or may not know I am talking about him. But, for sure he knows someone is doing it and it is hindering the team. Sooner or later, Jim will realize it is him interrupting others; and since he does not want to hinder his team, he will attempt to reduce this behavior. No one wants to hinder their team from being successful. In addition, others on the team will realize this behavior is hindering and will avoid it or reduce it. You will see a reduction in this particular behavior from everyone in the team. Group Process feedback is not just for identifying hindering behavior. It is a useful tool for highlighting behaviors that help make the team more effective. Whenever someone says “I observed someone keeping track of the time and it helped.” you will see more people volunteering to perform that function. It is a form of group recognition. Helping behaviors will increase. With this increase in helping behaviors and a decrease in hindering behaviors, you can expect your team meetings to be more productive.  Here is how you can do a Group Process Feedback:

  1. Announce you will be using a tool for team effectiveness you learned from Running with the Big Dogz; this process will take 5 minutes.
  2. Announce you will ask each person to identify specific actions or behaviors they observed that either helped or hindered the team. No names permitted; just the action and whether it helped or hindered.
  3. During the last 5 minutes of your meeting, give them 2 minutes to write down actions they observed during the meeting. This is done independently.
  4. When the 2 minutes are up, stop them and ask them to share their observations using the construct “I observed someone action and it (helped or hindered).” There is no discussion about the statement made. Others may say “Check” if they had the same behavior. They are observations about behaviors. Limit the making of observations to 3 minutes. This way you will get the most important behaviors since each person may get to make only one or two observations. Each person compiles a list of all the actions that were stated.
  5. Ask each person to bring their list of the results to the next meeting.
  6. At the beginning of the next meeting, ask people to take out the list of actions from the last meeting. Spend 30 seconds silently reviewing the list — no discussion. You may want to have a copy for each person since people may forget their lists.
  7. Repeat this process every meeting until you see a significant change in effectiveness. Then you can use Group Process Feedback whenever there is a change in effectiveness.

 A key to the success of using Group Process Feedback is that the feedback is about the behavior, not the person. As the leader of the team, you are responsible to ensure that this feedback stays focused on the behavior. Group Process feedback is a powerful tool used by the Big Dogz to facilitate productive team meetings. Experiment with Group Process Feedback and see if it doesn’t improve your team dynamics.

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