How to Manage and Improve Team Dynamics

One of the most challenging and exciting things about becoming a leader is leading your first team. Managing a group of people is so much more challenging than simply being a part of it.

quote
"Great things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people."
Steve Jobs

As the project manager, you are now responsible for ushering this group of workers in the right direction. It is your job to uphold and improve their dynamics as a team, so your group works as one unit, stronger than you would be apart from each other.

Group dynamics are a challenging part of being a leader. However, there are ways that you can build these dynamics if your team is just starting out. You can also work to improve negative group dynamics.

As a leader, however, one factor in managing team dynamics is the most important: your own attitude and work ethic as the team leader.

A Leader Who Sets the Tone

As the leader of the team, you set the tone for a positive team dynamic in the future. Your teammates will feed off of the energy and attitude you embody.

If you choose to be pessimistic and negative, bossy or overbearing, your team will likely not have great dynamics. Great team dynamics come from the top of the chain. As the team leader, it is up to you to set the tone.

Key Takeaway
Great team dynamics come from the top of the chain.

You are also responsible for handling any negative group dynamics and troubleshooting the issues in your team. One of the top factors in a group with negative team dynamics is poor leadership.

By working on your own leadership skills and coaching the best out of your team, you can cultivate your team to be a strong, well-oiled machine with few problems with your team dynamics.

What Are Team Dynamics?

Group Dynamics is a term that was coined and defined by a philosopher named Kurt Lewin in the 1940s. According to his definition and theory of group dynamics, when in a group, people tend to take on certain characteristics when they are in a group or team setting.

Key Takeaway
Group Dynamics means that people tend to take on certain characteristics when they are in a group or team setting.

The group dynamic is the effect that these characteristics and tendencies have on the group as a whole. Group dynamics can also affect other individuals in the team.

It is pretty easy to see what kind of group dynamic a team has from the outside looking in. Teams with positive group dynamics can work well together towards a common goal, with little interruption from drama or other outside stressors.

Teams with negative group dynamics, however, likely have a conflict between members of the team and struggle to achieve a common goal together.

Negative group dynamics are affected by stressors and interpersonal conflict. Resolving a negative group dynamic is possible by improving your team dynamics.

What Causes Negative Group Dynamics?

There are many contributing factors to negative team dynamics. The main contributing factors are listed below.

Poor Leadership

The most common reason for bad group dynamics is bad leadership. If you are a weak leader who cannot control the group’s conversation, a more dominant personality may overpower your leadership skills.

A weak leader can also focus on entirely wrong priorities, which hurts the momentum and direction of the group as a whole.

Too Many Yes Men

When group members want to impress a leader, group members can just agree with the leader. This prevents these members from expressing their own opinions.

A “yes man” is someone who does not voice his own opinion but rather just agrees with the leader. The intention of a “yes man” is usually to agree with the leader to gain his favor and get on his good side.

However, a team with healthy group dynamics encourages all members to vocalize their opinions appropriately and increase the flow of communication and ideas within the group. Therefore, a “yes man” is not beneficial to the team’s dynamics.

Blocking

When the flow of the group is disrupted by the way that team members behave, it’s known as blocking. There are many roles in this concept of blocking.

The aggressor disagrees with others and often speaks aggressively and out of turn.

The negator is critical of other people’s ideas and shuts down new trains of thought.

The withdrawer tends not to participate at all in the discussion.

The recognition seeker dominates the session by bragging about themselves.

Lastly, groups can have a joker, who always relies on humor in meetings and often at inappropriate times.

All of these blocking roles are focused not on a team mentality but on a self-serving mentality. In order to work as a team with positive group dynamics, members of the group need to work together and decide to serve the team, not themselves.

Over-Importance of Group Consensus

If your team feels the need to all agree on an outcome, this can actually negatively affect the group’s dynamics. If your goal as a team is to only reach a consensus, then you may be sacrificing someone’s ideas.

The goal of decision-making is to make the overall right decision, not to agree as a group.

In scenarios where group consensus is viewed as over-important, group members may feel that they do not have the freedom or support to speak their ideas. These ideas may be the right idea in the long run.

It is essential to make sure that all ideas are heard and that the best idea is the one chosen, even if the group cannot reach a consensus. It is your job as a leader to make the final call and stick to it, regardless of if the group is able to all agree together.

Coattail Riding

Another factor to negative team dynamics is riding on the leader’s (or other high-achieving member’s) coattails. This is everyone’s least favorite part about group projects in school.

A higher-achieving member of a group ends up doing a lot of the work, while others who do not want to work as hard get the credit, even without contributing as much as others.

Coattail riding can make the more involved members burn out faster because other people get credit and praise for something they did.

Burnout can be a big problem for team members and leaders who work hard. This is because you give a lot of your time and energy to the things you care about.

It can be discouraging to these essential members of your team if some team members are not pulling their own weight.

Judging and Apprehension

If there are toxic people on your team who judge others when they share ideas, this can lead to a negative team dynamic.

Perceptions of others can be a strong factor in why some team members may hold back their own opinions. If they feel as if their opinions are judged or ridiculed, they may not bring up any ideas in the future at all.

Improving Your Team Dynamics

All of these negative group dynamics can be improved if you are able to work on them together. As a leader, your priority for your team should be to assess your own team’s dynamic and improve it.

Improving and managing the team dynamic is your responsibility as a leader. By leading by example, you can set your team up for success.

Communication

Next to the importance of a good and strong leader, the most important part of positive group dynamics is good communication.

Often, in groups with negative team dynamics, the team cannot function as a whole because there is not enough communication about what each team member needs to be doing.

Defining the roles and responsibilities in your group environment is a great first step to good communication. Having roles and dividing up responsibilities gives the group good direction and clears up any confusion about who needs to be doing what.

It is important for each group member to understand their individual roles in the group.

It is also important to communicate fully about tasks and deadlines. All forms of communication should be streamlined, so every member of the group has easy access to documents and deadlines.

If any communication issues arise, or if opinionated and overzealous team members overpower the conversation, handle the conflicts quickly and swiftly.

Challenging these issues early on ensures that the issues affect the team as little as possible.

Collaboration

Being involved in collaborative work is an essential part of improving team dynamics. Everyone wants to feel like they are part of a team and that someone cares about the ideas they are sharing.

When you encourage collaboration as a leader, you are encouraging your team members to share their ideas and become part of your group.

When team members feel like they are a part of a unit, they are more likely to share their ideas and collaborate with you. Collaboration leads to common goals and good, high results.

You can even collaborate with other teams to achieve bigger goals that require more people, or in some cases, more departments.

As the leader of the team, you also need to pay attention to what is happening in your team. You need to watch for the dynamics between individuals in your team.

Identifying and dealing with bullies and free-riders is an important part of looking out for the rest of your team. When you see good collaboration in your team, reward this behavior with trust and respect.

Your role as a leader is to observe and guide. Your team needs you to look out for their best interests and build a good team that supports each other.

If you observe anything standing in your way, it is time for you to step in.

Company Culture

Your team’s culture is a vital part of how you run your group and get things done.

Why are people working for you as the leader?

Do you offer support and incentives that make your group satisfied overall? Supportive team culture is key to good group dynamics.

Team building exercises and games are two great ways to take the initiative to build your team’s culture. People stay on a team because of the personal or professional connection they have with you and to the others on your team. Building on these connections will keep your team members happy and motivated to continue doing the work that you are doing.

You want to create a workspace that people enjoy going to and that supports them. Enthusiastic team members are built in a place that supports and encourages their growth.

Another part of building company culture is valuing diversity and showing trust to your team members. If you are able to, give responsibility to your team members, so they know that you trust them.

Team members are even more loyal to a leader who they know trusts and values them.

Another great way to enhance your company’s culture is to respect people, including their differences, by encouraging them to share ideas and comments.

Your workplace should be an environment that encourages individuals to come out of their shells and share what they think. Fostering this company culture is an important part of your role as a leader.

Team Mentality

When everyone on your team is focused on the team as a whole, good and positive group dynamics will ensue. In your team, you should lead your group to have a discussion around each project that you complete. No one person needs to do all the work, and as the leader, that includes you.

Delegating responsibilities shows that you trust the people who are working with you and for you. That trust can improve your group dynamic because those individuals feel like more of a part of the team.

Feeling like part of the team is a great part of working as a team. Every individual worker wants to feel like part of the team. This increases productivity as the members of the group share their ideas.

As the leader, building your team is important. Your team mentality is a crucial part of positive group dynamics.

Dealing with Negative Team Dynamics: Conflict Resolution

Negative group dynamics greatly affect a team’s ability to get tasks done well. If anyone in the team has hurt feelings, if there are conflicts between group members, if anyone is frequently frustrated or confused, or if communication is lacking, negative dynamics can happen quickly.

You can improve your group’s dynamics with communication, collaboration, and focusing on company culture. However, dealing with negative team dynamics can be much more complicated. Negative group dynamics need to be dealt with using conflict resolution.

Conflict resolution is not easy, especially if you are an individual who struggles with confrontation. However, it is necessary to save the dynamic of your team. With interpersonal conflict, take the two opposing parties out of the overall group and let them talk it out.

If there is an overpowering personality in your group, speak with them about toning down their inappropriate comments and giving others room to speak. If anyone has a malicious or mean spirit when they speak with others, give them a chance to rectify their ways.

However, if one individual in your group is a consistent problem, and there is no way to change their behavior, it may be time to ask them to leave your team. The health of the entire team is the priority.

Positive group dynamics can only occur when every member of the group is working together towards a common goal.

Conclusion

All in all, positive group dynamics are an important part of working as a team. As the team’s leader, your job is to cultivate, foster, manage and improve these group dynamics.

There are many factors that can play into negative group dynamics, and these can all present some big problems for you as the leader of the group. Any of these reasons for negative group dynamics can ultimately be rectified, even if some of the toxic group members have to be removed.

Negative group dynamics can be resolved through conflict resolution and through improving your group dynamics. Communications, collaboration, and company culture are all an important part of improving team dynamics.

The most important part of a positive team dynamic is the team mentality. You can create a great group dynamic by letting your team members know that their voices are heard.

As the leader, concentrating on the group dynamic is a great part of running your team. With a positive group dynamic, your team can work together towards a common goal.


About the Author
James has over 20 years of experience as a leader and entrepreneur. As a founder, he led startup teams as well as million-dollar companies. He has recently turned to leadership coaching and writing to pass his knowledge to the next generation. If you have any questions or comments regarding the content of this post, please send us a message via the contact page.
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