Interpersonal Leadership: Communication
“Group Communication: Processes and Practices” (SL#50)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 7.3 - Interpersonal Communication
1. Group Communication Process
Communication has to do with the content of the meeting but also with the process; that is, how does the group function to carry out its purpose? Group communication processes effectively practiced add to clear outcomes. Consider the following six communication processes and reflect on your usual practice:
- Direction--Who is talking to whom? Or is the talk aimless and jumbled? An agenda well-developed and followed helps set direction.
- Participation--Is everyone actively involved? Or is someone isolated? Leadership should seek to be inclusive, drawing contribution from all group members.
- Priority--Does the group establish and follow priorities? The task, agenda? Quality time should be allocated to significant items.
- Information--Does everyone have the same information base? Is it complete? Reports should be distributed in a timely manner, with time to discuss and clarify.
- Leadership--Does the leader(s) encourage and facilitate rather than control? Leadership should move around within the group/team based on function and knowledge.
- Climate--Is the meeting characterized by cooperation around a significant purpose? Can the group truly say, “We care about each other and about our task performance”?
2. Group Meeting Communication Practices
Now, let’s take a look at small-group meeting practices and tasks that encourage effective communication. You should be able to laugh at yourself (or cry), and you should be able to affirm many of your practices. Which ones are now “under construction”?
- Pray for guidance throughout the meeting process; a group worship or devotional period could be on the agenda.
- Make preparations and notices for the meeting well in advance; the notice should include details the group members need to know.
- Establish an agenda, the purpose of the meeting; others may need to assist in this.
- Cancel a meeting when it is unnecessary; ensure that all members get the notice.
- Include the people that should be in the meeting--but only those centering on the task.
- Establish both starting and closing times for the meeting; stay on schedule.
- Arrange the room for each one to face the group--table or circle. This increases visual communication.
- Open the meeting with orientation to the relationship and task needs.
- Provide for each one to participate. Model the power of listening to others.
- Ask open-ended questions: “How do you think a time change would alter our worship attendance?”
- Ask factual, specific questions: “What has been our attendance for the last 3 months compared to last year?”
- Allow each to respond; free-flow ideas, or around the table. Limit length of responses to five minutes.
- Try communication with respect and cooperation. Move toward descriptive narration of the issues.
- When conflict exists, face the issue openly, thoughtfully, briefly; stay centered on the agenda or issue.
- Return to discussing of items on the agenda at hand; don’t stay too long on “memory lane” or “rabbit chase.”
- Create a supportive group climate; encourage all to participate; make assignments to individuals or subgroups.
- Achieve the purpose of the meeting in the given time frame; leave with a plan and/or next steps.
3. Another Thought on Small Group Communications
Really there are two sides to this closing thought on interpersonal communications in small groups/teams--the positive and the negative.
From a positive viewpoint, many of the practices of person-to-person communications and written format could be adapted to small group meetings, such as:
- listen actively
- respond warmly
- ask questions
- maintain eye contact
- plan your statements
- provide data sheets
- prepare study reports.
Although it may seem to be negative, let’s face it: if dysfunctional group members were led to follow effective communication practices, the group/team could pursue its goals more successfully. The team leader, even the whole group, may need to employ some special techniques to turn this negative into a positive. The abstract below contains valuable techniques by Guffey that may be used to assess your group’s practices.
If you take an inventory of your group communication processes and practices, what would your profile prove to be? Do you need to guide improvements within your team? Specifically, where do you start?
© 2006 servantleaderstoday.com; hosted and copyrighted
by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership
Study Abstract: “Handling Dysfunctional
Abstract prepared by Lloyd Elder from: Business Communication, Guffey, pp. 57-58
When individuals are performing in any of the dysfunctional roles described earlier (such as blocker, attacker, joker, and withdrawer), they should be handled with care and tact through techniques of a leader or gatekeeper:
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