How groups come together is important to their success and ongoing commitment.  Below are excerpts from a few of studies on group formation and group dynamics that you can keep in mind as you encourage your groups in their success, camaraderie and performance. 

Groups develop through common stages of getting to know each other and working together.  This is often know as the “Forming, Storming, Norming” process, as first researched by Bruce Truckman. It can be helpful to be able to recognize these stages as groups are coming together.

Stage 1: Forming

    • Members are positive and polite
    • Some are excited, some are anxious
    • There are lots of questions and uncertainty
    • Everyone is figuring out processes and responsibilities
    • Lots of energy toward defining the team

Stage 2: Storming

    • Members push against boundaries
    • Uncertainty if groups can achieve goals
    • Some start to question the process
    • May be conflict between styles
    • Some frustration becomes evident

Stage 3: Norming

    • Members find level ground
    • Appreciate differences, build on strengths
    • Normalization and inclusivity grows
    • There are positive feelings about group cohesion
    • Stronger commitment to the group appears

Stage 4: Performing

    • Members feel goal achievement
    • Outcomes of hard word become evident
    • More enforcement of process
    • Strong support for each other
    • New members do not disrupt

“Stages of Group Development” by Bruce Truckman & Shawn Stratton (c) 1965

Best-selling author Daniel Coyle has studied many factors that make a successful group in his book “Culture Code”. 

The most successful groups exhibit the following behaviors (sounds like a good Growth Group to us!):

    • Lots of short, energetic exchanges
    • High levels of mixing (everyone talks to everyone)
    • Few interruptions
    • Lots of questions
    • Intensive, active listening
    • Humor and laughter
    • Small attentive courtesies (thank yous, holding doors, etc)
    • Close physical proximity when meeting
    • Profuse amounts of eye contact
    • Physical touch (handshakes, fist bumps)

The last few behaviors will be more difficult for groups meeting remotely, but still good to keep in mind!

“Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle (c) 2018

One of the most important things groups and teams can do to ensure belonging and effectiveness is to “provide a clear message that lights up the unconscious brain: here is a safe place to give effort.”  The following are just some ways that communication styles signal such belonging:

    • Personal, up-close connection and attention that shows I care about this.
    • Performance feedback that shows we have high standards.
    • Big picture perspective that shows life is bigger than _______.

According to Coyle, these styles “affirm and strengthen the fabric of the relationships” among the group.

“Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle (c) 2018

Groups that meet their goals and continually feel that they are performing well have some things in common:

    • Everyone in the group talks and listens in equal measure, keeping contribution short
    • Members maintain high levels of eye contact, and their conversations and gestures are energetic
    • Members communicate directly with each other
    • Members bring information back to share with others

“Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle (c) 2018

There are a few things you can do individually during the formation stages to ensure good outcomes:

    • Maintain communication
    • Allow the “storm” to happen!
    • Continue to check in
    • Review established norms
    • Focus on behavior, not personality