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26 Jun 2014

Group Interactions, Molding Relationships and Culture

This entry is part 1 of 9 in the series Leveraging Group Interactions

Leveraging group interactions to mold relationships and culture.

Leveraging group interactions to mold relationships and culture

Most times, we see group interactions (GI) as convenient communication tools. Typically, they appear as meetings, training sessions and other events. Except for possible networking opportunities, we often don’t see them as opportunities for molding relationships and culture, but we can.

At the root of molding culture is relationships. Just as there are two aspects to every individual interaction there are for GI’s. The overt, rational aspect is its stated purpose. The subtle, emotional aspect is the collective impressions it creates. Every interaction, whether intentional or not, will instill emotions contributing or retarding relationships. Unfortunately, since emotional aspects are so intangible and fuzzy, they’re easy to discount. Discounting the company grapevine is an example.

GI’s then serve two primary, interrelated functions:

  • Positioning future individual interactions
  • Reinforcing previous individual interactions

The first is more common, laying groundwork for follow up. Announcing a project and then visiting with each member to review his specific assignment is an example. The second often uses meetings to summarize findings from individual meetings. Conducting individual assessments and then reporting findings to the group is an example.

From a relational perspective, we sometimes use our standard relationship building techniques in GI’s; however, we can also tap two broad categories of techniques specific to them:

  • Acknowledging contributions (i.e. questions, information)
  • Thanking for that contribution

To position, we use GI’s to acknowledge publicly a critical role someone will play: “Samantha, your input will be critical to this project’s success.” To reinforce, GI’s acknowledge roles played: “Bruce, this point specifically relates to your input to me last month.” With both, we can integrate techniques leveraging relationships and strategic complimenting giving us many ways to personalize.

GI’s offer a wealth of opportunities for molding relationships and culture. It means though seeing them more than simple communication tools.


Series NavigationGroup Interactions, the Two Types and Their Ratio >>

4 Responses

  1. My friend Frank Navran said, “Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled,” and these kinds of GI meetings are part of the groundwork that gets accomplished in building an environment that supports people interacting together and collectively in the process of business process improvement. (I got that from the department of redundancy department, BTW).

    Too often, these kinds of meetings can be “yell and tell” kinds of events and too often, measurement and politics stress competition over collaboration. Since ALL of us know more than ANY of us, these GIs can help set the tone for all the offline-interactions that occur among the participants.

    Lots of leverage here to support more teamwork.


    1. Mike Lehr

      You’re so right about those meetings, Scott. Yes, it’s about “building an environment that supports people interacting together and collectively.” I believe it works in all aspects of business.

      The only qualification I would add regard ALL is that that’s only true if they know different things and take different perspectives. Otherwise, you’re getting redundancies to the nth power.

      I appreciate you stopping by to visit, comment and leaving your insights. Enjoy your weekend, Scott. ~Mike

  2. GIs can also generate congruence and alignment, since people’s interactions can produce better shared values. If there IS friction because of different histories, styles, goals or similar, these conversations can also minimize the issue or at least bring them to some level of awareness. Managers can consider these behavior as “coaching possibilities” for downstream improvements.

    Shared goals and expectations can neatly drive collaboration and teamwork. But my experience tends to suggest that those things need to be explicit, desired outcomes from these interactions.

    You might find this blog on the general issues of Respect to be congruent and interesting. Especially, see the link at the bottom to “In The Beginning,” a funny piece on how mission statements commonly arise… – http://performancemanagementcompanyblog.com/2015/01/06/respect-half-of-employees-do-not-have-it/

    Have fun out there. Good stuff you share, Mike.

    1. Mike Lehr

      I agree with the shared values, Scott. I also find such interactions help us understand and appreciate our differences. Sometimes shared values are taken to mean homogeneity or consensus. Friction, tension and conflict are important attributes of progress, innovation and success. It’s learning to make use of these in positive ways that helps. Group interactions can help.

      Yes, it helps to make shared goals and expectations explicit, but it is not necessary. I know it’s a traditional assumption in training that you can’t teach someone unless you tell him what you are teaching. This is completely false. Sometimes, it’s better to teach someone something without him knowing it. He will likely think he taught himself which is even better. The same can be done with shared goals and expectations. Leading by example is one way such things are assimilated subconsciously by an entire work culture. In fact, explicitly stated goals and expectations are subverted when leaders don’t set good examples.

      Yes, you’re right about the respect. In fact, that trumps mission, goals and expectations. Without respect these don’t reach their potential in helping the enterprise.

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving your insights, Scott. I appreciate it. ~Mike

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