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Updated 2009 6

How to get the Very Best
from your Teaching or Training Group

Manual of 280 pages plus a 60 minute DVD video
Susie Rotch Psychologist

Leadership skills

Part 3.  
What makes groups effective, roles in groups, self rating and what makes a good group  leader,self care and personal development, the ethics of group leadership.

Having looked at the way groups can be structured to maximise the effectiveness of the learning by members or participants, I now want to introduce two more studies of group theory. These are what makes groups effective and the behavioural roles found in group participants.

Both of these topics take into consideration the behavioural backgrounds that participants bring to group situations. Some of these behaviour styles advance the goals and functioning of the group, some get in the way - but all offer opportunities and challenges to the leader to handle them for the benefit of the individual and the group.

I have included a section on self rating which introduces the topics of what makes a good group leader, self care and personal development for the leader and the ethics of group leadership.

Contents.  Part 3.  

  • Introduction to Part 3.
  • What makes groups effective? .
  • Roles in groups. ( See below )
         The task leader.
         The social leader.
         The follower.
         The social conscience.
         The rescuer.
         The clown.
         The scapegoat.
         The rebel.
         The dominator.
         The silent member.
         Other roles.
  • What makes a good group leader? Self rating.
  • Self care / Co-Leadership.
  • Basic data on participants
  • Ethics of group leadership.
  • Conclusion.
  • Your expectations and conclusions.
  • References.

Roles in Groups

People in groups often take up roles or particular and characteristic styles of behaving. These roles are often beyond the individual’s awareness and are so universal that it is worth sharing some practice wisdom about them and what are the best ways of handling them.

Role playing Roles in groups

The behaviour roles which I will describe are:
Task leader.
Social leader.
Group conscience.
Silent member.

There are others, but these are the ones that seem to recur in every group. By reviewing these examples I hope that you will develop a feel for how to handle other roles too.

Why do roles recur in groups?

In childhood we all learn characteristic behaviour patterns for managing our families and the world outside. By characteristic I mean that a pattern of words or actions can be observed to recur in individuals in certain situations. These can become the habitual sort of behaviours that we tend to fall back on in new or difficult situations.

Whatever role a person had in their family ( the main formative influence ), that is the role that will tend to be adopted in the group. If you learned to take care of younger siblings from an early age, for example, you will tend to accept and welcome responsibility in a learning group.

Or if you learned that whenever anyone in the family paid attention to you, then you would get teased or bullied then you may have learned to be as unobtrusive as possible. We may tend to fall back on these familiar roles in situations where there is a lot at stake and where situations are ambigious such as Íthe start of a group.

Why should a leader attend to the roles people adopt in groups?

Participants’ role play in groups can cause the leader some difficulties. In particular, if a group member’s characteristic style is interruptive of the group process then it needs to be handled in such a way as to take care of and respect both the disruptive participant and the needs of the group.Individual coping mechanisms cannot be allowed to get in the way of the group but neither should they cause you to be unsympathetic to the person enacting them.

However this phenomenon of group members behaving in habitual ways offers opportunities too. You can teach your group’s members new roles and ways of operating which may be more enabling and more flexible than the ones learned previously. Even if the members’ characteristic roles are functional to the group process often they can still benefit from such new learnings to increase their repertoire of behaviours. This is particularly important for participants whose characteristic roles support the group but not themselves - e.g. the compulsive helper.

The group leader has the opportunity to encourage such new learning.

In this next section I will discuss some of the ways you can use to help your members expand their learning styles. The way I will do it will be to look at the characteristics of these universal roles and suggest ways that you can recognise, manage and encourage people who take these roles to experience new options for behaviour.

I hope to show you not only specific ways of changing rigid roles by adding behaviours but also the underlying thinking patterns that you need to recognise and handle whatever roles group members enact - including those I have not covered.

I want to state clearly that I am operating on the assumption that the more roles people are capable of adopting in a group setting, in keeping with the needs of the group and the individual, the more enabled those people are in their lives.

On the simplest level is the voluntary change from the initial position of being individuals to being group members who temporarily surrender some of their individuality and autonomy to be part of a learning group.

Some people come into your groups well able to shift from role to role as you need to do to take on and adapt new ideas and new situations. Participants who are somewhat rigid can benefit from this learning. Also they can tend to create problems for the group by their rigidity. For the sake of the group as well as the individuals this rigidity may need to be challenged.

Leader skills prices
Leadership: Part 1: Process and Leadership Skills 

Leadership: Part 2: Structure, Planning and Timing 

Leadership DVD / Video  Shows the models in part 1 operating in a variety of learning groups.

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