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07 Small Group_reflection

07 Small Group_reflection

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Published by owenshill

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Published by: owenshill on Jan 31, 2012
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 A personal reflection on group membership and group dynamicsDavid Owens-HillQueens University of CharlotteJanuary 27, 2011
A lifelong fear of small groups
I have, for as long as I can remember, been afraid of other people. Not in acrippling, hide in the house all day kind of way, but the fear exists in enough of acontinuous manner that I am aware of it. I would imagine that it stems from a fear of public speaking—after all, what is group communication if not speaking to a smallpublic—but I think the root cause in its totality is less one-dimensional. This feelingmakes group and small team interaction difficult, and requires coping strategies foreffectiveness. In spite of these feelings, or perhaps because of my hypersensitivity tothem, I have learned how best to represent myself in small groups, and how to functionwithin them.It would be unfair to portray myself as an agoraphobic mute, hiding from the rolesand responsibility of communication. I work through my dislike of group situations one-by-one, and see this as a parable to the overall workings of group dynamics. The natureof groups is that we must all contribute, but to do so effectively we must first evaluate thetype of contribution we are comfortable making; the type of contribution that we cansustain over the duration of our membership.
A dysfunctional team
My career trajectory has taken me through the nonprofit sector for just under adecade. I entered the field at the end of a very prosperous time for philanthropies andnonprofits and have weathered a recession and the 2009-10 economic meltdown. Isurvived these economic disasters—while many of my colleagues and coworkers careers
in the field ended—primarily because my agency had highly successful small teams andgroups.My most recent non-educational role was as a project manager and programmanager at an artist residency center. Our staff of fifteen was small enough to beconsidered a “small group” (using the definition of a collection of 3-20 members alignedto a similar goal), but we were further subdivided ourselves organizationally into role-related small teams. I worked on a program team, which was responsible for artistresidencies and exhibitions in the center’s gallery space. I cross-reported (if memoryserved, with a dotted line on the organizational chart) to the team responsible for visualcommunication and marketing. My subdivided teams were made of 4 members and 3members respectively.Both teams were prepared for success; we had the resources, skills, and timenecessary to do build strong arts programming at our center and to market ourselves toexternal audiences in a manner encouraging fiscal and philosophical patronage. But weconsistently failed. While we recruited some of the most talented contemporary artists tofill our studios and exhibit in our galleries, AND we continually built our marketingprogram resulting in increased donations, but we never succeeded in communicatingsuccessfully with one another to optimize our efforts, reduce duplicative work, and reachup to that magical gestalt on which hyper-effective teams rely to propel themselvesforward faster than they could go alone.There are things that I know to be true about Organizational Communication. Oneis that people want to talk to one another; they
to talk to one another. Without thisbasic premise, all manner of communication theory breaks down. Our problem was one

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