Interpersonal Leadership: Communication
“Small Group and Team Communications”
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 7.3
- Interpersonal Communication
Group Communication: Interpersonal communication is very dynamic
and has great diversity of application in your life and leadership. Let’s
examine how the small groups of your life situations fit into the picture. First,
what about small groups and teams?
Matthew 18:20 (NIV)--For where two or three come together in my name,
there am I with them.
Group or Team?
In most congregations there are significant numbers of small groups and teams,
which may look just alike and be called by similar names. Although they are
dissimilar in many ways, both require effective communications to function well:
“A group is a collection of three or more individuals
who perceive themselves as a small group but who may work independently to
achieve organization goals.” --Guffey, Business Communication,
“A team is a group of individuals who interact
over time to achieve a purpose. Members recognize a need for each others’
expertise, talent, and commitment to achieve their goals.” --Guffey,
A small group is usually composed of at least three members, but no more than
twelve to fifteen, with each one enabled to interact and communicate openly
and freely in seeking to achieve a common goal(s).
Social: Some small groups primarily provide interpersonal
needs such as esteem, control, influence, affection, belonging; we may
see this as essential to the true fellowship life of the church. On almost
any team or small group, there are those who focus on relationships and
Task: Some work groups join together to initiate and
complete a specific task--offering guidance, support, and commitment.
There are those on any group who are best at focusing the group on task
performance and results.
Synergy: Other small groups/teams combine both of these
characteristics, using their ideas, skills, resources, and time to complete
higher, better tasks or decisions. This is synergy at work, and communication
is at the center of it.
In an interactive communication model, synergy is more likely to occur
because each member can freely participate. Review the following model
Interpersonal communication may be one-on-one as a message
Sender(s) and Receiver(s) in immediate
interchange of roles through selected channels. This may also be true
within a small group, or team, showing that communication
is open and interactive. There may be a group leader (S/R) who facilitates
the process and participates in it but does not control the communication.
Both relationships and results stay in the mix.
- Communication--Leader Controlled
On the other hand, in small group communication, there is a style that is
least effective but perhaps too often experienced. See if you recognize this
in any groups you belong to. Also, where do you fit into the picture below?
The group leader is the source and controller of the communication
stream: usually sets the agenda, shares selected information, proposes the
solutions, and seeks or expects group members’ approval.
Group members listen passively or in frustration, join in
little interaction, provide insignificant feedback, and voice approval; then
run to the underground communication network.
- Small Group Development/Communication
Just how does a group develop in stages from a collection of individuals to
a functioning productive group or team? Although some members are more adapt
at task, others at process, all the members participate to move the group
toward fulfilling the task. Succinctly put: “Our job is to make widgets
and take care of one another.”
Bruce A. Tuckman, a research psychologist, is first credited (Psychological
Bulletin, 63, pp. 384-399) and often quoted for small-group development
stages--and communication is an obvious component in each stage:
- Forming--“Who are we as a group?” “Why
am I here?” Group members learn about each other and the task at
hand (orientation). Moving slowly through this stage could be the best
gift of the leader.
- Storming--“How are we going to work together?”
Members engage each other’s ideas, roles, and status and become
more comfortable with each other; conflict is treated as “in-bounds.”
- Norming--“What are we gong to attempt together?”
Establish and address goals, rules, and communication patterns; consensus
develops and leadership moves around.
- Performing--“How can we get this done?”
Establish a common goal and implement the goal; completion happens through
commitment, loyalty and a “can-do” attitude.
- Adjourning--Project ends and the group disbands (closure);
or reforming takes place around another task.
- Small Group Types/Sizes
The ideal size of a team or group has much to do with its purpose and its
needed communication components. Teams may be from three to fifteen or so;
some types of groups may be much larger. Let’s consider examples of
small groups and teams requiring communication strategies based on task, type,
- Staff/Volunteer Teams--May number three to twelve, having
diverse service and leadership tasks and communication strategies, such as:
supervision, reporting, coordination, training, etc.
- Volunteer Teams--From five to much larger with the central
component being communication, but many tasks performed as individuals. Some
church councils and committees may function both as a group and as a team.
- Problem Solving Teams--Five to seven members with the right
expertise, commitment and resources to identify, analyze and act toward problem
- Brainstorming/Ideation--A group of ten to fifteen who may
seek to identify problems, explore opportunities, generate options, but without
making decisions or judgments (open-communication style needed). Members are
gathered and requested ahead of time to participate fully in generating as
many ideas as possible on a particular topic, task, or direction. No idea
is bad or wrong; each is recorded. No decisions or judgments are made at this
- Nominal group techniques--Could be twelve to twenty-four
members (or more with subgroup processes). Following a brainstorming group
meeting, group members individually rank options from highest to lowest priority.
Finally, the facilitator averages the ranking scores to find the established
priority of the group.
- Decision-making group--Three to twelve including those
with authority to decide, knowledgeable people to resource, and those to direct
implementation. When it’s time to make a decision, there are standard
decision-making steps, all of them involving communication:
- Identify the problem, the challenge, the opportunity.
- Analyze the situation as it is now--the pluses, the minuses; gather
- Establish the final goals of the decision; what criteria are needed?
- Generate options; for example--brainstorming and nominal technique.
- Evaluate every option against the goals established. Implement the
- Informational/Motivation Groups--Beyond the normal dimensions
of small groups, larger groups, three or more (unlimited) may be convened
to represent the congregation and its ministries. These large meetings may
actually be convened by teams or small groups for reporting, informing or
In a one-week period, what small groups/teams are included in your schedule?
Reflect on the most critical, time consuming, or dysfunctional. As you study
this article, keep these especially in mind: family? Sunday School class? choir
council? deacons/elders? project team? school board? nominating committee? staff
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© 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