Empowerment Leadership Model for Small Groups, Teams, & Families
Course Two, Lesson 11
Identifying and Overcoming Internal Barriers
to Accomplishing the Group Purpose
knowledge & resource deficiencies
group process barriers
Note: Whenever "group" or "team" is used, it can mean "group", "team", or "family".
A successful group must continually identify and overcome barriers to the accomplishment of the group purpose. These barriers are usually interrelationship problems, insufficient knowledge and/or resources, and group process barriers. But anything that gets in the way of success must be dealt with.
This is the subtask on which the group leader will most often help with over the life of the group. If we think of a group progressing toward its purpose through identifiable goals as a straight line, barriers are those things that break the straightness of the line or actually block it. In the life of a group, there are different things continually getting in the way of progress. The successful group gets better and better at identifying and overcoming whatever gets in the way of progress.
Interrelationship barriers exist in all groups. It may be dislike between members, as well as a few members who like each other too well. It can be distrust for no good reason and distrust for a very good reason. It can be group members not understanding one another and letting the confusion go unaddressed or creating a group split over it. Interrelationship problems can even be someone in a group needing help but not asking for it or help given that is not well received. You name it, it can be a barrier to a group’s progress toward its goal at sometime or another.
But, here is an interesting dilemma. Sometimes interrelationship problems are not a hindrance to the group’s progress toward its purpose because it is a symptom of why the person is in the group in the first place. For example, you want a short-fused man in a therapy group to blow up so that the reason he does can be more accurately analyzed. You want a disorganized team member to come to a meeting unprepared so that this problem can be dealt with by the resources of the whole team.
Most interrelationship problems will affect the group’s functioning. Therefore, from time to time, you as the group leader will have to teach interpersonal relationship skills to individuals and to the group, but only when no group member can teach the group these things.
Knowledge and resource insufficiencies can be barriers. For example, a therapy group might not know enough about the ethnic culture of a member they are trying to help. A team might need to research a specific method of analysis required by a unique situation. The group of kids in a group home might need to research the cost of various activities to be able to stretch their budget for maximum fun.
Then there are group process barriers. This is when how the group is working is not taking the group closer to its purpose. One common such barrier is delay of getting started each meeting, often by joking. However, small talk and joking might also be functional, so careful analysis is called for. Process barriers can be many things, such as too much detail, not enough detail, or the feeling that it is not safe to open up with information or ideas, etc. The talented group leader stays on the alert to spot barriers to the way the group works.
Next, let's look how it is the group's responsibility to control dysfunctional behavior.