Category Archives: GROUP LEADERSHIP

Conflict as Learning Source

Conflict is desirable from a teaming learning point of view. In fact conflict is inevitable in teams because teams, by definition are made of members with complementary skills and roles. Members with complementary roles are going to perceive situations from different angles. This is positive, but only if the differences are discussed in an open and positive way.

Research has shown that harmonious teams are not as effective as teams which confront, and learn through, conflict. Harmonious teams will often avoid unpleasant situations; problems will be ignored. Therefore the efficiency of the team is reduced. Only by confronting issues will a team learn. In fact according to the FIRO theory teams can not advance to efficient levels of operation without first confronting issues of control (conflict) in the team.

This does not mean the handling conflict is easy. As the Relationship Awareness Theory states, when I am in conflict I am affected by an inner stress or tension. To protect myself, I change behaviour. How I behave will depend on the stage of development of the group, and on the level of my personal development. I may become quite and withdrawn (passive aggressive), I may become openly aggressive, or I may be able to exchange my feelings with other members of the team.

Regardless of the outlet of my discomfort it is important to try to exchange feelings and learn from the conflict.


Warranted and Unwarranted Conflict

The Relationship Awareness Theory recognises that there are two types of conflict, warranted conflict and unwarranted conflict.

Warranted conflict occurs when the people involved do not agree on the desired outcome. For example, in a budget debate one person may think that investing a portion of money in savings for the future needs is the only reasonable action while the other person believes that that same portion of money should be spent on equipment to improve operations. There is sincere disagreement about the goals.

Unwarranted conflict is frequently the result of people’s behaviour being misunderstood or misinterpreted. Literature and research on the subject indicates that the majority of conflict is unwarranted.

Experience suggests that unwarranted conflict can be substantially reduced as individual grow in their self-awareness, grow in their understand of others, and are able to express their feelings.

There are a number of strategies which may be used to resolve conflicts: accommodation, competition, avoidance, compromise and collaboration. In a team where long term relationships are important, the success of the team depends on the co-operation of all of the members, and the team wishes to learn. The only strategy to adopt is collaboration. That is win/ win! If the team is not able to reach a consensus decision (that is a decision all members agree to follow) the chance of the success of the decision, or of the team learning from the conflict, are small.

Using an open communication style, as discussed previously under team circles, is an effective way of ensuring all teams members have the opportunity to express their opinions. The best solution is reached because number of different options are explored. A mutually agreeable decision is reached, and the group continues to operate and learn on an efficient level.

Timed Talk

If two members are in conflict, Timed Talk [1] may be an appropriate strategy to resolve the conflict. The essence of Timed Talk, as with team circles and thinking partnerships, is giving an each party the opportunity to express their opinions while the other party listens attentively.


  • each person has three minutes to talk without interruption, while the other listens attentively
  • use a timer or watch
  • take as many turns as necessary to resolve the issue
  • do not interrupt each other or take over each other’s turn, no matter what
  • if you don’t need all of the time in one turn, save it for your next turn
  • stop talking the instant 3 minutes is up

Do theses things if you can:

  • keep eye contact with the other person when they are speaking
  • focus on finding a good idea, not on winning
  • remember that there is an idea neither of you has yet thought of that will resolve the problem better than you can imagine
  • breathe out

if time runs out before you find a mutually good idea, schedule a time soon to continue.

[1] Developed by Nancy Kline, Time to Think

Open Communication

The success or effectiveness of a team is directly related to the quality of the team’s communication. The quality of the team’s communication is directly related to the quality of the individual members thinking and their willingness/ opportunity to share their ideas.

That is, if you are given the opportunity to think clearly and you are willing to share ideas, your team will be very successful.

Open Communication

If you have a reasonable level of self-awareness and good self-esteem, you will not feel threatened (consciously or unconsciously) discussing difficult ideas. You will not feel uncomfortable in being open and sharing your thoughts. That is, if you have strong self-esteem you are willing to share your ideas.

We are going to look at how we can create an environment to think, and the opportunity to share ideas.


The quality of everything we do depends on the thinking we do first. The quality of our thinking depends on how other people treat us, that is the quality of their attention. So by giving you my undivided attention I am in effect encouraging your thinking and I am giving you the opportunity to share your ideas.

Our success depends on the quality of our thinking!

Team circles simply involve giving everyone a turn to think and share. By doing this we raise the intelligence of the group by increasing the quality of the members thinking and sharing.

When I give you my full and undivided attention I am saying: you matter, your ideas are interesting, you are worthwhile.   I am also giving you room and encourage to think.

What am I assuming if I interrupt you? I can help you by thinking for you, my ideas are better than yours, to be professional I need to give answers, if I don’t interrupt I will never have a turn, I know what you are going to say, I am more important than you, interrupting will save time.

We also need to ask ourselves: do we really listen or do we finish sentences, moan, fill in phases, look at watches, sign , frown, tap fingers, give advice…

If your team becomes a thinking team, you will grow to understand each other, deal with conflict effectively, be creative, and have a great time.

Everyone has something to offer, team circles are a good way of ensuring everyone has the opportunity to share their thoughts. If this does not happen the quality of the groups decisions and action will suffer.

Each activity in a group has two sides:

Content – what is discussed, the tasks that have to be solved.

Process – how the discussion is conducted, how the group solves the tasks and the feelings experienced.

In the majority of cases how the decision is reached is of considerable importance to later work. If a significant minority see themselves as losers, the next stage in the process can be adversely affected. If conflict in the group are not solved by the time the decision has been taken, or if the discussion has been wound up too quickly, the group’s work will not be as efficient as it might have been.

If the decision making process has gone well, in other words everyone has a had an opportunity to contribute their views, and consequently has felt a part of the process, the efficiency of the group will be very much greater.


The 10 components of thinking team circles

  1. Attention – listening with respect, interest & fascination. Don’t confuse silence with not thinking!
  2. Asking incisive questions – removing assumptions that limit ideas. A question works because unlike a statement which requires you to obey, a question require you to think. You may ask: “what might we be assuming here that is limiting our thinking in this issue?”
  3. Equality – treating each other as thinking peers; giving equal turns and attention, keeping agreements & boundaries.
  4. Appreciation.
  5. Ease – offer freedom from rush and urgency.
  6. Encourage – moving beyond competition.
  7. Feelings – allowing sufficient emotional release to restore thinking.
  8. Honesty and openness. Let’s quickly discuss what this means: If we agree truth is an objective assessment of a situation. And we agree honesty is expressing how I feel, my understanding, my thinking about a situation. Then in communication, and with ourselves, it is most effective to all be honest while allowing for the possibility we do not know the truth. Only you know if your are being honest, but remember: people are only boring when they are not honest.
  9. Place – creating a physical environment that says back to people: “you matter”.
  10. Diversity – adding quality because of the differences between us.

Running Team Circles

  1. Before the meeting, decide on the agenda., and communicate to those concerned; or ask others what they would like to discuss, prepare the agenda and communicate it.
  2. Go around the circle and give everyone a turn to: answer a positive question prepared before the course, or to say something that is going well at work, in life …. This brings everyone minds in to the room, and starts positive thinking.
  3. Go around the circle and give everyone a turn to comment on the first point on the agenda. give everyone attention without interruption during open and even fiery discussion. ask incisive questions to reveal and remove assumptions that limiting ideas thereby freeing the mind to think a fresh. divide into pairs when the thinking stalls and give each person five minutes to think out loud without interruption. go around the circle every now and then to give everyone a turn to say what they think. everyone should be honest and should share information.
  4. At the end ask everyone what they thought went well in the meeting (this ensures a positive finish regardless of how heated the conversation became).
  5. If you would like, ask everyone to say something they appreciate to the person on their left (people do not normally hear anything positive about themselves, however appreciation builds esteem which frees thinking).Follow the same procedure for a brain storming session.

Other things to remember:

  • when going around the circle everyone has the right to pass.
  • knowing you will have your turn improves the quality of your listening
  • the mind works best in the presence of reality, so make sure you have access to accurate and up-to-date information.
  • for meetings, if possible arrange chairs in a circle, without tables. This way there are no barriers between everyone, and everyone can see everyone else. If you need to use tables, make sure you sit in a circle so everyone can see everyone else.

Question: doesn’t this take a long time?

An astronaut was once asked: “in 10 seconds your spaceship will explode, what will you do?” The astronaut answered: “I would think for 9 seconds, and then act”.

Taking time to think saves time!

What takes a long time is acting without thinking because the action often needs to be repeated in the right way, mistakes are made, and the best ideas aren’t used. Also knowing you won’t be interrupted frees you to think faster and say less.

Cross-Cultural Communication

The word culture can mean many things from fine art and folklore to everything we humans do that distinguishes us from animals. In this presentation culture is defined as “ the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category from another”(Geert Hofstede, Cultures and Organizations)

Culture is learned, not inherited and comes from the social environment that one is brought up in. It has to be distinguished from behavior that is common to all human beings on the one hand and each individual’s personality on the other hand. In fact the personality differences within a culture are always larger than the differences between cultures.


When we talk of culture in this respect we refer to all the influences that a group of people have experienced in the past. The dominant religion and the historical status of the group influence the self-confidence that people have with regard to other groups. For example China has a very long history of distinction in science, literature and philosophy which still has an influence on people who are brought up in China today. Swedes have the historical experience of being a very small group in a cold climate with many powerful neighbors, which has influenced the IKEA culture.

Talking of culture in this social-anthropological way is to generalize greatly. This is necessary to create awareness of the differences of behavior that we often don’t see in ourselves but experience as odd when we see it in others. The fish are not aware of what water is because they spend their whole life in it.

Taking all this into consideration we are going to look at an attempt to classify some basic differences in cultures around the world. (Being preoccupied with classification is in itself a cultural habit of the Europeans influenced by the Greek philosophers who were the contemporaries of Kung fu-ze in China)

We will look at five different aspects: the relationship to power and inequality; which comes first, the individual or the group; which roles men an women play; whether it is more important what you believe in or what you actually do and lastly the interest in long-term or short term gratification of needs.

Power and Inequality

  • Indistinct show of power. Small wage differences; The manager often consults with employees; Display of power and wealth is not well seen
  • Distinct show of power. The manager gives orders and the employee obeys; Power is displayed proudly; Everybody knows their place in the hierarchy

Individuals or Groups

  • Individual orientation. Children are brought up to fend for themselves; It is important to have self respect – guilt; Tasks are more important than relationships
  • Group orientation. Identity is based on the social network; It is important not to lose face – shame; Relationships are more important than tasks

Men’s and Women’s roles in society

  • Masculine cultures. Money and objects are important; Large differences between men´s and women´s worlds; Conflicts are best resolved by fighting them out
  • Feminine cultures. Sympathy for the weak; Equality between the sexes; Conflicts are resolved by compromise and negotiations

To have the right faith or to do the right thing

  • What is true is important. Logic important “ if A is right and B is the opposite of A then B must be wrong”; The search for structure and laws in nature
  • What you do is important. Paradoxes important “both A and B can be right”; You can create something new by mixing from different sources

Long-term or short-term gratification of needs

  • Long-term orientation. Being sparing with resources – saving for future gains; Adaptation of traditions for modern use; Willingness to wait until your time comes
  • Short-term orientation. Quick gains important – low saving quote; Important to show your status even if you can´t afford it; “Tomorrow never comes”

Situational Leadership

This model, developed by Kenneth Blanchard, describes the development of workgroups from the first phase when everybody is new on the job, keen to learn but in need of direction, to be told what to do and how. At this stage the leader should be high on control and doesn’t need to be very supportive. This is traditional authoritarian leadership, which is right under these special circumstances.


Following the broad arrow we then get to the phase when the group has learned some and acquired some experience. Here the motivation goes down, the enthusiasm of the beginning has waned and the routine of the job has become more apparent. The leadership required here is coaching which means both control and support.

Further along the group has become more proficient but still needs a lot of support. Giving too much direction at this stage will only make the group irritated “we know how to do it, don’t boss us!”

The ultimate stage is when the group is both well experienced and well motivated. This is when they experience that they are professionals and can feel proud of doing a good job. At this stage the leader should step back and delegate to the group to lead itself. A directing leadership at this stage will only result in the group throwing out the leader. They are often more proficient than the manager at this stage.

This model can be applied to groups but also to individuals. In a workgroup you can have individuals that can belong to any four of the stages. This is one of the reasons why leadership is difficult. You must get to know each one of your staff and adjust your leadership style to his/her needs in order to achieve the best potential out of everyone in the group.

Psychology of Teams

There has been extensive research into what constitutes an effective team. The position taken in the team building program is that if we can reflect on our own behavior, and we are willing to communicate openly and honestly, then everything will is possible. However some understanding of the psychology of teams is useful for long term team development.

The discussion will begin with a review of the Social Identification and Social Representation theories. Will Schutz’s FIRO theory of team development is discussed in a separate paper.

In simplest form, social identification is our human tendency to see the world in terms of “them-and-us” – to see ourselves as located in various social groups, which are different from “the others”. Social representations are the shared beliefs or assumptions which we pick up from others and adjust until they fit into our own personal beliefs and opinions.

team psychology

Social Identification Theory

By nature we humans are social animals. We like to associate ourselves in groups which help to define who we are, and from which we gain some esteem. These groups include work groups, sport groups, gender groups, religious groups…

There seems to be two main reasons we do this:

  1. we have a strong tendency to classify most things in life. This makes a complex world easier to understand.
  2. we all have a desire for positive self-esteem. We can gain this from groups we feel proud of, which provide the status we desire. It was first thought that strong ‘us-and-them’ attitudes in the work place where not constructive; these attitudes would inhibit communication and interaction outside the group. Research now confirms that conflict between teams is not inevitable, conflict will only develop only when there is rivalry for resources. In normal circumstances, teams should be able to work well together. The most practical meanings we can draw from this theory are: the importance of a sense of belonging to the team, and the importance of a sense of pride in the team. For a group of coworkers to work well as a team, the team must are well defined. The purpose and direction of the team must be clear, ‘membership’ of the team must be apparent, and team member roles must be well defined. A loose collection of coworkers in, for example, a business area does not constitute a team. If coworkers do not gain esteem from their team they will detach themselves, or they will try to change to team’s status. Detachment could take a number of forms. It could mean non co-operation, or resistance to working together. It could even result in a high coworker turn-over rate. Managers and team leaders can help to develop team pride in a number of simple ways; for example:
  • promoting the achievements of the team.
  • increasing the team’s professionalism through training and development. Management is implicitly saying, “ we believe in you, we believe you are worth the investment”.

Essentially, the social identification shows us that people have a very fundamental tendency to see the world in terms of “them-and-us” groups and that they are also highly motivated to feel proud of belonging to the group that they belong to. It is an ancient source of motivation, derived from the fact that human beings are social animals; team working taps directly into this source of motivation. Belonging to a team allows people to feel special – to feel that ‘their’ group is distinctive and competent. And by doing this, it also gives people a direct source of positive self-esteem, which motivates them to keep up the team’s working quality and make sure that they continue to do well.

Social Representation Theory

Groups of people develop shared attitudes, beliefs and assumptions. The theory (developed by Serge Moscovici, 1984) asserts that these are really mini-theories about how the world works. In the team they provide the basis for behavior; they are used to justify action.

These representations are not normally swallowed whole by team member, they are normally negotiated sub-consciously through conversation to fit into our personal set of values. The team will have a wide range of beliefs, for the team to function well it is not necessary for members to follow all the beliefs, only the core beliefs.

For instance, the organization may say ‘we value team work’ but they reward coworker according to individual achievements. Coworker will be aware of this and behave accordingly. Or, the organization may say we value quality, but purchasing decisions may always seem to be based on price alone. It is not difficult to guess where the team will placed their energy.

Ideal representations are task focused, valuing activities and practices which encourage efficient work practices. They encourage task-oriented interactions, so that intervening to help someone out, or consulting with other team members to the best way of doing something, is seen as ordinary working activity rather than exceptional.

Managers and team leaders can encourage the adoption of positive beliefs through respectful treatment, and open communication with the team. They need to ensure the organization supports the teams, and that team’s objectives really are consistent with the organizations objectives and ways of working.

Social representations, then, are generally accepted assumptions about reality which explain and make sense of what is going on around us. They also reflect issues of power and social relations within their social context. They may appear through symbols, through words and images, or through actions, but they really are all about how social life, or working life, operates.

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Team Learning

Team learning is really the learning individual team members experience and share. By thinking, and by communicating openly, team members can learn together.

Learning can be caused by, or take place in a variety of situations. Teams can learn through decision making, problem solving, conflict resolution, brain storming, even making mistakes.

Perhaps we should ask what is learning? We learn from experiences that provide us with the opportunity to acquire new skills, knowledge or attitudes. Often what we learn is in conflict with previous thoughts. If we adopt the view that learning often is a result of conflict, we should welcome conflict as a chance to learn, not avoid it because it disturbs harmony. However learning only happens when conflict is confronted and the source of the conflict is understood.

The Experiential Learning Model

The experiential learning model is a good description of how teams can learn, and of the learning theory behind the Team Development Program.

We begin with a concrete experience. The participants become interested in an activity: doing things, noting, observing, commenting. This is the start of the process. Later, when you review what has happened, the participants share their reactions with other members of the group who perhaps reacted in a different why.

Reviewing the process reinforces or modifies the experience. You can now begin to generalise and examine how you can make use of your new experience the next time you meet with a similar situation. You form, or are prepared to accept, a theory – a picture of the reality you have experienced. The reflections and discussions may, in turn, encourage you to try to apply the theory, in other words – to develop a new pattern of behaviour. Finally, you put the new behaviour into practice and experience a new experience, which leads to a concrete experience. The model the repeats itself.

Team Learning

Guidelines for reflection

Your team will benefit most if you take the time to reflect on your experiences. This should not be a difficult process. Answering the following questions may be helpful:

  • what happened?
  • how do I feel about this?
  • why do I feel this way?
  • was I successful?
  • why was I successful or unsuccessful?
  • what did I do well?
  • what do I need to improve?
  • what can I learn from this?
  • how does this compare with previous experiences or ideas?


Feelings are our individual internal reactions to people, events and situations. We become aware of feelings through a type of body sensation, often experienced in the abdomen.   Examples of feelings which we have all experienced are: fear, anger, contentment, disappointment, uneasiness, exhilaration, joy…


Feelings may be defined as the fulfilment or frustration of our individual needs through our interaction with ourselves, others, and our environment. They are our relation to the “here and now”. It is through our feelings that we participate with others, and with our environment.

Feelings are individual. What is frightening for one person, may be exhilarating for another. Because feelings are individual, they can not be “wrong”. It is by acknowledging, owning and processing feelings that we learn about ourselves. This is the key to personal development.

Feelings do not need to be discovered through any magical process. They only need to be noticed and acknowledged.   Holistic learning programs, and personal development programs, explore our feelings to help us understand our reactions to new ideas, to others, and to our experiences.

Sometimes new experiences, people, situations, or the unknown cause anxiety. As humans we prefer to think and feel well of ourselves so it is often easier to hide, project, or refuse to acknowledge, feelings.   Some unprocessed feelings are connected with repressed distressed from the past, the personal hurt, particularly in childhood, that has been buried and denied so that we can survive emotionally. It is easier to project (pass the blame) these unwanted feelings, than to acknowledge them. Much of psychotherapy is about raising consciousness about suppressed feelings.

Holistic learning, and personal development, programs are not about psychotherapy. Rather these programs are about creating understanding. Understanding of ourselves, our reactions to others, and our reaction to our environment. These programs are about creating awareness, a necessary condition of trained professionals.

It is only by admitting feelings that we grow personally. A group develops through shared feelings. It is through shared feeling that we are able to empathise with others. That is, use our feelings to understand others.

In short, it is through feelings that we understand ourselves, and we participate with others and our environment. To be emotionally healthy, it is necessary for us to acknowledge and process feelings. Personal learning is often enhanced by acknowledging and processing of feelings in group situations. It is by sharing feelings that we understand each other and are able to effectively work together.

What is a team?

A team is a group of coworkers, with complementary roles and skills, working towards a common objective. Achievement of the objective requires participation of all the team members.


For example: a purchasing team typically consists of a business developer, a technician and a business support. The common objective, set by the team and its manager, will normally involve purchasing targets while securing price, quality and delivery. So a purchasing team has at least three individuals, with different roles and skills, and a common objective.

How does this differ from a work group?

Groups of coworkers who work together are often called teams. However this is often not very accurate. Adair (1986) asserts that in teams “the contribution of individuals in a team are complementary to one another, whereas in a group the members are largely interchangeable.” That is, in a team all members are needed to achieve the goals. In a work group the group’s objectives can be reached without participation of all the members.

A purchasing team is an example of a team, a technical management group may be an example of a work group. The TQE managers meet from time to time to co-ordinate and share ideas, but the TQE managers do not necessarily play different roles in meeting the groups objectives.

Coworkers participate in a work group to share information, to make decisions and to co-ordinate practices.

While the distinction between teams and groups may not always be clear, expectations from the members and the organization are be important. For a team to be successful in achieving its objectives participation of all members is required.   The team members need to be open with each other, willing to share ideas and support each other, and need to be more concerned with team success rather than individual success. Important questions of roles and relationships need to be addressed in a team, this is not as important in a work group.

Why do we use teams?

Teams have a number of advantages over other forms of organization:

  • a small group of individuals, with complementary skills, working together should be able to achieve more than if they were working individually. This is called synergy.
  • giving a team the responsibility, tools, information, guidelines, and authority to achieve objectives is called empowerment. Empowered coworkers generally have high levels of job satisfaction, and therefore bring creativity and efficiency to the organization.

The Two Ingredients Of Successful Teams

There has been a considerable amount of research into team work, and what makes one team more effective than another. Theories include the importance: of clear objectives, of having a strong form of identification, of having compatible members, and of having appropriate organizational support. To one degree or another, these are all true. However, underlying all these qualities are just two ingredients: members of successful teams have a reasonable level of self-awareness, and the team maintains open and honest communication.

If team members communicate in an open and honest way all other qualities of successful teams can be achieved. For teams to achieve this level of communication, the individual team members require a reasonable level of self-awareness.

Self-awareness is about understanding who I am. That is, I will understand why I act or react in certain ways, what influences my behavior, what are my needs, wants and ambitions. If I am self-aware I will understand how I react to other people, issues and situations. I will know how others react to me.

As a self-aware person I will be able to use my feelings to understand my reaction to people, events and situations. If I am to communicate my thoughts, feelings, and opinions to my team members, we will be able to create understanding of each other.

A team with members who can reflect on their own behavior, and who are able to communicate in an open way, will be efficient and effective.

Johari Window

The Johari window (developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham) is a model describing how receptive or open an individual is to giving and receiving feedback.

If you regard the four fields as columns and rows, the two columns represent ‘myself’ and the two rows ‘the group’. Column 1 represents what I know about myself, Row 1 shows what the group knows about me, and row 2 what they don’t know about me. The size of the fields will depend on the degree of mutual confidence. This confidence depends largely on the group’s ability to give and receive feedback. The size of the different fields consequently varies within the frame of the window as a whole.


The first field, Arena, or Open/Free Area, shows what I know about myself and also what the group knows about me. This field is characterised by an open exchange between myself and others. The field becomes larger when the trust between group members increases, which occurs when they exchange personal information with one another.

The second field, Blind, shows what I don’t know about myself, but what others know about me. When I participate in a group, I communicate both verbally and non-verbally in a number of different ways, some of which I am unaware of, for example gestures and actions, how I say things, the way I approach people etc.

The third field, Front, or Hidden Area (sometimes called Façade), shows what I know about myself, but what the group doesn’t know about me. There can be reasons why I conceal this information from the group.

For example, I may feel that I don’t have the support of the group, or may feel insecure. I assume that they dislike my sentiments, ideas and reactions, but never know this for sure since I avoid revealing more of myself and the risks associated with this. Another reason for omitting to provide certain information is that I want to manipulate or control the group.

The last field consists of things which neither I nor the group know about me. Some of this material lies hidden so deeply under the surface that I perhaps will never become aware of it, while other material may lie closer to the surface and can emerge through feedback. This field is called the Unknown and represents, for example, childhood experiences, hidden strengths and undiscovered abilities. It is impossible for a person to know everything there is to know about himself/herself, and for this reason this field has a supplementary field to illustrate that certain material will always remain under the surface, the Unconscious.

An important goal with group processes is to increase the individual’s knowledge of him/ herself, i.e. to reduce the blind and unknown fields and move the vertical line to the right. As this field contains information which others know about me but which I don’t know about myself, the group must give me feedback. The more receptive I am to their feedback, the further the vertical line will move to the right (see arrow in above model).

Another goal is to increase the efficiency of the group. This requires greater openness. Greater openness can be achieved by reducing the size of the front and unknown fields, i.e. by moving the horizontal line downwards. The front field contains information which, for various reasons, I consciously withhold from the group.

I can reduce my front by giving feedback to the group about what I think and feel about what is happening within the group. The group will learn where I stand and will not need to guess or try to interpret my standpoint and behaviour.

As I reduce my blind, front and unknown fields, I increase my arena. However, it is important that there is a balance between the desire to give and to receive feedback. Imbalance can affect my ability to contribute to the group becoming more effective.

How large the arena becomes consequently depends partly on the total amount of feedback that can be processed in the group, and partly on the balance between the feedback which the individuals give, and respectively receive.

Characteristics of the four fields

Johari window-personality types

Model 1: Open person

Model 1 is the ideal window in a group situation and in the majority of other relationships. A person with a large arena can be described as Open. He feels secure in the group. As a consequence, the other members of the group do not misunderstand him and can recognise their own views and feelings in his comments or behavior.

However, it is not always desirable to have such a large arena. For example, with superficial relationships a large arena can be experienced as threatening or improper.

Model 2: The Questioner

The large front in model 2 illustrates a person whom we can call the Questioner. He provides no feedback, i.e. does not talk about what he thinks and feels, but instead prefers to put questions to the group. He participates in the group process by receiving a moderate amount of information – he wants to know what others think before revealing himself. Since this individual reveals little of himself, he can be the cause of feelings of irritation, mistrust and restraint among the group.

Model 3: The Teller

Model 3 shows a large blind field. This person, the Teller, wants to give feedback but is not open enough to receive any. His style of participation is to tell the group members what he thinks of them, how he finds the group, and his views on the group’s tasks and way of working and reaching decisions. He can criticise the entire group in the belief that he is being open and objective, but is insensitive to any feedback from them. Either he is a bad listener or he receives feedback in such a way that the members of the group are discouraged from continuing. For example, he can become angry, begin to cry or threaten to leave. Afterwards, he is even less sure how to get through to the others, or of their impression of him. Since he doesn’t process or understand the feedback he receives, the group cannot deal with his reactions. Communication becomes one-way and he is no longer an effective member of the group.

Model 4: The Clam

The last model with the big Unknown field illustrates a person, the Clam, who doesn’t know a great deal about himself. The group doesn’t know much about him either. He is the silent group member, or the observer, who neither gives nor receives feedback. It is difficult for the group members to know what he stands for or what sort of impression they make on him. He appears mystical and encapsulated in himself. When someone asks him why he doesn’t participate, he might answer “I learn more by listening”. Group members who do not actively engage themselves or participate in the group receive far too little feedback since the group does not receive sufficient material to react to. An active group member, however, reveals more of himself and provides information which the group can give feedback on. This can sometimes be painful for the active member, but he will learn a lot more than the passive member.

The idea behind giving and receiving feedback is that the group should become more effective. If information is transferred from the blind and front fields to the arena, everyone has access to it. Feedback also gives greater self-knowledge, and hidden talents which were previously unknown can come be revealed.

FIRO – Stages of Team Development

Will Schutz, an American psychologist developed this theory, which he called the FIRO theory – Fundamental Interpersonal Relationship Orientation, when he carried out a study for the US Navy into the efficiency of various groups on board US warships. The US Navy wanted to discover why certain groups worked better than others in spite of all the members having the same level of competence and training.

In the course of his research, Will Schutz found that a group went through three phases in its development towards unity and efficiency. These phases and the features that characterise them are illustrated in the diagram below:

FIRO model

A group working towards the goals of unity and efficiency must pass through the phases in the order shown to succeed. The process of group development is thought to be cyclical. A group which through development has reached the third phase – openness – will eventually return to the previous phases as a result of, for example, to the assignment falling outside the groups framework, or the addition or loss of a new member to the group.

The more mature a group is, the shorter the time it will take to reach the third phase.

The group’s energy

To solve the most important questions for the group, the members of the group must contribute a lot of energy. Where this energy is focused depends on which phase the group is in or on its level of maturity.

During the inclusion phase energy is focused on questions concerning membership. A lot of time is needed at this stage to find out how much you are prepared to adapt yourself to the others, how you accept them and what resources are available.

To enter the control phase you must be prepared to take chances and risk exclusion or other consequences. If the group is to be able to progress it is important to dare to take chances. During the control phase matters of leadership are crucial to the group’s development. Now is the time to allocate responsibility, deal with conflicts and determine what role you want within the group. This phase is the most difficult and often requires the most time.

Group Energy

Once the group members have discovered their roles the group can move on to the openness phase. This is generally experienced as a strong feeling of satisfaction and contentment as any conflicts that arose have been solved. The start of this phase is characterised by considerable caution, and it is important to maintain the good atmosphere and feeling that has appeared. The group’s energy is directed at preserving this unity and openness. Here, the leader’s efforts play an major role in avoiding stagnation. During the rest of the phase, the group’s energy is concentrated on further developing positive means of communication, confidence and acceptance of one another.

In the openness phase the group does not need to solve membership questions or conflicts, instead the group’s energy can be used for solving assignments efficiently. Relationship problems are solved as they arise.

If the problems in each phase are not tackled successfully, the cycle is reversed i.e. the group returns to the preceding phase.

Overview of the phases

Inclusion phase


  • try to get to know one another
  • are very polite to one another
  • create the emotional starting point for their own and others’ future actions
  • show little need of finding a group identity
  • attempt to read and interpret non-verbal and symbolic signals
  • require order and structure
  • show great dependence on the leader
  • put forward many suggestions for activities for the group, of which few are followed up
  • are unwilling to reveal and talk about their “hidden motives”
  • question their own and other’s values
  • try to foresee the behaviour they can expect from the other group members
  • show a strong need to be accepted by the group
  • create few or no serious conflicts
  • exhibit a strong need to understand the group’s goals and game rules
  •  take few personal risks
  •  show that they are unsure if they will or will not be a part of the group
  • take part in endless discussions about unimportant things
  •  try to orientate themselves – Why am I/we here? Is this the right group for me/them? Can I/they work in the same group? Can I be myself in this group? What will they require of me what will I require of myself? What rules will apply?

Comfortable phase

Before a group enters the control phase, the group must first pass through an intermediate phase, the comfortable phase. The group enters this phase when the last of the inclusion questions has been solved, i.e. when they finally feel that everyone is a part of the group. During the inclusion phase the group has consciously avoided all important conflicts, especially those concerning leadership, because the members are aware of how difficult it is to deal with questions of power and responsibility. The group uses the feeling of contentness to gather strength and avoid for as long as possible having to solve the questions which lie ahead of them.


  • develop a feeling of “we are all part of the group”
  • begin to reveal hidden motives and values during discussions about the group’s goals
  • begin to take more risks and show that they are less concerned about being accepted by the rest of the group
  • demonstrate more openly their degree of commitment within the group

Control phase

A group can remain in the comfortable phase for quite some time. For the group to progress it must have an assignment which requires that a leader be appointed from within the group, or that someone compares the member’s competence and ability.

When one or more of the members of the group begins to try control the group or direct the group’s work, the group enters the next phase – the control phase.


  • form groups within the group and exhibit fewer group tendencies.
  • compete more openly with one another and between sub-groups.
  • use accepted excuses for questioned behaviour.
  • try to convince the others that their view is the correct one.
  • show that they refuse to be influenced by others.
  • become increasingly involved in conflicts, which also increase in intensity.
  • try, with the help of others, to assume or avoid leadership.
  • try to solve conflicts that arise through voting, compromise or by seeking external assistance.
  • actively try to discover their colleagues “hidden motives” but are cautious about revealing their own.
  • give each other feedback which is often cutting and aggressive.
  • show they are no longer concerned whether the group accepts them or not.
  • take big risks and show that they are prepared to accept the consequences of their actions, even if this means expulsion from the group.
  • display considerable differences of opinion in matters concerning the group’s work.
  • exhibit a considerable need for structure and leadership, but are unwilling to allow anyone in the group to satisfy this need
  • go against the formal leader
  • try to minimise the stress caused by conflicts by taking refuge in irrelevant activities.

Idyll phase

  • The idyll phase is normally preceded by an serious conflict between the members, or a crisis in the group normally about leadership.

After experiencing a conflict and reaching a solution the group often feels itself “redeemed” or “cleansed”. The feeling is almost impossible to describe, but no-one who has experienced it can mistake it.


  • begin to identify the conflicts and the persons involved using more straight forward and honest language
  • show greater willingness to find solutions to conflicts and hence to change their own opinions and positions
  • allocate leadership, roles and responsibility within the group based on an objective discussion of the individual’s competence and virtues
  • develop a group identity and understand their roles within the group.

Openness phase

THE MEMBERS initially:

  • The transition from idyll to openness requires far-sighted leadership both within the group and within the organization the group belongs to.
  • Many groups never reach the openness phase but instead remain in the idyll phase, especially if they are working in an organization which rewards competition between groups in an inappropriate way.
  • deal with conflicts as they arise
  • display synergy, i.e. have discovered that collaboration within the group often gives better results than individual efforts
  • demand consensus solutions, i.e. common solutions
  • ask for suggestions, listen to them, evaluate then, react and, if suitable, implement them
  • display contentment since they believe that all conflicts have been solved
  • openly share ideas, feelings and opinions and give feedback
  • show that they are content with their role in the group and with the group’s activities
  • display a considerable need for unity
  • display a feeling of “invulnerability”
  • run down other groups – “they are not as clever, skilled etc. as we are”
  • defend the group identity internally and externally
  • demand group loyalty
  • sometimes appear to be more amused than interested by the assignment
  • focus most energy on maintaining personal relationships and avoiding returning to the control phase.
  • display warmth

MEMBERS later:

  • regard conflicts as a problem for the group as a whole and an opportunity for further development
  • feel secure since each member knows that they are appreciated in the group
  • display warmth and comradeship without demanding possession
  • do not feel threatened by or jealous of relationships or sub-groups
  • allow each member in the group to decide for himself when and how much he or she wants to participate in the various group activities
  • are able to cope with relationship problems without neglecting their tasks
  • communicate with each other directly, openly, honestly and spontaneously
  • reach decisions via discussion which encourages opposing views
  • are aware that is possible to actively improve the group’s processes