The four stages of group development listed below can be useful for approaching group development, whether for a new or emerging group or for experienced groups. Each group or team will have specific needs which are dependent on the group’s history and experience. Both new and long-term groups alike will benefit from study and integration of the following stages.
In stage one, groups begin to form networking relationships and trust as well as to generate individual roles within the group or team. In this stage, trust among members can be initiated as well as leadership positions assigned; questions of personal distinction within the group or team can be acknowledged and sorted out. This stage offers a good chance for group self-inspection and for detailing the organization’s specific makeup.
Stage two, “storming,” often includes jockeying for power and so is a good time to
enhance team building to ensure that competition is managed so as not to damage individual team members or group relationships. In stage three, “norming,” differences of opinion, background, and skills begin to be viewed in a positive light. Now communication begins to focus on constructive interactions. The fourth stage of group development, “performing,” focuses on action and problem solving. Cooperation, creativity, and nurturing of group potential begins.
Communication in culturally diverse groups can be problematic and effective tools exist to facilitate this communication. When there are contentions, bad feelings or trying situations two key points must be remembered concerning communication and cultural diversity:
1) Group members should remember that it is often challenging to communicate about cultural differences without the use of cultural stereotypes.
2) As diversity in a team or group boosts, so does the complexity of communication and the need to improve communication skills.
Because cultural diversity offers differences between team members, a wider variety of ideas, talents, skills and knowledge is available to culturally diverse groups. Teams or groups that are culturally diverse and display constructive communication will have at their disposal a wider range of talents, skills and ideas. Examples of effective communication include: communicating clearly with fairness to other group participants, listening for what is actually being said (rather than what you want to hear), inviting others to participate in group discussions, learning not to judge people due to culturally specific accents or idiosyncratic speech.
In addition to the above strategies, asking questions to verify that one is listening correctly should be encouraged, as should the use of language that promotes trust and community.