Ten Tips for a More Cohesive Small Group
By Marianne Reynolds, Reference Dept

As a follow-up to last month’s installment, 10 Tips to a More Effective Meeting, this month’s topic is working in small groups. Many people at one time or another have the opportunity to work in a small group. For example, there are many active committees within the library that function with the efforts of small groups of individuals. Working in groups has many benefits, including gathering differing opinions on varying viewpoints, obtaining feedback on current processes, and generating ideas for new innovations. Groups of 3 to 6 people can solve problems well, even very complex problems. It is good to have an odd number of people in a group because if the group needs to make a decision by vote, and there is a tie, there will be one person to break the tie.

When working in a group, people with diverse personalities are combined and asked to cooperate. It is natural that tension can arise, so outlined below are ten simple steps to ease the process of group work. These steps apply to each individual member within the group.

  1. Practice active listening. Respond to ideas and feelings without interrupting the speaker.
  2. Assume that others have useful ideas. Accept what they say even if you don’t agree.
  3. Clarify. Summarize and reflect back what others have said.
  4. Don’t agree too quickly. Encourage divergent points of view to solve problems ideally.
  5. Focus attention on problem solving.
  6. Organize. Decide what issues need to be dealt with and in what sequence before beginning the project.
  7. Ask open-ended questions, not just inquiries with yes and no answers.
  8. Initiate. Create opportunities for every person to contribute.
  9. Strive to be supporting and harmonizing.
  10. Constantly check the progress and assumptions of the group. Is the group heading towards the goal? Are there discrepancies between the group plan and what is really happening?

See Ten Tips for a More Effective Meeting