Interpersonal Leadership: Communication
“Group Communication: Processes and Practices”
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 7.3
Interpersonal Communication

1. Group Communication Process

Communication has to do with the content of the meeting but also with the
process; that is, how does the group function to carry out its purpose? Group
communication processes effectively practiced add to clear outcomes. Consider
the following six communication processes and reflect on your usual practice:

  • Direction–Who is talking to whom? Or is the talk aimless
    and jumbled? An agenda well-developed and followed helps set direction.
  • Participation–Is everyone actively involved? Or is
    someone isolated? Leadership should seek to be inclusive, drawing contribution
    from all group members.
  • Priority–Does the group establish and follow priorities?
    The task, agenda? Quality time should be allocated to significant items.
  • Information–Does everyone have the same information
    base? Is it complete? Reports should be distributed in a timely manner,
    with time to discuss and clarify.
  • Leadership–Does the leader(s) encourage and facilitate
    rather than control? Leadership should move around within the group/team
    based on function and knowledge.
  • Climate–Is the meeting characterized by cooperation
    around a significant purpose? Can the group truly say, “We care about
    each other and about our task performance”?

2. Group Meeting Communication

Now, let’s take a look at small-group meeting practices and tasks
that encourage effective communication. You should be able to laugh at yourself
(or cry), and you should be able to affirm many of your practices. Which ones
are now “under construction”?

  • Pray for guidance throughout the meeting process; a group worship or
    devotional period could be on the agenda.
  • Make preparations and notices for the meeting well in advance; the notice
    should include details the group members need to know.
  • Establish an agenda, the purpose of the meeting; others may need to assist
    in this.
  • Cancel a meeting when it is unnecessary; ensure that all members get
    the notice.
  • Include the people that should be in the meeting–but only those centering
    on the task.
  • Establish both starting and closing times for the meeting; stay on schedule.
  • Arrange the room for each one to face the group–table or circle. This
    increases visual communication.
  • Open the meeting with orientation to the relationship and task needs.
  • Provide for each one to participate. Model the power of listening to
  • Ask open-ended questions: “How do you think a time change would
    alter our worship attendance?”
  • Ask factual, specific questions: “What has been our attendance
    for the last 3 months compared to last year?”
  • Allow each to respond; free-flow ideas, or around the table. Limit length
    of responses to five minutes.
  • Try communication with respect and cooperation. Move toward descriptive
    narration of the issues.
  • When conflict exists, face the issue openly, thoughtfully, briefly; stay
    centered on the agenda or issue.
  • Return to discussing of items on the agenda at hand; don’t stay
    too long on “memory lane” or “rabbit chase.”
  • Create a supportive group climate; encourage all to participate; make
    assignments to individuals or subgroups.
  • Achieve the purpose of the meeting in the given time frame; leave with
    a plan and/or next steps.

3. Another Thought on Small Group Communications

Really there are two sides to this closing thought on interpersonal communications
in small groups/teams–the positive and the negative.

From a positive viewpoint, many of the practices of person-to-person communications
and written format could be adapted to small group meetings, such as:

  • listen actively
  • respond warmly
  • ask questions
  • maintain eye contact
  • plan your statements
  • provide data sheets
  • prepare study reports.

Although it may seem to be negative, let’s face it: if dysfunctional
group members were led to follow effective communication practices, the group/team
could pursue its goals more successfully. The team leader, even the whole
group, may need to employ some special techniques to turn this negative into
a positive. The abstract below contains valuable techniques by Guffey that
may be used to assess your group’s practices.

For Reflection/Assessment/Application
If you take an inventory of your group communication processes and
practices, what would your profile prove to be? Do you need to guide improvements
within your team? Specifically, where do you start?

© 2006; hosted and copyrighted
by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership


Study Abstract: “Handling Dysfunctional
Group Members”

Abstract prepared by Lloyd Elder from: Business Communication, Guffey,
pp. 57-58

When individuals are performing in any of the dysfunctional roles
described earlier (such as blocker, attacker, joker, and withdrawer), they should
be handled with care and tact through techniques of a leader or gatekeeper:

  • Lay down the rules in an opening statement. Give a specific overall summary
    of topics, time allotment, and expected behavior.
  • Seat potentially dysfunctional members strategically–say, immediately
    next to the leader, not seated in a power point, such as at the end of table
    or across from the leader.
  • Avoid direct eye contact. In American society, direct eye contact is a
    nonverbal signal that encourages talking; so, look at those whom you wish
    to answer.
  • Assign dysfunctional members specific tasks. Ask a potentially disruptive
    person, for example, to be the group recorder.
  • Ask members to speak in a specific order. Ordering comments might create
    an artificial, rigid climate, but such a regimen ensures that everyone gets
    a chance to participate.
  • Interrupt monopolizers. If a difficult member dominates a discussion, wait
    for a pause and then break in to summarize or ask someone else for an opinion.
  • Encourage non-talkers. Give positive feedback to the comments of reticent
    members. Ask them direct questions about which you know they have information
    or ideas.
  • Give praise and encouragement to those who seem to need it, including the
    distracters, the blockers, and the withdrawn.

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