Effective work groups are essential to the survival of any business. As I thought about the groups I belong to I tried to find reason one that was effective that I did not oversee. Unfortunately, the only effective group that this applied to was a group I once belonged to at my previous company. This was the internet marketing group at a Timeshare company. Before I am able to talk about my group specifically I feel it is important to define what it is that makes a group a group.
A group is “Two or more individuals in face-to-face interaction, each aware of the others who belong to the group, and each aware of positive interdependence as they strive to achieve mutual goals” (Johnson & Johnson, 2006). A group needs to integrate the multiple realities that individuals bring to it. Many believe that people who think alike or have similar personalities make up an effective group, when in reality they do not. This group was made up of three individuals, my subordinate Karen, my Director Jodi and myself.
Together the three of us were responsible for developing a marketing plan and executing it to bring in six million dollars a year. This was a very important task to generate six million dollars a year in a department that was just started. Our work group was extremely effective for a variety of reasons. We knew how to communicate with each other, we had clearly defined individual roles, and we had great leadership. Communication was extremely important in this work group. One of the first problems we had to overcome was our three different personalities to avoid conflicts.
Being from different backgrounds we had to learn more about how each of us operated. I have always been described as a “touchy feely” person. Touching is one of the most powerful non verbal forms of communication. I never noticed this because I usually worked with mostly men and I would pat a guy on the shoulder and never think twice about it. Now that I am working with two women I had to learn to stop this. Others took this as a non verbal type of communication. I would pat a person on their shoulders to tell them good job. I learned quickly this made Karen very uncomfortable.
When I patted her on her shoulder I could see an instant reaction to it, she never mentioned this to me but I could tell from her body language she was not happy. Non verbal communication is very important to me because my wife is deaf. In the deaf culture this is the only way deaf people are able to express themselves. When I seek out to hire others I pay close attention to their non verbal communication. You can tell how confident a person is by their posture. For instance a person who stands with their arms folded often can mean they are very defensive.
I quickly learned with Karen that eye contact was the best form of non verbal communication we could give. I would just look at her in the eyes and smile when she did something that made me proud. This seemed to work quite well with her. I believe she felt as if she was trusted and this motivated her to do a better job. Non verbal communication is continuous from the time we wake up until the time we fall asleep. This often determines how approachable we are. If your body language does not give others the feeling that you are open then you are often avoided. People feel like they cannot talk to you.
This is never a good thing when problems come up. To find a solution to a problem you first need to know it. Our team had frequent meetings in which we discussed new marketing strategies. The goal each week was to try one new marketing strategy each until we find one that worked really well. We would then report back the results to each other and have one another try it on our assigned resorts. These meetings are usually successful. In one instance we tested each other to find a completely new unorthodox way of marketing our resorts. My idea was craigslist which turned out to be a winner.
So until this day this timeshare still markets its resorts for rent on craigslist. Some of the other suggestions during this week were advertising to the gay and lesbian community which was also a big hit. When this group was first started our main priority was to properly define everyones role in the group. The goal was for everyone to have an equal say and equal responsibility. Our Director found this a little hard I believe because she likes being in charge. The first thing that needed to be done was to equally divide up the resorts so we each had our specific set of resorts. Next we defined who was going to do what.
My primary role was to analyze the usage of inventory and find out our break even points. Karen’s primary role was to find and attend travel trade shows when possible and report back. Jodi, the Director had the role of assigning just how much inventory we were allowed to rent at each resort and separate it from our regular owner base. Analyzing the usage was a very hard task. Each month we had a different allotment of inventory so this made it hard to compare things from month to month because of this it became apparent that we would have to compare each month on a yearly basis.
So I took the time to compile usage reports over the last 5 years so that we can try to recognize patterns during certain months. For one resort in particular in Palm Springs we realized we actually sold more rooms during the low season months. We took this information and adjusted the prices during mid season months to that of the low season and almost immediately sold out. We tried this with each resort and had the same results. Properly defining everyones role gave us the time and the control we needed to make some dramatic changes to the program that was to go from two hundred thousand in revenue a year to six million.
The last most important part of our success was the leadership. Our director although it was very hard for her gave us complete control over the tasks at hand. Jodi had a unique leadership style with very hands on approach. She knew every aspect of each person’s job in the department. This was a rare quality for other executives I have met. A good manager and a good leader must know their staff because everyone is different. If you know what motivates your employees and keep them happy they will follow you through anything. She gave us many incentives to come up with new ideas.
As a leader you must know not only your employees but yourself. You must know what you are capable of and know your breaking point. This she knew very well. There are many things that make up a successful work group. For my group in particular the biggest factor was our leadership. However communication and clearly identifying the task at hand. Once these things are properly defined a group has a much better chance at being successful. References Johnson, D. W. , & Johnson, F. P. (2006). Joining together: Group theory and group skills (9th ed. ). New York: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.