Organizational Consultation XXII: Empowerment (Part Two)
In many instances, a meeting that is called for information-sharing purposes is actually being used to instruct and convince, rather than just inform. Meetings can be effective when used for these two purposes—provided all members in attendance know that these are the intentions of those convening the meeting. An appreciative meeting can provide a forum for immediate, two-way communication, thereby building team spirit and group acceptance of changes that have been made in the organization. An appreciative informational meeting can also include avenues for dissemination of information, for group member’s feedback on this information, for exchange of pertinent information among all members of the group, and for further definition, planning and clarification in all three domains: information, intentions and ideas.
Once members of a group begin to communicate with one another and provide each other with feedback regarding the accuracy of information being conveyed, the validity of an underlying belief or assumption, or the quality of an idea being presented, then conflict will inevitably arise. I have consulted with many groups that shy away from their continuing maturation precisely at the point that they encounter conflict. As Tuckman has noted (and I will describe in the next essay in this series), the stage of storming is likely to occur in any group. It is not a sign of failure—but is rather a sign of group maturation.
There are several ways in which to manage the conflict that inevitably occurs in group settings. One can focus on the individual conflicts that arise among members of the group and make use of the many mediation tools that are available to manage these interpersonal conflicts. Given that we are focusing in this set of essays on group-level empowerment, I will address the issue of conflict-management primarily from the perspective of group management of conflict-filled issued. Even more specifically, I will focus on the attitudes, structures, procedures and processes that group members use in managing inevitable differences of opinion and priorities among group members.
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