Group Formation: Learn How To Form Groups The E-A-S-Y Way

Are you facilitating an unformed group? In this video, Michael Grinder, the pioneer of nonverbal communication, provides actionable ways you can use verbal and nonverbal cues to help transform your group from unformed to formed — quickly.

Group Formation: Learn How To Form Groups The E-A-S-Y Way

  • E- Echo
  • A- Acknowledge resistance
  • S- Silence
  • Y- Your hands

Read the modified transcript to “Group Formation: Learn How To Form Groups The E-A-S-Y Way” below.

Today, we’re going to look at the idea, in-person with a group, what might you do that will help the group to be formed in a faster, accelerated way? 

It’s from our book called “Managing Groups: The Fast Track.” 

Here’s what you’re going to find. I’m here, the people are assembled. How do I go about making this group more accelerated in their formation? 

We’re going to give you four ideas, and we’re going use the initials E-A-S-Y, to help you remember. 

What does the E stand for? Anytime you do something in unison, you end up having a group be formed. Now you have to do it based on is it appropriate for the culture? 

Example. In Europe, the big thing called football, which we call soccer, is they do all kinds of chants. Why? If you sing together, you are formed together. 

How about socially? If you eat together, you’re formed together. That’s why in certain business contexts, you either eat and then talk business, or play a round a golf and then play. 

Anything that will do things together makes a huge difference. 

What is acceptable to your group that we all do things together? Is it open the book, pass this out? Put your name on the top of the form? What is it? That’s the E. It’s called Echo. Do things that reverberate back and forth. 

The A stands for Acknowledge. Please know: what is the possible resistance in the room? Get that elephant out. Don’t let it fester. 

Now the way you get it out, it’s best if you go, “Thank you for coming today. Our agenda’s gonna be,” and then you turn to one side and you show visually what we’re gonna be covering. This duplicates the papers that you have passed out. So this is a public representation of the private sheets that they have. 

Then before you start, turn over to the other side, and now indicate, “This is what we have to be careful of.” Is it a budget consideration? A time constraint? Is it a disagreement among members? Whatever that is, acknowledge those elephants. Get them out. Why? You’re proactively acknowledging it. 

I love the expression from a good friend of mine named Judith Delozier. She says, “A pint of proactive acknowledgement is worth a gallon of reactive.” Reactive, it means when the elephant finally comes out and now you have to respond to it. Uh-uh. The members want to know, “Is the person in charge…” (and we keep coming back to our triangle: Person in charge, the Individual, and the Group), the group and the individual want to know, “Is the person in charge?” 

Do they know what’s going happen before it happens?

An example of that, we’ve all flown on planes. If we go into a storm and then the pilot comes on, and says, “We may be experiencing some turbulence,” you turn to your neighbor and go, “Yeah, I feel real secure.” 

If the pilot comes on before we get to the storm, that’s proactive. 

Proactive acknowledgement of resistance from the person in charge really, really works well. 

The third that we’re going to do is gonna be called the S for Silence. This is a weird, weird thing. 

Before we go there, in terms of group dynamics and formation, let me first talk about social. So let’s pretend my wife and I are gonna go out with one of her business partners, associates. When we’re driving to the restaurant, I’m asking Gail all the possible questions of what the other people like as interests, hobbies, married, family, children. Then when we get to the restaurant and we have the meal, and we’re doing eating together, it’s always helpful, you’re going find that if there is no silence during the social activity, it’s successful, but that’s because it’s an unformed group. 

In a formed group, Gail and I just eating alone at a restaurant, we can talk or not talk. That’s so pleasant. We know each other. We’re formed. We can either talk or not talk. 

Now that means silence that is awkward means that the group is unformed. Silence that is comfortable means that it is formed. 

What we’re going do, you’re gonna intentionally create silence. 

You could say, “Now look at number four on your agenda. Each of you has a concern about that budget coming up for the next quarter. If you would, take your time and just indicate to us, and we’ll put it up here on the board, what your concern is.” You’ve asked the question now, now just sit. 

But you’ve got to breathe really, really low. Why? It’s gotta be a comfortable silence. If you’re comfortable, they will be comfortable. 

So when you say, “So when you’re ready, we’ll ask for a volunteer.” Stay very relaxed. Now, if you do it wrong, “If you’re ready, volunteer.” And you’re holding your breath, you are so stressed. Everyone goes, “Whoa, I don’t want to to be caught with that person. And the two of us are up there in stress while everyone else is making fun secretly of us.” 

Silence is absolutely wonderful if the person in charge can breathe low. 

You want that silence. Why? From their side what happens is, they go, “Gosh, I didn’t think we were formed enough for us to be comfortable in the silence, but the boss is, therefore we must be also.” It’s really cool. 

The last one, the Y. E-A-S-Y, the Y stands for Your hands. 

It’s a stretch. And it’s connected to when you do the auditory acknowledgement of what is going on. So if you’re going to say, “Some of us have traveled 10 miles to be here, and other people, have traveled over 100 miles to be here.” And what you’ve just done is, instead of saying the auditory acknowledgement of some people live close by, some people have traveled, use your hands as you do that, blah-blah-blah, blah-blah-blah. 

Why? Your hands represent two subgroups in the group. Once you’ve acknowledged that, then just take your hands and put them together. “So for the next three days what we’re going to do…,” and you bring them together. 

Same thing in terms of concepts. Some people are from research and development. Other people are from sales and marketing. Now, instead of having the “blah-blah-blah, blah- blah,-blah,” keep that first hand out. “Some people are from research and development.” Keep it, keep it, keep it. “And other people that are from marketing and sales.” Now that you have these two groups, say something in which you bring the hands back together, and you’re collapsing the two subgroups together.

E, echo. A, acknowledge. S, silence. Y, your hands. 

Michael Grinder here. Get those groups accelerated when you meet with them. It makes a huge difference. Thank you.

More videos in the group dynamics series

Boost Group Foundation + Dynamics to The Next Level

6 Ways to Tell If Your Group is Formed Or Unformed

5 Ways to Identify A Dysfunctional Team

Group Dynamics: Why Team Members Are Like Dogs And Cats

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