In this assignment I will discuss my learning in relation to a group task that involves group theories, and how this relates to my previous experience and how this has informed my future practice. Katzenbach and Smith (2003) have described that an effective team comprises of small sum of people who have skills that are complimentary to one another and are motivated to achieve a common goal.
In the first meeting in our group we were given a small task to help us think about our own and each other's roles and personalities. It was an interesting task as it was completely fictitious and yet we undertook it with great enthusiasm. It was an insightful first session that indicated that I would need to be aware of my own identity in a group setting. It showed that another person and I in the group both were emergent leaders (Forsyth, 2009). Emergent leaders are those born out of situations, whereby their personality type naturally fits to that of a leader. It was integral to bear this in mind as it could potentially cause issues within the group and have negative consequences leading to a negative outcome for the presentation and the rest of the group.
The next meeting as a whole group was positive; everyone wanted the task to be smooth and successful. Meeting others I had never worked with or met before was a unique experience. It made me consider if it would be like this in practice. Engaging with other professionals I had never met before and having to work together to reach a common goal is a real possibility. I was quite surprised to find that I was not the only one feeling a little anxious as other members also expressed this. In fact when they also verbalised that they did not have a lot of experience or knowledge in this area, I felt relieved at hearing this as I did not feel so alone. I initially felt apprehensive as I felt I had the least to offer the group in terms of knowledge and experience. I expressed this as soon as I could, as I felt then that my honesty would do best for the team as a whole. Buckingham and Coffman (1999) stated that identifying and helping to ascertain team member's weaknesses can aid overall team effectiveness. I did not want my weaknesses to affect the group and the work achieved. Though I have come to realise that feeling helpless in this manner also made me more anxious and I thereafter made a conscious effort to complete other tasks. Upon reflection I realised I felt this way because I did not want to be seen as avoiding responsibility or as a 'social loafer' as described by LataneÌ, Williams and Harkins (1979). I did not want to be perceived as not exerting enough effort into reaching our goal simply because I have no experience. Looking back this may have also been because it conflicted between my social and personal identity (Hartley, 1997) as I do not like to be seen as 'lazy'. In learning this I have realised the implications this will have in my future practice working in teams where members may avoid completing work if they feel unwanted or needed.
Groups are unique in themselves as they are recognised for providing their own experiences, expectations and behaviours. Thus much research and literature has been conducted into team-work, team dynamics and its effectiveness into different professions (Hogg and Williams, 2000). Tuckman (1965) proposed a theory of group development stages. These stages consist of forming, storming, norming, performing, and mourning. The group task we were set was not grade assessed yet informal feedback was given from the rest of the class which perhaps played a significant part in our attitude to the work in hand. This may have also meant that we did not have exclusive time to encounter the stages as proposed by Tuckman as the project was brief and not long term realistic to that of social work.
Bartel and Saavedra (2000) contended a group's competence can be determined by the group's mood as a whole. A group may fare better if they are guided by similar social norms and values which help communication and interactions with each other and others. Ekman (1973) labelled this as display rules to describe expressive norms that help guide which moods are required in a particular situation and how these moods can affect the work trying to be conducted. Many other researchers have also stated the advantages to belonging in a team helps with morale, skills, and much more (Gibson et al., 2009). This is more in line in with the processes that were occurring in our group. We were keen to ensure we covered enough information to present to the rest of the class, yet we also wanted an interactive element so that the audience were not uninterested. We all shared the same vision which may have made it simpler to communicate thoughts and ideas. It was also easier to delegate responsibilities according to skill, knowledge and access to resources by having a good natural leader. Having a designated democratic leader (Mackenzie,1997) helped guide the group and also helped to lift the morale of the group, as we seemed to enjoy seeing the project come together. I felt overall this was becoming a positive experience of what working in a group is like, though have come to understand that it may not always be so simple. I feel a valid reason for this is because we had collective awareness of individual personalities and had also socialised outside of lectures which may have aided group cohesion.
Furthermore, temperament theories have also been seen as useful in building competent and effective teams. Merril and Reid (in J. W. Gilley & Gilley, 2003) developed a temperament theory also known as social styles profiles to identify and extensively analyse one's own temperament. Looking back this has made me realise my strengths and weaknesses. In relation to previous placement experience, I had observed that the organisation had a significant lower proportion of children from BME backgrounds (ethnic minority) attending. As there was already a policy in place greatly supporting diversity, yet the background of children actually attending was quite contradictory. This made me consider the reasons why and how this could be transformed so that it had a more diverse outcome. It could be suggested that the organisation was simply paying a lip service and not fulfilling this promise in reality (Patni, 2006). I set about analysing statistics and creating a project so that I could change this. I have come to be aware that I fall under the expressive style (Bolton and Bolton, 2009) in the social styles inventory. Expressives are spontaneous and idea orientated. This is quite like me in this example, I spent a lot of time on this task and I realised that I had neglected other responsibilities which were also important. In evaluating the temperament theory I have realised that had my manager not shared my view and 'temperament' on the dilemma above it would have been difficult to resolve the issue in the first place and potentially oppressive.
These theories and developments into the field of inter-professional and collaborative working have made me consider its use in the context of previous practice experience. An experience that highlights collaborative working, involves a young boy I was working with who had moderate learning difficulties and was a young carer to his mother. As a result of his complex issues, the young boy presented as quite challenging for professionals working with him. A meeting was held to discuss the services present in this family's life, the impact and progress made. I felt a lot of important information was being communicated in the meeting. This kind of setting was really helpful and useful in gaining more information from other agencies in one roof which might help explain the boy's behaviour in more than one context. It is useful for me to see how the boy felt about the services he was receiving as he was also present at the meeting. This is in line with section 22, part 5 of the Children Act 1989. This example also supports Bartel and Saavedra (2000) and their suggestion that a group's performance is based on their mood. The meeting ended with everyone in high spirits at being able to meet the family's needs well thus far and suggesting what additional tasks could be undertaken.
In a contrasting example, a social worker visited the organisation where I was based to see the progress of a child. When I took the appointment she seemed agitated and impatient. When I asked if everything was okay, she said she thought my manager was going to take the meeting. I explained to her that my manager is dealing with a crisis and therefore unavailable. She did not seem too pleased when I told her I was a student on placement. As the meeting continued she made a passing comment saying that I may not know much since I am only a student in the process of learning. When I showed her the work the young person had achieved in the short while they had been here and conveyed my knowledge to her she seemed impressed. This kind of assumption is perhaps a common challenge when working in an inter-professional manner. She may have assumed that my status as an unqualified practitioner meant I lacked skills, knowledge or expertise. Hugman (1991) claims that having exclusive knowledge in a professional sense can be seen as 'social power' and can mark one person apart from the other. Similarly, Saks (2000) also had similar views and named this process as "social closure" whereby policies and procedures in place in the economy professions exclude the unqualified or inexperienced and give power and status to the qualified. These assumptions can lead to communication breakdown and can comprise in barriers in trying to work together which can bring morale down individually and within a team. I felt angry that my colleague would make such a great assumption about my identity as a student social worker. This is detrimental to the work we both are trying to achieve with the young person. I felt I had no choice but to be assertive and stand up for my values and ethics on a personal and professional level. This is in line with the GSCC Codes of Practice as seen in 3.2; "Using established processes and procedures to challenge and report dangerous, abusive, discriminatory or exploitative behaviour and practice;" (TOPSS, 2002). This highlights me being aware of the dilemma and employing the codes of conduct effectively to help my colleague see my point of view, and that she may have meant to disempower me without realising so.
Overall my learning in relation to team work has helped me to be aware of my own behaviour. Group theories have proved useful in guiding my reflective process and understand my strengths and weaknesses. I now understand that I can become anxious when I feel I lack knowledge or experience and that communicating this can aid team effectiveness. I have also realised that creating new ideas and strategies to improve a service is beneficial, though not if I don't manage my own responsibilities appropriately. Past practice experience has highlighted my professional value base and how I engage in collaborative working with others. All of these themes together have helped me demonstrate my knowledge and the critical issues that arise in inter-professional practice, and what improvements can be made in the future.