Functioning groups need a critical mass of members. Watching the group dynamics there seems to be four unofficial functional group contributor types:
1. “Knowledge Holders” – know know how to run the meeting. They have been through the process many times, have attended many meetings and will mentor others.
2. “Innovators” – are watching the group looking for gaps and offering solutions to make the meetings and fellow members better.
3. “True Believers” – are evangelists who get tons of value from the group and want family, friends and peers to get these benefits too.
4. “New Arrivals” – the constant flow of prospective new members, volunteers and contributors.
What happens when you don’t have the critical mass to support a highly functioning group? You end up with a lopsided mix of members. The group may start out with a bunch of True Believers who believe in the mission and goals of the group but, not enough Knowledge Holders that make each meeting run smoothly or Innovators who figure out how the group can best serve the members. In a short time if the group can’t start demonstrating value and providing benefits to each member those members will loose interest and leave.
So what do you do until to nurture a functional group until you’ve achieved that critical mass?
1. Provide functional meetings – Make each meeting interesting, informative and valuable. Handle most of the business-of-the group offline (things like fundraising, metrics and accounting) or by a smaller group. Pay attention to the details. Does the meeting start on time, does it end on time, does it move along, are guest welcomed?
2. Member focus – focus each meeting on meeting the needs of the attendees (not on the needs of the organization). Each time ask “what benefit will members getting out of this?” What one take-away can we provide that will help them in their lives?
3. Did we demonstrate value? If a concept was introduced do our members know how they can implement it? Do they understand how it can impact them?
4. Understand the emotions – how do attendees feel after the meeting? If they feel hope, excitement, happiness, courage, community, and confident – you are probably on the right track. If they are apathetic, discouraged, bored or mad you’ve got some work to do.
A highly functioning is here to stay and betters all the members lives by being a part of it. These highly function groups are built on a mission and process that invites and encourages members to be their best. The good news? A group doesn’t have to have an incredibly large critical mass to be highly functioning.