Mainstream management methods can only bridge the gap between functional and dysfunctional employees, bridging, at best, merely provides a communication link between competing subgroups. In order to close the gap, you need to conduct a purposeful search for a common meaning without creating intra-group opposition.
One way to do this is to form a Group Acceptance Pact (GAP). The GAP is an agreement, preferably in writing, to establish a forum where group learning and understanding are sought, where judgment is suspended, and agreement is not necessary. Acceptance is a critical factor in getting low performers to broaden their expectations enough to feel secure in a group. Underachievers are more likely to acknowledge the views of others if they are first accepted “as is” and not pressured to change as a condition of belonging.
The Group Acceptance Pact is simple to design. The following guidelines provide an opportunity for underachievers to practice self-responsibility in the safety of a mutually supportive group environment:
- Stick to the agenda.
- Do not bring up unrelated issues.
- Talk about one issue at a time.
- Fully explore each item before moving on.
Speak without blame
- Share only what you know first hand.
- Be truthful about what happened.
- Avoid faultfinding.
- Seek all the facts.
Comment without judgment
- Listen to ideas, thoughts, and recommendations.
- Resist speaking for or against suggestions.
- Avoid using gestures to express your concerns.
- Do not explain one person’s thoughts to another.
Set aside attachments
- Avoid aligning yourself in advance of the meeting.
- Be open to all possibilities during the meeting.
- Leave your personal agenda outside the meeting.
- Do not lobby others for support in the meeting.
Search for meaning
- Provide explanations as often as requested.
- Encourage comments, questions, and clarifications.
- Look for the best in whatever is said.
- Ask for examples of how things might work.
- Encourage silent members to provide input.
- Pay attention to each person as they speak.
- Observe a pause after each speaker is finished.
- Briefly summarize each speaker’s main points.
- Avoid side comments and conversations.
- Do not interrupt the person talking.
- Take frequent breaks to keep everyone fresh.
- Restrict outside telephone calls and messages.
Trust the process
- Do not change the process once it has begun.
- If the process is not working, ask for suggestions.
- Ask others how they feel about what is going on.
- Discuss why you feel the process is not working.
Managers who use the Group Acceptance Pact (GAP) discover that it greatly enhances the implementation of team building, decision-making, problem solving, and conflict resolution. The payoff comes from those participants who, by practicing self-discovery, are no longer dependent upon management to solve their problem. As a result they become self-directed problem solvers who can think for themselves.