Book & Inventory by Geoffrey Bellman, Kevin Coray & Kathleen Ryan

Extraordinary GroupsExtraordinary Groups

How Ordinary Teams Achieve Amazing Results

Book & Inventory

Excerpts from Extraordinary Groups

From Chapter 1:

From Chapter 2:

from Chapter 1:

Overview: Why Small Groups are Important Now

Do you spend lots of time working in groups?

Are you frequently frustrated that groups are not more alive, more fulfilling, more productive?

Have you found yourself thinking, What a waste of time! Or, nobody listens! We never talk about what's important! I had really hoped to learn something here! We are so out of touch with each other! It takes us forever to do anything!

Affirmative answers to these questions suggest this book is for you.

Most of us find ourselves in groups in all aspects of our lives: teams, committees, task forces, clusters, pods, clubs, networks, boards, or councils. Regardless of what they are called, many fall short of their full potential. Plans are implemented half-way, if at all. Group members' talents and knowledge are only partially tapped. The work of the group does little to expand members' learning or sense of possibility. Interaction among members shows only periodic fl ashes of energy, creativity, or authentic connection.

Occasionally, we are involved in a group that transforms us, is "inspiring," "exciting," "life-changing," or "amazing." When our next group experience falls short of fantastic, we ask ourselves: What was different about that amazing group? What allowed us to work together so beautifully, so productively? How could I replicate that experience?"

The two of us have been living, watching, advising, facilitating, and leading groups for a combined total of ninety years. Each of us has written and taught others about groups and how to work with them. And we share the experience of one extraordinary group: The Community Consulting Partnership (CCP)—the group to which we have dedicated this book. Fourteen years ago, a handful of us founded CCP, and it has turned out to be extraordinary. Nine volunteers run this little organization. CCP helps create more successful not-for-profit organizations in our community while building consulting skills in citizens. We have learned much watching CCP evolve in purpose and structure, relationship and performance. Because of our participation in this group, each of us has been changed for the better.

Like so many people, we have been both excited and mystified by a handful of our own group experiences—those that transcend the normal and stand out as amazing. Three years ago, our curiosity pushed us into conversations about three questions: Why do some groups describe themselves in such exceptional terms, while most do not? What do these great groups have in common that sorts them from the rest? What might be done to create their extraordinary results more often? That's when we decided to write this book.

from Chapter 1:

A Story: Micro-Credit for Millions

In 1996 when she was newly graduated from college, Barb was one of twelve staff members hired to organize a global summit that engaged 3,000 participants from 137 countries. The purpose of this global conference in Washington, D.C. was to launch a coordinated campaign to reach 100 million of the world's poorest families with access to credit for self-employment—and all this by the year 2005. Unlike other summits of the 1990s, this one was convened by civil society—not by governments or the United Nations. Two years prior to Barb's involvement, this effort was brought to life by grassroots citizen activists committed to ending poverty. We interviewed Barb, her co-worker Jacki, and Sam, their visionary executive director.

Starting in June, 1996, the goal for the conference staff was to organize and then orchestrate this complex, politically sensitive, international multi-day event that would take place eight months later. As a small example of the challenge they took on together, Barb remembers "trying not to panic when I had the White House on one line, the First Lady of Angola on another, and the president of Peru trying to call in all at the same time. Where was Emily Post's book of protocol and etiquette on pecking order when I needed it?! " Operating out of a very tight office space—actually an old converted apartment building—"people came from all over the country to be involved. We were very eclectic." They brought different ethnic backgrounds, personalities, cultural perspectives, education, professional identities, language skills, and reasons for being involved.

At minimum pay, they often worked eighteen-hour days managing the details of everything: coordinating security for visiting heads of state, lining up conference speakers, and making sure that there were enough copies of the program when, three days before the conference, registrations jumped from 1,600 to 3,000. At all hours, staff members worked the phones in multiple languages to secure the participation of key leaders from around the globe and their personal commitments to take action once the conference was over. With solid funding, Jacki remembers that "our biggest problem was that no one had heard of micro-credit." Once people understood what it was,"everyone thought what we were doing was terrific and pitched in to help."

Conflicts occurred "when we were tired and hungry and had not gotten enough sleep." With only two private offices, staff members gathered in one to sort things out. As an organization," it was not hugely hierarchical—people were expected to come forward. Everything seemed to get an airing." With a just-do-it attitude and respect for one another, "we'd work really hard, vent when we needed to, and then go out for a dinner or a drink together." Jacki told us that "it was war. Us against poverty—and we had each others' backs."

When the conference closed as a huge success, many of the staff ended up at one person's apartment. "We couldn't leave each other for a couple of days. How could we possibly disband? We had bonded for life."

The team that put on the Micro-Credit Summit produced results that are amazing and transforming on multiple levels. When they began, they had hoped for 600 participants and 3,000 came! And more important, all delegates had agreed to the conference's goals and made commitments about micro-credit loans prior to arriving for the meeting. Careful tracking of the commitments to extending the micro-credit revealed that it took two years longer than originally targeted to achieve the conference's goals. But when reached, what an achievement! "This is a tremendous achievement that many people thought was far too difficult to reach. What makes it even more remarkable is that loans to more than 100 million very poor families now touch the lives of more than half a billion family members around the world. That is half of the world's poorest people." 1

In addition to this astonishing global accomplishment, Jacki and Barb were deeply affected personally as members of this group. For Jacki, this was "one of the most important moments of my life . . . I'm now fearless when it comes to asking anyone for anything." Barb speaks poignantly of a transformational moment that took place at the very end of the conference. Back stage, looking out at the 3,000 people in the auditorium, she saw that "In the front row with queens and first ladies and heads of state, one person stood, then two others stood, arm in arm, singing our closing song. Then I saw an ocean of people standing up, arm in arm, and singing. I realized that in this room alone, we had the resources that could make our vision happen. My heart was blown open with deep appreciation and hope and a sense that I could make a difference. We were a squad of twelve people! In a disheveled office. Our small voice engaged the world. I could never be the same again." . . .

from Chapter 1:

What to Expect from Extraordinary Groups

In the following chapters, we explain our Group Needs model in detail, share stories of extraordinary groups in action, and offer guidance to help you encourage extraordinary experiences in your groups. This book comes in three parts.

Part One: We present an overview of the key elements of our model, including the defining indicators of an extraordinary group and the connection between the Group Needs model and transformation.

Part Two: Each pair of the Group Needs model is described in its own chapter along with reflective exercises and suggestions for actions you can take in your groups to increase the chances of the six Group Needs being met. Chapter Seven illustrates transformative shifts that occur when multiple needs are met at once.

Part Three: In this section, we offer specific content on how to embrace differences within a group so that they become an asset rather than a barrier to success. We provide special guidance to group leaders, then bring the book to a close with a final chapter.

Appendices: Here you will find content that will help you apply all that we propose in the main part of the book: exercises to practice what you learn in Chapters Four, Five, and Six; a summary of the key content points; a list that describes how we intentionally behaved toward one another during our collaboration to ensure an extraordinary experience; and intriguing references about related topics.

We have written Extraordinary Groups to help you see your groups differently. So that you can consciously behave in ways that will encourage your groups to be extraordinary.

This is possible regardless of your role: member, designated leader, or facilitator of a group. From our interviews, we'll provide twenty inspiring examples from amazing groups, groups that have much in common. Some of the stories will reflect the experiences of ongoing groups; others describe one-time events or projects. You'll find a small version of our Group Needs model in the margin next to each story we share. We also talk to you directly, asking you to do your own thinking about what we present. Please engage with us by practicing what you read. Keep track of your learning in a journal or notebook. If you do, reading Extraordinary Groups could become a powerful—even transformative—experience for you.

from Chapter 2:

Overview: What's Different about Extraordinary Groups

An extraordinary group achieves outstanding results while members experience a profound shift in how they see their world. These amazing groups show up in all sectors, they pursue all manner of purposes. Our sixty stories of these extraordinary groups came from organization leaders, information technology professionals, soldiers, software developers, trainers, managers, human resource offi cers, small business owners, community college counselors, basketball coaches, high school teachers, doctors, nurses, event organizers, community activists, health care administrators, consultants, soccer players, parishioners insurance executives, community volunteers, moms, government contractors, philanthropists, ministers high school students, book club members, white-water rafters, motorcycle riders, barbershop quartet singers, board members . . .

We examined sixty wonderfully different groups that shared a common enthusiasm for their "extraordinariness." We asked ourselves what extraordinary means, what indicators sort these amazing groups from the all the rest, what features differentiate these " Wow! " groups from all those that are " OK, but not great. " In this chapter, we share our findings with you, and use one such group to illustrate an extraordinary group in action. We encourage you to think about your groups in the context of what we have discovered about extraordinary groups.

from Chapter 2:

What Distinguishes an Extraordinary Group?

Our field study yielded eight indicators linked to what we are calling " extraordinary. " Watch an extraordinary group and you will see these eight indicators in action. Barb ' s and Laura ' s groups had most of them, and so did most of sixty groups we studied.

Extraordinary groups exhibit

  • A compelling purpose that inspires and stretches members to make the group and its work a top priority
  • Shared leadership that encourages members to take mutual responsibility for helping the group be successful
  • Just-enough-structure to create confi dence to move forward, but not so much as to become bureaucratic or burdensome
  • Full engagement that results in all members jumping in with enthusiasm, sometimes passionately and chaotically, regardless of role
  • Embracing differences so that group members see, value, and use their diversity as a strength
  • Unexpected learning that translates into personal and group growth
  • Strengthened relationships among members characterized by trust, collegiality, and friendship
  • Great results, tangible and intangible

Keep this list of indicators at hand. Watch an extraordinary group at work and you will be busy checking them off. You will see one indicator after another, often many at once, bouncing off and building upon one another. As we interviewed people, these eight themes surfaced again and again.