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Group Observation #2: Final Paper

Tyler Sanders
Western Michigan University


Group Observation #2: Final Paper
With each year and semester, students and organizations start as a raw clump or clay and
as the year progresses molds into a complex and grander masterpiece. On a bevy of occasions I
have had the opportunity to watch student leaders learn and grow from the experiences that they
have during an academic year. Upon returning to Harrison/Stinson Hall for another SHARC
leadership council meeting, it was easy to recognize how much growth had occurred since the
last time. While I did not get to see SHARCs creation, the current state of the organization was
successful as the group has developed into an effective team by understanding their group
Entering the same lounge for my second SHARC meeting, I was initially subject to a
different type interaction than I had observed in January. Kara, the President, and other members
welcomed me back and were excited to see me back at leadership council. As I sat in the back of
the room I remembered the first time that I had attended SHARC. In January the room seemed
tense, cold, and slowly throughout the meeting more members had come. During this visit more
than ten members were there on time and were making conversations and laughing like good
friends do. The room was warm and welcoming and as the meeting began the students appeared
to be enjoying themselves more than at the first meeting.
Throughout the meeting, my observations showed that new students had risen as leaders
and previous leaders had taken on new roles in the team. SHARC President Kara opened the
meeting as she had done before asking residents to make sure they sign in and discussed the
points that were on the agenda. Whereas Kara previously acted as a harmonizer among the
eclectic group of students she was working with, at this meeting she had taken on a new role. As
she worked with the students she became an interpreter as she recognized and was able to read


the actions and non-verbals of each member of the group (Winston, Bonney, Miller, & Dagley,
1988). Kara was able to use this knowledge to be proactive and reactive in the information she
was sharing and where the discussion and meeting should go from there. An example of this was
seen when members broke off into groups and Kara was able to recognize the progress of the
three groups and then return to the full group meeting at the right time. In this meeting Kara did
not simply go through the items on the agenda, but allowed time for group think and
opportunities for others to give reports.
In the updates and information that was shared by other members of SHARC, the
previous members who did not have a recognizable role in the group before appeared to have
found their fit in the organization. As explained in the baseline piece certain members had fit into
the roles outlined by Winston et al. (1988) while others were simply acting members.
Throughout the meeting two individuals came forth as an energizer and the other a coordinator.
The energizer, Ted, was not present at the first meeting, but brought a great vibe through the
meeting and brought the mood up in the room (Winston et al., 1988). Ted had made an effort to
walk around the room and interact with everyone before the meeting had even started and
through the meeting he acted as the individual who made jokes and made the meeting fun.
Another individual whom had found her place within the group was Erica whom had become a
coordinator who was able to hear the different ideas of the other members and find the common
ground between different ideas (Winston et al., 1988). Erica displayed this multiple times, but an
example was when the group discussed a program that they were planning and she was able to
point out what everyone seemed to want.
Overall, the members of the group had started to fall into their roles and one final
important portion of the group was understanding the role of the advisor. Stacie had now


succeeded in creating a normative culture to how the team would function and simply came to
the meeting as a resource (Zacaro, Rittman, and Marks, 2001). During the meeting she was able
to sit on the sideline and did not talk throughout the meeting. Stacie had finally become an
effective advisor that allowed students to lead the group and make it what they wanted it to be.
Her efforts with the students on a one on one basis had allowed the group to function well and to
go from formation to norming.
While each individual had shown group, SHARC had also seen movement through group
development as a student organization. In observing John Tuckmans (1997) theory of group
development SHARC had gone from norming to performing during the last year. During the
January meeting the group had come into the meeting and seemed to go through the motions.
The President discussed agenda items, gotten volunteers, and left with no questions. At this
meeting the functioning of the group was very different. Kara had started the meeting, but then
each member was able to have a role in the meeting through reports and group think. Preparing
for a week worth of events the room was split into three planning committees where their ideas
were shared and logistics were put onto paper. After about ten minutes of planning each group
was allowed to present the program they wanted to propose. Tuckmans (1997) performing stage
is apparent in the group as they were now competent in completing tasks without conflict and
were able to do it efficiently.
All of SHARCs members had shown proportionally growth since January and this could
be seen in the cohesion between the members and the way that they communicate now.
Festinger, Schachter, and Bock defined cohesiveness as the total field of forces which act on
members to remain in the group (as cited in Winston et al., 2010). For the Harrison/Stinson
leadership council these forces were the students and the success that they have had during the


year along with many other forces. Among this group it was observed that peer pressure had
been created between their commitments to the residents. It should be noted that the pressures
that effect members can be external or internal, coming from personal opinion or that of peers,
advisors, and other students. Not only had the group become friends, but now together they
shared a common goal for the group in the vested interest of the individuals that lived in the hall
and whom the group was to focus their efforts.
In terms of communication, the group had went away from being silent individuals and
had become a social team. This social connection has helped in the cohesion that brings the
groups together to complete project. By creating interpersonal relationships with one another,
SHARC members were able to cooperate as a team with mutual respect. This respect was seen as
members of the group were giving both positive and critical feedback to the ideas being
expressed throughout various portions of the meeting (Winston et al., 1988). A perfect example
of this was observed as one group shared their ideas about a casino night, but could not come up
with a large amount of ideas. In response members of others groups acknowledged the ideas, but
essentially were able to provide feedback through other ideas. While bouncing ideas of one
another was a necessity to understand the group as a whole, it is also important to reflect on the
changes made in communication throughout the groups duration.
During my baseline analysis it was clear that all interactions had to go through the
President to be deciphered, but in this final observation members were able to communicate
among one another. To elaborate on this idea Winston (1988) discusses the group being in the
working stage and that this form of communication allocates for trust throughout the members to
a point that the leaders affirmation is no longer needed. This also shows the point in which the


leader no longer seeks control to be successful, but is able to negotiate and organize the members
to create a successful team.
According to Bloomdahl and Novan (2013), Empowerment and trust are key factors in
building effective groups (p. 113). This quote resonates when it comes to my observations of
SHARC and their functioning as a group. Empowerment holds a key piece in understand
SHARCs development over time. In the beginning, as an advisor Stacie was able to empower
certain students to take leadership in organizing the meetings and events. While this was relevant
during the January meeting, the March leadership council meeting showed Kara and other
executive members to empower individuals that did not have a position on the executive board.
This empowerment and trust given to each of the members allowed them to feel like they had a
place in the meeting and were part of the group.
Observing the communication and relationships between the members of SHARC during
this final analysis, it could be seen that trust was definitely occurring among the group. Whether
it was in the fact that the group felt comfortable splitting up responsibilities or how the group had
come to a point where they all understood their roles in the leadership council, it was obvious
that trust had been built from previous experience. The leadership council organizational
structure is designed so that the group meets weekly and is responsible for multiple events and
programs. As an advisor, Residence Life tries to take a hands off approach that allows for the
student organization for learn from their failures or successes. While this occurs during
Tuckmans (1997) storming session, it allows for the members to start to understand their role
and the roles of others in the group. Looking at these observations in reference to Foley and
Bonneys stages of group development, it appears that SHARC had moved into the operational
stage (as cited in Winston et al., 2010). Their movement into this stage was marked by the


confidence that they had built for each others talents and knowledge of their efforts. A prime
example of this was seen when the leadership council started to make decisions on what awards
they should bid for recognition. Now the group was not only able to acknowledge their own
identity, but also of that of the group.
When I first visited the Harrison/Stinson leadership council they had been formed for a
semester, but there was still room to grow. As seen through the hour long meeting in March, I
was able to see a group that could accomplish anything because of the knowledge they now had
of each other. As the year comes to an end, SHARC has become a piece of art consisting of
student leaders and future world leaders. Every year is a new year with new first year students
and other emerging leaders looking for an opportunity to do something great and advance
themselves. Through my observations have proven that Harrison/Stinson leadership council has
the ability to mold raw claw into and experienced and well prepare adult.


Bloomdahl, S. C. & Navan, J. (2013). Student leadership in a residential college: From
dysfunction to effective collaboration. Journal of College Student Development, 54(1),
Tuckman, B. W., & Jensen, M. A. C. (1977). Stages of small-group development revisited.
Group & Organization Management, 2(4), 419-427.
Winston, R. B., Bonney, W. C., Miller, T. K., & Dagley, J. C. (1988). Promoting student
development through intentionally structured groups, (3-72). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Zaccaro, S. J., Rittman, A. L., & Marks, M. A. (2001). Team leadership. The Leadership
Quarterly, 12(4), 451-483.