Managing Groups and Teams
Political socialization is a process of inducing people into the political culture that they are willing to attribute to. With the stiff competition between the two main political parties in the United States, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, our party has come up with various strategies so as to win the recent election. Among the strategies employed was coming up with groups of ten young people who were trained on the political socialization process in order to win the Democrats and the undecided part of the population back to our party. In this context, a group can be defined as a collection of individuals who interact and work together to achieve a common goal (Mottola & Utkus, 2009). With reference to a concrete experience, this discussion provides insights into the challenges of socializing and interacting with the Republican Party, as a group, through a reflexive observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation.
Similar to other groups, I joined a small group that was meant to interact and socialize with more people trying to persuade them into becoming active members of the Republican Party during the recently concluded election. It involved ten of us approaching the undecided as well as the supporters of our opponents, the Democratic Party, and winning them over. Our goal was first to let them understand our political values as a party. We presented ourselves as a group of young individuals who were very vibrant and able to take advantage of the technological advancements to achieve the party’s goal. Through various group activities, we were able to actively take part in promoting our political principles and influence the behavior and beliefs of many adults whom we interacted with either directly as they came to our functions or indirectly through the Internet and other avenues.
Each of us understood that though certain zones could be seen as belonging to our opponent party, people are independent in their political behavior, knowledge, attitudes, and values. We realized that people do not acquire these aspects based on their genes; therefore, they are open-minded when it comes to their political ideals. We took advantage of this fact and committed ourselves to providing people with the critical political learning process that was vital to their decision regarding the party to vote for. Therefore, we looked into active as well as passive ways through which we could help people internalize our political party’s ideal and become its members. This was done both formally and informally to encourage the maturity of our members and minimize party hopping.
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The approach was very successful. Through the steps outlined above, the people developed their independent political self and joined the party without being forced. In fact, most of the people we took through the process now identify themselves with our party, being its committed ambassadors and bringing many more to our camp. To us, it is not enough to be a political party only, rather, we see ourselves as part of the whole political community. Thus, it only takes teaching people values, knowledge, and beliefs to assist them in comprehending the government's policy and the country's politics in general.
However, not everything was smooth. We found it easy to approach the areas marked as White zones while some of us were a bit reluctant to approach the Black voters. The problem came in when we were discussing the approach to use when contacting the Black Americans, majorly the African-Americans and the Asian population. At this point, I realized that there was a need for a leader who could act as a driving force that could enable the group to move from one step to the next one. The groups required an effective leader who is capable of studying situations and applying an appropriate leadership style as per the prevailing circumstances. In the case study, I (as the leader) chose to adopt a high level of transparency and openness when undertaking my duties as advocated for by Mottola and Utkus (2009).
While I maintained that the Blacks were a vital part of voters, my colleagues thought that the population majorly comprised those who were determined to support the Democratic Party candidate, Hillary Clinton. To me, this would not be the case because I believed that people were not simply going to vote for the candidates based on their skin color but rather according to the ideals for which they stood and in which they believed. In fact, the sense of being either an American or not is majorly determined by one’s feeling of being part of a unique nation where people share their beliefs in the democratic ideals. Moreover, these ideals can be communicated and shaped through the political learning process.
Though the difference in opinions may have made my colleagues not participate with much enthusiasm when it came to black zones, at the end, when they saw the Black population dancing and singing to the tune of our candidate, they appreciated my efforts in convincing them to act otherwise. They finally believed that people do not support a political party because of their race but rather because of the ideals, knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes that they have learned over time. Moreover, it was evident that the attributes can be de-learned, especially where people were not made to understand why they believed in what they were pushed to believe in. In fact, with regard to the young people, we did not even have to contact them physically; instead, we took advantage of the media to sell the political ideals of our party and explain why we believed that the Republican Party was the best choice for the United States.
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With the challenge identified, I was able to employ the model of Force Field Analysis to reveal and analyze the key issue that was causing the problem. I tried to frame the perceived problems in the form of various factors that were making the members of my team believe that color was a major issue when it came to deciding whom to vote for. With the understanding of the lies about the restraining forces, I tried to make the members understand my point by explaining the desired direction. However, I must admit that managing the group was a big challenge as every member was keen to have his or her idea adopted by the group. In some cases, some members chose to reserve their contributions for fear that the other members would mock them or that their views would be disregarded.
There was a need for me to apply a situational leadership style to approach every situation on its own and offer all-inclusive solutions. I also had to use democratic and laissez-faire leadership skills in some cases although there were situations that called for the application of authoritarian leadership. Such an experience was pivotal to me in the sense that it enabled me to understand that a leadership style should mainly be situational, while group management calls for assertive reasoning and decision-making. In response to the ideological differences, I chose a democratic leadership style that enabled me to initiate discussions on the contested issue. Whenever democratic leadership failed to work, I chose an authoritarian leadership style to resolve the stalemate.
As part of the authoritarian leadership style, I realized that the challenge could be effectively solved through the application of the Johari Window Communication Model. The model helps people build trust in each other through a disclosure of information about the self and the value feedback from others (Mindtools, 2016a). Thus, the members were able to disclose their fears and challenges with respect to approaching the Black population and asking them to vote for our party. After the challenges had been addressed, we were able to move on as a team.
The analysis provides insights into the functionality of groups. First, it helps in understanding the fact that group members often have diverse opinions and ideas, which should be harmonized to achieve consensus. Second, the analysis shows the essence of effective communication that helps group members build strong interpersonal relationships to facilitate mutual understanding (Bacal, 2016). The disagreements enabled me to learn that the most challenging moment in the group is the storming stage where members find difficulty in coming together due to struggles such as power struggles as they are trying to establish themselves within the group (Chapman, 2016). Such a situation calls for strong emotional awareness that helps understand group members’ behavior patterns and adjust accordingly to accept group diversities (Mindtools, 2016b).
Based on the insights presented in the analysis, I have revealed a weakness that I should strive to overcome for a better working relationship in my future groups. Thus, I will take time to build trust between the group members and myself so that the interactions within the group occur on a mutual ground since mutual understanding is the key determinant of success according to Johari Window’s model of communication (Chapman, 2016a).
The analysis has presented vital insights into the sphere of managing groups and teams. It has boosted the understanding of a group or team as a collection of individuals whose work is aimed at achieving a common goal. In the process of achieving the goal, members can disagree on a number of issues due to the fact that they have diverse opinions and can look at things differently. Such disagreements should be regarded as normal, with measures taken to facilitate effective communication as a means of minimizing conflicts within a group and boosting cohesion.