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Team as a led working group

The leadership competence of the superior is the basis for a working group to achieve a certain performance at all. Kurt Lewin has proven that there is a direct correlation between performance and leadership style in working groups.[1] Managers should therefore “be able to intervene in the group process from a certain distance in a goal-oriented and flexible manner. Cognitive prerequisites for this are the ability to reflect on groups and their regularities as well as the conscious perception of one’s own subjective experiences in and with groups.[2] Leading working groups is therefore always also professional relationship work.

According to Bruce W. Tuckmann there are four phases of a group. Depending on the group dynamics, the phases can last for different lengths of time. A working group can only become efficient after a certain time and enter the temporary performing phase.[3] The first three phases of the group development serve the relationship level in advance. In the forming phase, the group focuses mainly on itself. By concentrating on the lowest common denominator, the group cuts itself off and strengthens its cohesion. Tight and goal-oriented leadership enables the searching group to find the necessary support. The assignment is determined and the general conditions are set by the supervisor. The subsequent storming phase reflects the budding claims to validity and power of the group members. In this stormy process of finding a group, the different interests and opinions are exchanged. Thanks to the conflict, the greatest common denominator is found and a cooperative climate is created. The supervisor accelerates this process through an open communication climate, so that misunderstandings and uncertainties can be clarified immediately. In the norming phase, the group then organizes itself and common rules are established. The desired cooperative and efficient behaviour develops.[4] The performing phase now serves to achieve results effectively. The group is stable and productive. The supervisor only intervenes when necessary or desired.[5] However, the Performing Phase is not indefinite. Over time, the group itself no longer finds innovative solutions to problems and performance continually declines. The Group’s lifetime or productivity is limited to a period of one and a half to five years.[6] A low fluctuation rate is normally regarded as an indicator of successful organisational socialisation.[7] However, if the performing phase has exceeded its half-life, the departure of group members must be sought. Only in this way can the group find itself anew as an organism, the forming phase begins again and productivity is also ensured in the longer term.[8]

The group work has a positive effect on motivation on the one hand. This is because the needs for sociability and influence are satisfied through participation. Jürgen Wegge divides this positive effect into four sub-areas. Motivation is increased by the presence of the other group participants (mere presence), it is promoted by the better partners (Köhler effect), by sacrifice in the group (social compensation) and by the feeling of being able to work in the group and being absorbed in it (social labouring).[9] Information gains can also have a positive effect on group work. In comparison to independent individuals, more ideas are produced and creative solutions developed in the group. In a real cooperation, shared knowledge can be built up, which allows a particularly efficient division of labour and effective completion of work. The learning effect is particularly high due to the possibility of observation and imitation, and obvious undesirable developments can not only be recognised more quickly in working groups, but also remedied more quickly.[10]

However, group work can also have a negative effect on motivation. Conflicting goals, abuse of power, social leafing, social anxiety, free riding, the feeling of no longer wanting to be the fool (sucker effect) and soldiering can be cited as causes for motivation problems.[11] Thus, interaction can also lead to problems which can reduce output or even have a counterproductive effect on the work result. The division of labour can further reduce the innovative power, increase the number of errors due to the close technical coupling and lose sight of the big picture. A negative effect of information processing in the group should be mentioned separately, the so-called groupthink phenomenon[12]. This desire for unanimity and consensus means that groups with a high level of solidarity and loyalty are unable to examine or realistically evaluate possible alternatives for action.[13] The quality and also the quantity of group work suffers so markedly.

The following measures help to positively influence motivation: a) Heterogeneous composition of the working group, b) Open culture of dialogue and debate, c) Restraint of the superior in making comments and d) Use of an advocatus diaboli[14] in the group[15] These measures can strengthen group cohesion, improve group performance and increase motivation through knowledge generation.[16]


[1] See Lewin 1966; Becker 1995, pp. 64-65; Teutsch 1999, pp. 60-65.

[2] Hug 2008a, p. 301.

[3] Tuckmann 1965, p. 396; see Hug 2008a, pp. 311-313; Nerdinger 2011b, p. 97; Weibler 2012, pp. 80-81.

[4] See Knecht et al. 2007, pp. 117-118; Nerdinger 2011b, p. 97; Weibler 2012, pp. 80-81.

[5] Cf. Knecht et al. 2007, p. 118; Nerdinger 2011b, p. 97; Weibler 2012, p. 80-81.

[6] See Rosenstiel 2007a, p. 289.

[7] In organisational socialisation, the company tries to introduce the employees to the existing values so that they are enabled to fulfil the demands made on them, cf. Nerdinger 2011b, 70, 78.

[8] See Mills 1974, 10, 26

[9] See Wegge 2004, pp. 55-66, Rosenstiel 2007a, pp. 353-355; Nerdinger 2011b, pp. 99-100

[10] See Wegge 2004, pp. 47-54, Nerdinger 2011b, p. 99

[11] See Wegge 2004, pp. 82-91, Nerdinger 2011b, pp. 102-104

[12] See Wegge 2004, pp. 79-80, Nerdinger 2011b, pp. 101-102; Klocke and Mojzisch 2015, p. 5

[13] Cf. Wunderer 2011, p. 284

[14] The advocatus diaboli is to be used when consensus is reached too quickly on an important issue and the group has not dealt with the matter sufficiently. The advocatus diaboli has the task of “looking for possible problems of the chosen alternative and presenting them to the group. It is possible that the [group members] will find good arguments to refute the objections so that the group can stick to its decision. It is also possible that the objections cannot be invalidated and that it becomes clear that another alternative is actually better to evaluate. Klocke and Mojzisch 2015, p. 21.

[15] Cf. Rosenstiel 2007b, p. 395; Scholl 2007, p. 551-552; Rosenstiel 2007a, p. 365; Wunderer 2011, p. 284-285

[16] The information is accompanied by the mediating communication and the resulting knowledge generation, which in turn has a positive effect on motivation.

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