Building Healthy Groups & Teams

StopHazing proposes the following list of group goals and activities to develop strong and healthy groups:

Instilling a strong sense of belonging

Group members getting to know each other

  • People want to join groups and teams because they want to feel like they are a part of something and feel included with like-minded individuals.
  • Being a part of a group where members feel a sense of belonging helps eliminate anonymity and provides place and purpose amongst the larger group and community.
  • A sense of pride and security can develop from having group affiliations.

Building feelings of group connectedness

  • People join organizations to meet new people and build relationships. Joining gives them a potential bank of connections to explore and cultivate.
  • Joining groups makes meeting people easier because it eliminates some of the barriers of connection since they already share a commonality of being part of the same group.

Learning and building an awareness of group history

To fully understand the purpose and dynamics of an organization, it is important that group members are provided an understanding of how the group came to be, the ideals the group was built on, and how the group has evolved over time. 

Context

  • Regardless of whether the group is newly-formed or has been around for a while, sharing information about how the group was created and why provides context to the group history. 
  • Learning about the values and mission of the group can help members to build a greater understanding and care for the group and highlight why they want to be part of it.  

Understanding Change

  • It’s helpful for members to understand the history and the reasons for creation of the group to help make informed decisions about how the group may or may not continue to evolve over time, how it has evolved since it was created, and why. 

Appreciation

  • Understanding group history also allows for members to develop a greater appreciation for the group. This is key for cultivating engaged and responsible members.

Understanding the group

Groups are complex. The group expectations, dynamics, and operations are typically driven by the mission, vision, and values of the group. 

Expectations

  • Membership in a group comes with expectations and commitments. Some expectations could include: meeting commitments, respectful behavior and conduct, minimum time allocations, communications, and involvement with various projects.
  • It’s important for groups to communicate expectations so people can decide whether or not they are able to commit and manage their time around other obligations.
  • Expectations can become hazing if they are implemented in an abusive manner. Expectations for membership in a group should be evenly distributed among members to avoid new members carrying the heaviest weight of group responsibilities.

Dynamics

  • The dynamics of a group can vary greatly based on personality types, communication, and leadership styles, and more. Group dynamics are malleable and can shift with membership changes, but having a shared understanding of the types of people, personalities, ethos, relationships, and interests is critical in understanding the feel and dynamics of the group.

Operations

  • Not all groups function or operate equally. Operations are grounded by the group mission and include what the group does, as well as how and why it functions. Group operations could include: championing a cause or foundation, planning and hosting events, holding regular meetings, having set schedules, meeting structures, and expectations, operating within an organizational structure (e.g. executive board, officers, captains, etc.), building relationships with other groups, uplifting others’ voices, and more.

Building trust

Building trust as a goal of a group is critical and can be approached through multiple angles. Honesty, openness, getting to know members, building and feeling a part of a larger support system, feeling safe with members, and being able to rely on other group members are examples of ways trust can manifest and be maintained among groups and group members.

Safety and support

  • When individuals find themselves in vulnerable situations or are experiencing adversity, it is important for them to feel safe confiding in other group members when they need it. 
  • Oftentimes group membership aligns with the start of various life transitions, and the ability to depend on the support of a reliable group can help lessen the effects of life transitions. This support should build and retain trust so group members feel confident that the supports will be available to them when they need it. 

Openness and honesty

  • People may be more comfortable voicing their needs when they feel safe in their environment. As members spend more time together and get to know each other in safe, open, and honest spaces, they get to know one another’s needs, learn about each other, and build trust through being vulnerable. 
  • Groups and group members who embody transparency, honesty, and are open with the group can build stronger group relations and build trust amongst the group.

Developing personally and professionally

There are countless opportunities to learn and grow from others throughout life. Groups have opportunities to be intentional programs that encourage personal and professional development. 

Leadership skills

  • Building leadership skills allows members to positively influence and learn from others. Communication, feedback, active listening, empathy, accountability, and responsibility are just a few of many skills members can develop through interpersonal relationship building and intentional development activities hosted by the group. These developed skills can serve members in various capacities throughout their lifetime and set a strong foundation for their leadership skills.

Problem solving and critical thinking skills

  • Providing opportunities for members to solve problems, either hypothetically or related to the group,can build critical thinking skills among group members. Developing problem solving and critical thinking skills can help individuals understand their ways of thinking and be challenged to understand others’ perspectives. These skills are applicable to members throughout their lives, and beyond their group involvement. 

Academic support

  • Academics and scholarship are at the core of any college or university group and set the foundation for the majority of student groups. Groups that devote time to supporting positive study habits and time management skills, endorse public speaking opportunities, hold GPA requirements for membership are just a few ways groups can promote scholarship and life-long learning within their organization.

Career aspirations and opportunities

  • Groups can connect members to career-focused opportunities and networks and help develop members’ career aspirations in many ways. Whether members are connecting to others in their field of study or networking with broader professional associations, groups have opportunities to provide outlets for their members to understand and envision what future careers could look like.

Promoting a strong sense of purpose

A strong sense of purpose within an organization can connect members to the larger mission of the group and provide them with a sense of pride for their personal and group accomplishments.

  • With any group, it is important to have a strong mission and vision that drives the purpose of the group. This purpose should be prevalent to members and allow them to see how the member contributions can lead to something bigger than themselves. 
  • A strong sense of purpose challenges members to question any actions that do not align with the group’s values. This sense of purpose can positively fill members with pride to represent their group and act in alignment with the values they believe in as a collective.

Group Goals: List of Activities

Notes about this resource: This resource is adapted from Alternatives to Hazing first published on StopHazing by Allan in 1997. This list of activities is not exhaustive.Important to know – all group activities and behaviors, given the circumstances, could become hazing. If the activity is used to exert control over another person or humiliate, degrade, abuse, or endanger them, there are power dynamics at play and harm (psychological, emotional, physical) being inflicted. That is hazing. 
See the We Don’t Haze film and companion discussion and activity guides for more information and education on considering activity circumstances that can turn haze free activities into hazing based activities.


Have an idea(s) for a group activity you want featured on this list? Submit your group activity here and we can add it to the list!

Suggested citation for use of this resource in part or in full is as follows: StopHazing Research Lab. (2021). Building Healthy Groups and Teams: Group goals and activities to promote belonging, well-being, and inclusion. StopHazing Consulting. https://stophazing.org/resources/healthy-groups/

References for this resource can be found here.

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