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Why teams Go Bad? Groupthink SEO a Team Norm That Contaminates Teams


groupthinkBy Mary,

When a decision needs to be made by a team or group on  how to develop a Integrated Online Marketing plan, an SEO project chatter, or a social media  creative brief,  sometimes the best and most effective idea within the group is not implemented. The reason this happens is because a group could be  contaminated by a phenomenon known as groupthink, a type of group peer pressure where members are made to conform to  pre-established norms.

Many managers don’t know that when the group forms teams for the first time, there is an invisible norm being established within the first few minutes the very first time a group meets. The author of Organizational Behavior, Robbins, refer to the groupthink phenomenon as  “a disease.”. He believes groupthink contamination stops the group’s ability to make decisions based on the best idea  because of conformity or peer pressure. Another problem that arises within groupthink is an exaggerated attitude that appears from the need of individuals to overshadow the others (ironically some team members do this in an effort to appear smart, as an attempt at being accepted by the group).


Effective teams begin by analyzing the team’s mission, developing goals to achieve that mission, and creating strategies for achieving the goals. Groupthink or contamination of the team norms occurs when there is no clear direction or mission, where strategies are not implemented from day one.


Members of successful teams put a tremendous amount of time and effort into discussing, shaping, and agreeing on a purpose that belongs to them all collectively and individually. Teams (and team members) that don’t have good planning skills are doomed; and perfectly executing the wrong plan is a lost cause.  This is why I subscribe to the idea that when assigning individuals to teams, two important things need to be taken notice of: a) individual preferences need to be respected (assigning someone who prefers to work alone will only bring the moral of the entire team down); and: b) making sure individuals match with each others’ personalities and that roles are complimentary, otherwise the relationship will deteriorate, quickly leading to a working-relationship conflict.


The first day the team gathers, the manager and/or the team leader needs to set the goal orientation from day one. Otherwise, the group can get infected with the norms of groupthink. Teams should also agree on whether their goal is to learn about and master a task or simply to perform the task; evidence suggests that different perspectives on learning versus performance goals lead to lower levels of team performance overall.


So how do we stop  group-think from happening?
There is a technique that can be applied to a team(and client) to establish healthy group norms. Nominal (in person) and Interactive (online) group techniques can aid to assist teams to have structure and to follow the organizational norms, not the norms establish by the team. Nominal and interactive teams perform a task that involved idea generation (brainstorming) and selection (choosing the best idea, not the Groupthink idea).

The nominal group technique (NGT) or Interactive Group Technique (IGT) are group processes that  involves problem identification, solution generation, and decision making. It works better in teams composed of no more than four people.

How does group size affect performance?


Group size affects performance in a big way. In terms of productivity and performance, studies have shown that there is an ideal group size of between 8 and 12 members. With any group, regardless of the size, the tendency of individual members to work less than if tasked as an individual makes sense and is demonstrable; thus, as the group grows in size, this tendency of individual members becomes more pronounced. For this reason and others, management of larger groups places additional burdens on the group or department manager, burdens that include enhanced “people skills”, the ability to touch and bring out an individual’s best, as well as enforcing individual accountability rules that were put in place with the group’s and the project’s inception. These rules and procedures would include individual recognition as well as tangible, measured and appropriate rewards for an individual’s efforts towards completion and success of the project.

Nominal vs. Interactive SEO teams

Studies have shown that nominal out-performs interactive groups. Nominal are in-house teams, and interactive are teams or clients you work with in projects remotely. For Digital and SEO managers this answers the many questions–that have given birth to articles about about SEO Horror Stories or 15 SEO Worst Enemies or Warning Signs of Bad SEO Clientof why so many issues happens among SEO projects,  and that is because the team is mostly interactive. Ex. client is in California, SEO is in New York, or India. 


Teams Differ In Form And Structure
The team effective model can assist to give form to the team structure. To form an effective team, the model organizes key components into three categories:

  1. Resources (and other contextual influences)
  2. Team compassion ( homogeneous or heterogeneous attributes such as  skill, experience, ability, etc)
  3. Process variables (are events within the team that influence effectiveness). Ex. decision making, leadership, communication, coordination, assertiveness, adaptability/flexibility, morale, situational awareness, feedback and backup behaviors.


The four contextual factors most significantly related to team performance are adequate resources, a climate of trust, effective leadership, and a reward system. 


Case scenario for an SEO team composed of staff, client and you
1. Adequate resource: Work teams rely on several resources inside or outside of the group in order to be effective. If there is scarcity of resources, this hinders the team ability to perform to it maxim potential and reach the set goals. The adequate resources may include:  proper equipment, timely information, and adequate staffing.


Sometimes resources can come in a form of skills, having an individual in the team with vast knowledge on how to set up  and run a Digital or SEO project can be by far the most important factor to success and the cure to avoid conflicts with the team or client. For example many Digital Marketing project begins with “what are you goals?” of no one in the team knows this, then there is a scarcity of skill. Here are 5 examples on how to set up your SEO or Social Media S.M.A.R.T goals.


As an digital marketing manager, you know how much not having the right tools to run your operation can harm the project:  keyword research, analytics, CRM systems, or access to the backed of a site. Lacking flexibility to source these tools and tasks can hinder the project progress ,and if the scarcity is substantial, it can generate an atmosphere of fear, frustration, and hostility within the team and/or the client as well.

Here is a list of resources that can aid to to avoid team/ client conflict based on lack of resources:

Conflict Resolution based on organizational behivior:

It is important to note that many times it is not the resources, but the lack of understanding of them.

For digital or seo managers, cross-functional tasks into other department’s silos is part of their job,  and the clear understanding and acknowledgement of this fact,  can ease the execution of the Digital or SEO project. SEO process touches almost every stakeholder in the organization. Everyone in the SEO project should understand it from day one of the  project initiation.Read the most about Cross-Functional SEO to see a flow chart infographic of the SEO process everyone in the SEO project should known.


2. Climate of trust: Any project can only be executed by people; these people conformed the team. Every member is important and essential to the project’s success, in that no team member can breakout of their duties otherwise the project fails apart. These certainties that many take for granted, believe it or not,  it is not always in the realm of the team’s realization or consciousness. In other words, I’m trusting you to do your part, because you are important to this team and if you step off the goal, the mind and soul of the project, the project crumbles. When a team member – and this includes the client– doesn’t trust the direction of the team difficulty can arise.

How do you win trust by building an emotional bank account
As an SEO manager the most important thing is to believe in yourself. Built relationships with teams by showing interest, respect , show appreciation to their contribution. Most importantly, listen to others, their options and ask open and proving questions. Listen actively to show that you are actually  listening not just playing lip service. Demonstrate that you are genuine and that people can rely on your promises is the key to gain trust and built the emotional bank account.


4. Effective leadership: A team wont go the mile for a manager or project they don’t believe in.  Gaining trust is one of the important keys to good leadership, but keeping your team motivated and well structured is another key of leadership. There are hundreds, of studies about this topic and many leadership characteristics and types. As a manager, leadership should not be taken slightly. Having power over a team does not makes an individual a leader, neither being extrovert is the precipice to become a good leader, many introverts have shown be good leaders.


Other managers think that job dissatisfaction directly correlated to lack of good leadership, and studies have shown that is not exactly the case, many times the team or client desalination come from externalizes such as emotional problems, lost of a loved one, sickness, economic reasons, family dynamics, market crashes, and so on.  It is also important to note that the lack of dissatisfaction does not equates to satisfaction. Read my article on what causes job satisfaction. At the end of the day,  a great leader is the one who seeks and promotes leadership in others, not within him or herself.


Finding Your Match with Clients and Teams

According to Gallup latest research, the 34 leadership themes naturally cluster into four domains of leadership strength. The graph below aids you to asset who is a better match for you in order to work with a client or form team members with better matches.


The Four Domains of Leadership Strength
The graphic below shows the 34 themes sort into the four domains of leadership strength.


Explaining the Four Domains: Executing, Influencing, relationship building and strategic thinking

Executing leader makes things happens. These type of people are your go to guys when needing to solve a problem, implement a solution and make an idea a reality. The executing leader works effortlessly day and night to make things work. Steve jobs could be consider a executing leader, he worked hard and made the team work hard as well till the ideal of Macintosh became a reality.

Influential leader can become the CEO or top executive or even the president of a country. This type of individual can reach outside the organization or sell the team’s idea very well. They are ideal  to influence change and can be excellent sales people as well.

Relationship leader uses building strong relationships and he becomes the essential glue that holds a team together.

Strategic leader: These type of leaders are great for ruining organizational long term goals or keeping teams focus on gearing the team’s direction towards achieve an long-term goal.

4.  A Reward system is as important as any methodologies and tactics. If you archive success among your team or with you client, how do you reward it, in order to keep people motivated?

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One thought on “Why teams Go Bad? Groupthink SEO a Team Norm That Contaminates Teams

  1. This could not posibsly have been more helpful! Thank you so much!!

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