Randy says that being able to work well in a group is a vital and necessary skill “in both the work world and in families.” So, Randy makes his students work in teams on group projects, and, over the years, improving these group dynamics becomes an obsession of Randy’s, leading him to create a sheet entitled “Tips for Working Successfully in a Group.” When he’d go over it with students, they often rolled their eyes and thought it to be beneath them, but the most self-aware students embraced the advice, as it was “a little like Coach Graham coming to practice without a football”—they were learning the fundamentals.
The students with the most open, positive attitudes get the most out of Randy’s group dynamics lesson. Also, because these students are paying more attention, they may be more apt to take in the “head fake” that comes along with the group dynamics lesson: they must be open-minded and not overlook fundamental skills and details.
The tips include “Meet people properly” (including learning names and getting contact information), “Find things you have in common” to better relate to your group members, “Try for optimal meeting conditions” (like making sure no one is hungry or distracted during meeting times), “Let everyone talk” (as in, don’t hog the whole discussion), “Praise each other,” and “Check egos at the door.”
Randy’s tips are all about attitude and positive behavior: he wants his students to focus on group dynamics and making everyone around them comfortable enough to share their ideas.
The last thing on Randy’s list is “Phrase alternatives as questions,” so that people can offer comments rather than A vs. B choices. At the end of the lesson, Randy calls off the groups again, making them raise their hands to say what group they’re in. On each number, hands shoot up from all over the room, and Randy keeps repeating the exercise over and over until he finally asks, “Why on earth are all of you still sitting with your friends … [instead of with] the people in your group?” Randy leaves the room, comes back, and sees they’ve all switched into their groups. Randy wanted to show “them that they had missed something simple…so they could certainly benefit from reviewing the rest of the basics.” The next class, everyone sits with their groups.
The head fake of Randy’s lesson is that everybody is capable of overlooking fundamental things—we all make assumptions and errors, and reviewing the basics can never hurt anyone. Randy is giving his students a version of the lesson his father gave him when he came home from picking strawberries with the attitude that he was above doing physical labor: nobody is above anything, and (like the lesson Coach Graham gave about practicing without footballs) no one is too good to review the fundamentals.