Group Dyna-Mix: Investigating team dynamics, from leaders to corporate gatekeepers

Group Dyna-Mix: Investigating team dynamics, from leaders to corporate gatekeepers

Author: Maria Katsarou-Makin
Review by: Dani Bacon

This book is a great resource for anyone who wants to better understand the dynamics of teams, and how they function in organisations. The author, Dr Maria Katsarou-Makin, is the founder of the Leadership Psychology Institute and a chartered  Psychologist.  She draws on more than 20 years of experience in organisational development and executive coaching, as well as high quality academic literature, to explore teams and how they work function.

The book starts with an introduction to the concept of teams, and importantly the differences between teams and groups. This is especially important for those of us who work with teams that are often lacking some of the essential characteristics that make them a real team.  This can have a knock-on impact on how they function and work with each other and the extent to which it is possible to improve their cohesion and performance.

The book canters through the theories of Wilfred Bion; The Tavistock Institute Transactional analysis; systems theory; structural dynamics; Kurt Lewin’s work on groups; Tuckman’s Model; Jon Katzenbach & Douglas Smith’s work on leadership; Otto Scharmer’s Theory U and Will Schutz’ work on leadership.  Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team approach and Brene Brown’s research on vulnerability also get a mention

The book covers many of the major issues that can derail teams, such as bias and groupthink, as well as more recent topics like psychological safety. Dr. Katsarou-Makin also looks at the neuroscience of teamwork and emergent leadership styles during the pandemic. The are some great insights into the leadership qualities that support and sustain teams in challenging circumstances.  The chapter on groups and team working online will be especially useful those still working through how to effectively manage remote and hybrid teams.

In addition to covering these important topics, Dr. Katsarou-Makin also provides insight into some of the more nuanced aspects of teamwork by looking at trust in teams. She also discusses how power works in groups. This chapter is also supported by research from Dr . Katsarou-Makin’s own experiment with a senior leadership team involving measuring trust by looking at levels of oxytocin.

The second to last chapter looks at the notion of high performance teams and unpacks whether the idea has validity.  The conclusion is potentially controversial given the proliferation of advice on how to create high performance teams that exists.  The book wraps up with a chapter with key takeaways for leaders

This book is a great introduction to group and team dynamics or a brilliant recap of key themes and concepts for those who already have knowledge of this field. It is a gateway to more in-depth study and offers a whole set of  interesting frameworks and models to look at team and group dynamics through.

The author covers a lot in a short amount of time and whilst it draws on  high-quality academic research the book and it’s key message remain easy to read and absorb.  The chapters are interspersed with quotes from leaders and useful case studies bringing some of the group dynamic and team theory to life. The author’s own experience of participating in a Group Relations Conference is especially interesting

This book is a must-read for anyone who has ever worked in a group or managed a team. Dr. Katsarou-Makin has done a great job at providing insights into the psychology behind teams and how they work, as well as practical advice on how to work effectively in teams.

Published by Lid Publishing

Dani Bacon is an Organisation Development consultant, co-founder of Distinction Consulting and co-host of the Distinction podcast