Friday, 21 July 2017

Running Groups: ‘I don’t care if you enjoy them, are you any good?’

I’ve decided that this is going to be a key question the next time I’m interviewing someone who fancies a job as a qualitative researcher. Because I’ve run one or two groups in my time and I know that my personal enjoyment is largely irrelevant. I also know that even though running groups has been my main occupation for hundreds of years I’m still not sure if I enjoy running them myself.
Yes, I enjoy them if I’m in the middle of one, which feels like it’s going well and it’s one in which everyone seems fully engaged and on track with the objectives. And yes, I enjoy the feeling when a group has clearly gone well and I feel that the client is going to be impressed with the end results.
But I don’t enjoy the pre-group experience when you don’t know who is going to turn up or indeed if anyone is going to turn up. And I don’t enjoy the worry around whether I have a group’s objectives fully in my head and the stimulus material all lined up and ready to roll. And I don’t enjoy the pressure around ensuring that everyone in the group contributes fully, everything runs to time, I’ve managed the whole process, making it seem like the job is easy and that anyone could do it because I’ve made it looks so enjoyable they could probably do it too and they would probably be very good at it…
Ay, there’s the rub. And there’s the irony I’ve been faced with all my working life.
When groups go well, they can look so easy and look such fun that even I can sometimes look like I’m enjoying the process. But we’re talking swan on water here, my feet are going like the quackers!
Because a group can turn in a heart-beat; one minute they’re all there with you, you’re swimming for England, together, in formation; next minute, they’re all looking a bit drowsy and you’ve still got half an hour of the group to go.
And this is another time when the enjoyment can be halted and the hard graft and commitment really must kick in. You owe it to the client, you owe it to the participants, you owe it to your professional self and to the project as a whole.
Turn that around and post-group enjoyment might, just might, be your reward. But that won’t guarantee that your next group will be any more enjoyable.
I can’t decide if I’m becoming more envious of people who say they enjoy running groups or whether I’m becoming more suspicious.
Because groups for me are unpredictable and groups for me are really hard work.
And irony of ironies, that’s why I have enjoyed running them over so many years.
But only when they’re finished and I feel I’ve done my best.
And only when I’ve come to terms with the fact that just as you’re at your most self-satisfied and content, there will always be someone there to tell you how lucky you were that the group was so engaged and so willing to contribute.

Cue that swan again...dying.

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