Until of course, the day that things do get worse, and you're left wondering how you missed it all? Or perhaps you wonder why you tried to avoid yet another uneasy situation, when you could have done something to resolve it. But what is it that you could you have done, if you had known the team dynamics would create so much disengagement, low performance or absenteeism?
As a leader there are times when your role will involve guiding your team through change, transition or a particular experience that has affected the team, whether it be positive or negative. Understanding what your team is experiencing and realising what stage of development your team is in, is one of the keys to determining what solutions and interventions are available to support you and your team through each phase of development or transition.
The approach of avoiding communicating with your team, is a topic I will explore in a different post, as this involves your style under stress as well as looking further into the lifestyles inventory tool (LSI), created by Human Synergistics, which explores effective leadership and individual styles.
For this post, we will look at The Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development Model, which is a simple way to assess what stage of development your team is at, and what you can do as a leader to support your team through this phase in order to continue bringing out the best in your people, and to create an engaged and highly performing team.
Below are brief explanations of each stage and actions you can take as a leader. These are only guides and as human beings we are more complex than the below could capture, and you may wish to consult with your HR team or Coach to further develop on the below suggestions in order to tailor it to your team's needs.
Forming: This is when a team has just come together, whether it's a completely new team, or a combination of original members in addition to several new people joining. In this phase members are slightly cautious around each other as they test who they are safe with and what is considered acceptable in the group.
What you can do as a leader to best support this stage: Clearly establish vision and expectations and ways to ideally communicate, understand personal expectations, establish accountability, socialise with all of your team members. This is an opportunity for you as a leader to establish what is the norm for the team and the desired culture. Your team will observe both what you say and do.
Storming: At this point individuals have all met each other and communicated either at an individual level or in a group, and perhaps several team meetings have also been held. There may be some confusion as to what the goals are, however members are communicating more as they get to know each other.
What you can do as a leader to best support this stage: Involve everyone in discussions or find a way to make all feel heard and included, reinforce goals and expectations, follow up with team as to progress, set up official social catch ups.
Norming: The team has now spent time on tasks and perhaps had several disagreements as well as points of agreement, they generally understand where they stand with each other, and have created boundaries of what is the norm and what is not acceptable to the group.
What you can do as a leader to best support this stage: Clearly establish feedback loops and regular catch ups with team and individual one-on-ones, create an opportunity for team members to lead projects and build on their skills, clarify and resolve conflict immediately and ensure team objectives are met.
Performing: Now that your team has established its boundaries and is clear on its goals and actions, it can perform considerably well and may even be a highly engaged team if adequate attention has been paid to all of the phases of development.
What you can do as a leader to best support this stage: Hold discussions for continuous improvement, ensure that regular social gatherings are held despite the fact that the team is performing well or is busy, celebrate wins and successes and continue to give immediate positive and constructive feedback to team members.
Adjourning: Several of the members of the team may be leaving, or if it has been a project team, the project may be ending, thus ending the nature of the team. Some people may be excited about what is to come, while others may feel confused and either outwardly express it, or become withdrawn.
What you can do as a leader to best support this stage: Acknowledge team member contributions and reflect with team on meaningful experiences and successes, clearly communicate new direction, answer any questions team members may have as openly as possible, create time for team members to effectively transfer knowledge (Knowledge Management principles), debrief with all of team to re-clarify expectations and approach for the way forward.
The above are just a few things that your team might be experiencing, and some of the potential solutions. If you have any other ideas or comments, feel free to share below.