Team Development 101: Intro to Dr. Bruce Tuckman’s leadership model (Part 1 of 3)

Good day everyone!

Happy belated Mother’s day! This month, I thought I would reflect on Leadership styles and what better than to be inspired by “Mothers” and their role in family development.

This is an interesting topic to reflect on. Families are a team unit and has many parallels to leadership in businesses. I have seen over my career — and still to this day —- what I would term “inappropriate” situational leadership styles. Whether your team is your family at home, a sport team, or your business work team, I have seen good people with the best of intentions fail to connect with their team in this dynamic journey we call LIFE.

For example, imagine if the mother in a family treated an infant, toddler, teenager, adult, and a grandparent the exact same way? Imagine if the mother said “here are the keys to my car and can you please pick up some bread on the way home?”

Here is an example of what might happen:

  • The infant will likely put the key in their mouth resulting in a potential choke hazard
  • The toddler will likely throw the keys somewhere and forget where they are when you need them for yourself.
  • The teenage will like say “really???… cool” and then potentially back up the car through the garage door or even worse, hurt someone while driving to pick up his posse of friends.
  • The adult will likely say sure and even ask what kind of bread you would and then tell you that they will be back home at 4pm.
  • The grandparent may say great idea, but may go to the store and forget about getting the load of bread

The above is an illustration of using the wrong leadership style at the wrong time. It might seem absurd to treat members of the family the same way… but think of the how we manage people in the workplace. If this is so obvious, why do so many managers, teachers, leaders, politicians, and coaches of all backgrounds make this same mistake over and over?

My answer to this is that the target is continually moving and the team (or family in the example above) is growing and changing constantly. This requires us as leaders to adapt our leadership style to the stage of the “teams” development.

I was very fortunate to learn this lesson early in my career as a young leader. The inspiration came from “Dr. Bruce Tuckman who published his Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing model in 1965. Here is a link to more background about this model.

tuckman model

If this resonates with you, stay tuned for part 2 and 3 of this blog.

In Part 2, we will explore the characteristics of each stage of team development and identify what leadership style is appropriate for the team at that time.

In Part 3, we will make some observations and offer some thoughts to ponder on how to better lead given the current stage of team development.

Thanks for listening and have a great day. If you have found this valuable, please share this blog with others!

Leadership Quote:
People are definitely a company’s greatest asset. It doesn’t make any difference      whether the product is cars or cosmetics. A company is only as good as the people it keeps. — Mary Kay Ash


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