Team Development 101: Summary and closing thoughts (Part 3 of 3)

Greetings everyone!

Here is the third and last part of this series of blogs about Team Development based off the theories of Dr. Bruce Tuckman’s.

  1. In Part 1, we introduced the concept of Dr. Bruce Tuckman’s leadership model (Forming, storming, norming, performing)
  2. In Part 2, we went into the characteristics and ideal leadership style for each of the 4 stages of Team development
  3. In Part 3, we will be reflecting on observations and recommended thoughts on Tuckman’s model. Hopefully, there are a few nuggets of wisdom that you will be able to apply to your daily life.

Based on Part 2 of this blog, we can observe that the recommended leadership style varies depending on what stage of development the team is at:

  1. In a the Forming stage, the leader directs
  2. In a the Storming stage, the leader coaches
  3. In a the Norming stage, the leader facilitates and enables
  4. In a the Performing stage, the leader delegates and oversees

So what stage is your team really at?

We tend to get confused on where to start because the answer to this question is not really obvious. What stage is the team at when you have some people on the team that is in the forming stage, some in the storming stage, some in the norming stage and some that are even high performing — perhaps a mixed environment. What is the appropriate leadership style here?

One day, a mentor of mine finally said to me … “Andy….. That is where the challenge really is. Are you managing the individual or are you managing the team?”
Once I heard that, I realized that I was solving a different problem. I was confusing 1:1 coaching/mentoring to a TEAM situation. I definitely need to deal and connect with individuals on the team, but leading a team as “a unit” is actually the true “team development” principles Dr. Tuckman is referring to.

A typical example of this is around sport teams. (It’s important to look at team sport not individual sports like golf or individual swimming — remember we are reflecting on TEAM development not individual development).

Let’s look at Dragon Boat racing. We can teach people how to paddle a boat and become proficient at that skill…. But the team development theory referenced in Tuckman’s model refers to multiple people paddling in a boat — the cadence, the rhythm, the power, and the stamina, of every person on the boat becomes critical. You can have paddlers that are just learning the proper stroke (forming) right through to the 10 year veteran that has perfected the stroke(performing). Yet…..your net result on the Dragon Boat is a “forming team”! And for that reason, a more appropriate leadership (NOT MANAGEMENT) style is one that is more directive — of course this doesn’t matter when you are just sightseeing on the lake. If that is the case, no leadership style is required! Just have fun!

So here are the key observations that I think are important:

  1. Very few teams are actually make it to the Performing Stage.
  2. If you are lucky enough to get to the performing stage, it takes a lot of work and effort to maintain it — why? because the world and the people around you are evolving!
  3. It only takes 1 change in team member or 1 change in business objective to move the entire team back to the “Forming or Storming stage”.
  4. Teams rarely work on the same project over and over again — we call this job diversity now (LOL). Just because you are a performing team at 1 project type, does not mean you will be a performing team at another project that is completely different. That’s like saying that an all-star hockey team will be an all-star soccer/football team. Project and businesses change, so why wouldn’t  your leadership style change?
  5. Teams evolve more than we like. Movement between the stages are fluid. You can experience all 4 stages in just 1 project alone! You can also take years to get the team to “performing”.
  6. Many leaders “miss manage” their team because they fail to recognize the stage their team is really at. Do you re-assess the situation frequently enough?
  7. A highly skilled team of individuals, can minimize the need for appropriate leadership style, but can result in individual outcomes versus team outcomes.
  8. People fear being a leader that “directs” because they feel that it will result in “Micro Management”. Directing just means that you are clear in what your expectations are. It does NOT mean you are checking in every minute to see what they are doing. There is a big difference! (I do not encourage the latter.)
  9. There is a difference between Leadership style and Management Style. (stay tuned… this may be a topic for a future Blog)

Recommended takeaways:

  1. Honestly recognize the stage your team is at. Result = awareness is the first leadership obstacle
  2. Implement the correct leadership style for the team you are leading. Result = successful and rewarding execution that has the potential of becoming more efficient 
  3. Monitor and adjust to the needs of your team. Result = Flexibility to adapt to the situation and make appropriate changes quickly to your leadership tactic.
  4. Repeat step 1-3 with vigilance. Result = a nimble and effective leader.

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


Leadership Quote:

  1. “My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.” — Jack Welch
  2. “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.” — Ronald Reagan



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