It’s hard to overestimate the impact team leaders have on their group. Not only are the team leaders responsible for running day-to-day operations that support the team, they must also facilitate the team’s emotional growth. Within their relational task, leaders are to facilitate functional relationships that promote the attainment of goals in a highly personal and often pressurized environment. To accomplish this feat successfully team leaders must act within the context of their team’s social development and apply management techniques according the stage of development the team finds themselves in.
By reconsidering the stages of group development by Tuckman (1965) alongside the project manager’s behavioral roles by Adams and Anantatmula (2010), this article will help you recognize the four stages of group development as well as the leadership behaviors necessary to apply the right interventions at the right time.
Forming,, Norming, and Performing: An Overview
With practice and experience leaders are able to understand their team member’s behavior and tailor their interventions to individual situations. What is more difficult is adding another layer of analysis by managing the team member within the context of the group’s developmental stage. By understanding the stages below you will be one step closer to promoting behaviors of team members that better serve the team as a whole.
Forming is the first stage of Tuckman’s, (1965) model typified by polite conversation and low trust. The group also makes decisions about whether to accept or reject potential leaders who display negative behaviors. This is also known as the testing stage where foundations are being laid as to how the group will operate emotionally. This process leads into the storming stage.
The storming stage is marked by emerging leaders struggling for control while team members struggle with the ensuing conflicts. In the process, alliances will form that serve as a critical part of the group’s ongoing structure.
The norming stage is where the group begins operating as a team as some form of unity has been achieved during the storming stage.
The performing stage is active when group members are playing healthy roles and interdependently relying on one another to achieve goals. The unit has become more than a sum of its parts and is working at an optima level completing projects and meeting goals.
One of the differences between healthy groups and dysfunctional groups is that the healthy group has been led successfully through these stages. This does not happen by accident but through a contextual understanding of where the team is at developmentally. Then leaders can proceed with effective interventions with the entire team in mind.
Matching Leadership Behaviors With Team Stage
Adams and Anantatmula, (2010) demonstrate that the timing of appropriate interventions is the critical factor to keep teams moving though their developmental stages successfully. Below is a summary of these concepts that you can practice to keep your team advancing toward the performing stage.
During the forming stage the development of the individual group member is the key role of the leader. Expectations are communicated on a one on one basis and healthy boundaries are created. The leader is firm in setting social boundaries and behavioral rules. A highly directive approach is necessary.
The leader addresses negative behaviors during the storming stage that typically result from power struggles. They also watch for members who are withdrawing from the team due the turmoil and keep them actively engaged. Matching social skills with meaningful tasks that are appropriate according to a particular member’s skills is helpful during this stage. A highly directive approach is necessary.
In the norming stage the leader plays more of a support role as they encourage relationships among team members by promoting activities that draw people together. Negative emotions are frowned upon while positive people are rewarded. A supportive approach is the key ingredient here.
In the performing stage a team leader’s role should be more maintenance oriented than anything else. By tracking the team’s performance and keeping missional objectives at the forefront, the team leader can promote creativity and allow the team the freedom to continue developing without a lot of intervention. As the team becomes self-managed a highly supportive stance can be maintained.
By understanding the developmental context of the Tuckman’s four stages, leaders are able to tailor their management skills to not only a particular team member, but also for the team as a whole in a timely way (Adams and Anantatmula, 2010). Framing decisions about interventions within these contexts can prevent the team leader from apply the right interventions at the wrong time.
Adams, S., & Anantatmula, V. (2010). Social and behavioral influences on team process. Project Management Journal, 41(4), 89-98. doi:10.1002/pmj.20192
Tuckman, B. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63(6), 384-399. Retrieved from http://sfx.fcla.edu.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/usf?url_ver=Z39.88-2004;url_ctx_fmt=infofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Actx;ctx_enc=info%3Aofi%2Fenc%3AUTF-8;ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004;rfr_id=info%3Asid%2Fsfxit.com%3Aazlist;s