In my team-coaching work, I have encountered many teams facing the challenge of merging their energies, while moving away from individual energy and moving towards a cohesive team energy. What is the significance of doing this? According to Bruce Tuckman (1965), he propagates that teams who are HIGH PERFORMING have members who work at a high level of trust which has been built up on a regular basis. They also attain outcomes or results which can only be achieved by teams who have merged their energies together. Tuckman endorsed that team members evolve into High Performing Teams as they move through the 4 phases, viz., FORMING, STORMING, NORMING and PERFORMING. These 4 phases are necessary and inevitable for teams to learn, grow, develop, face challenges, tackle problems, find solutions, plan their work and deliver high performing results.
Let me share one client-case where I supported a new team to embrace their role towards an excellent high performing team over a series of team coaching sessions.
The management of the organisation formed a team for a specific task to be completed within a specified time frame. The members of the team came with diversity in age, experience, gender, location and areas of specialisation. The management brought them together with the expectation of leveraging the richness of diversity. Hence at the first stage of team development, ie. the FORMING stage, the individuals began to build interpersonal relationships, they became familiar with each other, acquainted with the task assigned to them as well as with the ground rules. The members were still thinking, feeling and behaving like individuals. Each member was doing their best to be ‘friendly’ and ‘nice’ to each other. Every individual wanted to be ‘liked’ by the other team members. They were not ready to be risky (eg. sharing personal stuff which show-cases their weakness or vulnerability).
As the team members vetted their assigned task, it was evident that some members were assertive, expressing their opinions and encouraging other members to advocate their plans/ideas/suggestions. Some of the less vocal members allowed their biases to emerge and started to withdraw communicating or connecting with the team. It became evident that this initiated the STORMING phase. As their team coach, I encouraged them to express the “storming” they were experiencing inside their hearts and minds. Only if they did express, they could give voice to the “elephant in the room”. With lots of encouragment, each member shared their vulnerabilities, and a ‘safe’ environment – where no one needed to be ‘perfect’, was created. What was witnessed next was magical, viz., the ‘quiet’ members felt a burden lifted from their shoulder. They felt ‘safe’ and became willing to ‘take risks’ in sharing their biases as well as their different ideas/suggestions/plans to the whole team.
This team coaching around the STORMING phase, enabled the team to progress into the NORMING phase. At this phase, members were slowly transforming from an “I” to a “WE”. Observations indicated a sense of unity and group harmony emerging. None of them felt they were being judged. They felt they were accepted for who they are. They willingly took risks in openly expressing their ideas/opinions and seeking solutions to the challenges they encountered. The tasks related conflicts that emerged, were managed well and resolved swiftly. The key focus of the team was to bring unity and harmony among themselves.
Over several monthly team coaching sessions, I supported the team to continue to strive towards the PERFORMING phase. In this phase, the team witnessed a collaborative sense of belonging. They felt comfortable to challenge, take risks, resolve conflicts, hold higher levels of commitment and were accountable to the individual tasks delegated to each of them. Trust energy was high. They assumed roles for another if one of them was unable to fulfil. Their key focus was the completion of the task. They courageously embraced the diversity and adopted inclusiveness among the team members. This made each member feel ‘comfortable in their own skin”. The results and outcome of this team was truly amazing as they surprised both the management and the team members themselves.
Out of curiosity….Do you work with teams? Do you know which phase your teams are in? Would be interesting to find out what you are doing to enable your team to progress into High Performing Teams.