Continuing with my focus on the Bruce Tuckman model, this week I recount my experience of working with adjourning teams.
Having spent most of my leadership career unaware of this stage, when I experienced it due to a large account loss it became the most profoundly affecting leadership experience of my life. Overnight my role changed completely. No strategy was needed and few were responding to direction initially. The panic and uncertainty was now my job to manage - although it took me a while to realise it.
My default was to go in to practical mode - what needs to be done, by when and by whom. But just because the team was adjourning didn't mean they had gone back to a time where they needed this direction.
Just like the performing stage, my role was people focused, not project focused. Everything I had learned about the team's social styles and communication preferences was now more valuable than it had ever been and so too was the teams' awareness of each others, as well as themselves.
The team on the whole pulled together and supported each other in any way they could. We went through a cake phase and a going out drinking phase and then the more practical support of outplacement coaching, CV writing, practice interviews, network referrals and linked in references came and went.
One by one I watched as the team moved on, leaving a core, more senior skeleton team that were now back in production mode. We were oddly back in a pseudo forming stage, laying down new paired back processes, forming short term strategies to manage the exit of the account and creating waterfall handovers and knowledge shares. These more practical focuses, combined with the stability of knowing what was coming next for each team member enabled us to do this, wipe away the tears and start reflecting on the successes of the past.
We celebrated each ending as if it was the first and last and created closure where we could. Paying homage to the past, everything that was, that is and that will be, was key for everyone and the business to move on positively.
We learned from everything we had done and indeed hadn't done and book ended an era, all with a wealth of experience and new found respect for what a good team was and wasn't. As a leader and the last man standing, I was left reflecting on every system, every process, every document, guide and strategic plan...and how little it now meant.
Our legacy was our lasting impact on our people, now taking all of their learnings and experience in to their next team and the rest of their life. After all, we are all people in our own right, not just team members.
If you are interested in arming your leaders and their teams with practical models and a shared understanding of each to help improve your team resilience, please reach out so we can arrange for a chat about how my team coaching partnership Dynamic Connections can support you.