My experience leading a forming team

Continuing with my focus on the Bruce Tuckman model, this week I recount my experience of working with forming teams. 

I love the forming stage of teams. Its always full of promise and excitement and as a leader I always felt most needed at this time. 

I look back fondly at when I was once forming a small sub team of non-technical people within our more technical team. The team leader was new to leadership and like a sponge as so many of our young key talent are. Having always loved the mentoring elements of being a leader I always relished in the opportunity to impart everything I had learned to those in my team who were receptive, and the forming stage is a great time to do that. People are generally hungry for it, full of expectation and happy to take direct leadership. 

The trap of course is as a leader you get sucked in to the day to day. The lack of process means you are directing more than you are leading and the undefined nature of everyone's roles means it is very hands on in terms of people management. I recall I spent a lot of time in lengthy 121s in this stage, supporting the team through working out what their roles were, what they wanted them to be and what their aspirations were within the company.  I was also subjected to many a lengthy grilling on the overall business strategy, the wider departmental and technology strategy, what I wanted the team to be and what I felt their place in it was. This was enjoyable (I love thinking on my feet) but labour intensive and I could tell that without direct action, little was going to change and outputs were the hygiene factors rather than anything of real value.

I briefed the team on some high level KPIs that aligned with the wider business strategy and coached their new team leader in producing their job descriptions, development plans and management strategies. The SMART objective element of these were focused around identifying process gaps and laying down a suite of processes and mechanisms that could create the foundations and stability the team needed to settle in to their new roles. The team were young and sparky and smashed through this work very quickly to the point where I was caught off guard a little by their impatience to progress further more quickly. 

When you run lots of teams, it is like the old spinning plates analogy. You give one a whizz round to buy you some time while you de-wobble another. You can never please everyone and learning to be OK with not meeting everyone's needs all the time was a huge part of my development as a leader.

I definitely dropped the ball a little on this one and found myself with a team firmly sat in to the storming stage without an umbrella.  Meanwhile the businesses needs had changed and I was facing having to strip away the only stability there was in the team (KPIs and job descriptions) and restructure to respond to the changing needs of the business. 

Lesson learned number one, always carry an umbrella....and have a plan for the next stage. You know its coming so plan your team strategies one stage ahead. 

What would I change looking back now? Instead of holding back budget for pay rises, I would have held back a proportion for team soft skills development, particularly around understanding your own styles, values and drivers and how this might drive your behaviour....and the impact of that on those around you. I would have also paid more attention to the teams surrounding and serviced by this team and to what their changing needs were to ensure that we were listening as much, if not more than, we were pushing out information. Had I spent less time in insular 121s and more time understanding the businesses needs of this team I could have been ahead of the curve here too. 

Lesson learned number two - remember to pay attention to all the systems you are servicing outside of the system you are working with. No man, nor indeed team, is an island.  

If you are interested in arming your leaders and their teams with practical models and a shared understanding of their team dynamic and the systems within which they exist, please reach out so we can arrange for a chat about how my team coaching partnership Dynamic Connections can support you.

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