Prior to my move to coaching as my lifelong passion, I was privileged enough to be able to lead and be a part of many teams, all transitioning through the various stages of the Tuckman model.
Early in my career my awareness of these stages was more intuitive and being learned on the job. Later in my career it was something I was actively aware of and using to inform how I as a leader serviced the teams I was responsible for looking after and, I believe, a big part of the successes I experienced.
As leaders and indeed as team members, we are often introduced to a role rather than a team. Sure, there may be an awkward team lunch on your first day but in general induction programmes tend to focus on systems, processes, compliance factors and getting to know the product. All of this is of course necessary but in fact the easier stuff to learn on the job. In fact, you often find that you re-learn it once you start operating in the day to day or ‘real world’ interpretation of the corporate procedures. And you re-learn it from your team.
Your team, the people you at times spend more time awake with than your partner, are often left out of this induction. We are often unaware of the allegiances, social hierarchies, the individual social styles within the group and even our own and have to feel our way through it which at times, and depending what stage the team is in, can be a mine field. It can also be very distracting from ‘the work’ and your own personal aspirations and needs for development in a new role. This cycle of unfulfillment for all team members and indeed the business can go on for years.
Even where psychometric testing is completed as part of the interview process, this is rarely shared meaningfully and with actionable content for the candidate, nor activated in how you are managed. Any one-off team building, social styles or team diagnostics completed before is diluted over time as the team changes and develops and its members turnover. Where the company is also growing and developing as a wider team, culture can sometimes be forgotten in favour of business strategy and growth targets which can further water down and impact team dynamics. This can happen slowly and by stealth over time and as a result be unmanaged by leadership and indeed the members of the team.
This collective blindness to the status of one of your most intensely experienced teams can be devastating to a business and to your satisfaction within it. Traditional responses to lack of team performance such as team building, training, expensive consultancy or product investment are often the go to solution once it has been noticed. I have witnessed many such programmes be invested in and frankly wasted because the foundations of the team were not there to support the development. Its building a house on sand.
What I have learned is teams and their members need to be actively aware of where their team is at, what their social role is within it and how their behaviour and drivers are contributing to the current outcome. This team self-awareness needs to be part of the DNA of the business, forming a culture of open and inclusive dialogue that is born out of a common language and understanding of each other. The people management strategy should broker a common understanding of the business values and goals and enable team members to identify their own values and understand them within the context of the business.
This should be reflected in how we on-board and train our people and how we induct new members in to teams. It should be a constant work in progress (like we all are) and not something that is just ‘done’ as a one-off exercise. Leaders should be aware of the stage their team is in at all times and adapting their input according to the collective needs. Team members should be armed with the tools to understand what they need and how they need it and the same for those in their team, and should be held accountable for destructive behaviours.
For the next month I am going to be exploring each stage of the Bruce Tuckman team development model and sharing my experiences and learnings from working with teams in the various stages of it. Stay tuned to my Linked In feed for more information on how you can best support your team through a common understanding of which stage it is in and what its collective needs therefore are.
I am truly passionate about the need for team coaching to be a prioritised part of every businesses budgetary spend. Sadly, SMEs in particular tend to cut this area of spend first. In my experience any other investment made in to a team that is not stable is just pouring money in to a leaky bucket and hoping for the best. For information on how team coaching from my partnership Dynamic Connections could support your business, please get in touch.