My experience of leading a norming team

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

I have always found the norming phase the most challenging.  As a leader I need to start stepping back and trusting the team with delegated decisions and tasks and that can be hard when you are a 'driver' type personality like me.  In this phase I as a leader spend a lot more time checking in on myself and how my behaviours and default styles are playing out in the behaviours of the team.  

I recall working with a technical sub team in my department who had spent many years in the storming phase due to transient technical leadership and technological challenges.  A new manager had come in to lead the team about a year before and as a result I was spending less and less time with the team in a directional capacity which afforded me more time focused on strategy and some of the other teams in different stages within the department.

 This distance was valuable for the team in that it gave them space to grow and spread their wings and they were able to benefit from the more strategic and longer term planning I was could give them as a result.  The departmental lead would quietly take my strategic briefs and get the team working on them in a more autonomous way and most of them enjoyed their new found freedom to decide and time to do something about it now that the team and chaotic workload had settled down.  

What I hadn't noticed consciously though is that the team had moved in to norming.  I was feeling guilty about not being there to provide the facilitation and direction of the previous stages so would often do what I refer to as 'seagull' management when I saw that there were relationship or process issues.  I would fly in when I found time and sh*t all over everything and then move on for another few weeks.  This created little pockets of storming to reoccur and conflicts between my directions and those of the department leader.  It lead to team members feeling like they sometimes had to pick sides because they so wanted to conform to what their leaders were asking of them (even though they were the only ones that could see the sides) which lead to cliques starting to build again - something that I have never enjoyed in my teams.  

Working within tech I am sure it is of no surprise that I was predominantly working with Analytical and Amiable type personalities which meant the team were hesitant to say anything about this dynamic, or indeed the other things they wanted to change int he team, so I could only see the feedback in the behaviours of the team, not hear it.  After a few workshops and observing team activities I realised that my role and what my team needed from me had changed.  

I was of most use to them facilitating their technical strategy workshops, giving them the long term business requirements of their product and working with them to understand their own social styles and how they could manage them in line with other personalities in the wider team.

I never got caught out by this transition again.  Instead I always included working towards my team no longer needing me day to day as one of the key KPIs for them and the team strategy.

  If you are interested in arming your leaders and their teams with practical models and a shared understanding of these team phases to help improve your team planning, 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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