Welcome back to our conversation focusing on Change Leadership. We return to discussing corporate change after my quick diversion sharing life lessons learned from my visit with my Grandchildren in Arizona. After four weeks it was very hard to say good bye. At the same time it is great to be back on my home turf in Florida.
In our last conversation we learned from Karen Davey-Winter how leaders are also change leaders and that there are (at least) three dimensions of change that must be understood and navigated – our own approach and reaction to change, how to lead our teams through change, and how to help the people we impact with our changes, i.e. customers, ends users, etc. Karen will continue the conversation this week by focusing on the changes that teams go through as they evolve, and how we can lead them through that change. Take it away Karen:
“So how can we look at this challenge? Many of you probably know Bruce Tuckman’s theory of group development – Forming, storming, norming and performing. If we want our teams to become high performing teams we need to understand these phases, and the role that we play in moving the team through them.
In this phase the team is coming together, a collection of individuals with a range of skill sets, perspectives and interests. People are cautious, and concerned about being accepted by the group. Our role as leaders is to bring the team together, help them gain an understanding of each other, and the goals of the work that they are there to complete. It’s critical to be able to articulate a vision, where they fit into that vision, and how their contribution connects to the overall goal. Leaders need to be very visible, able to clearly state the purpose of the work, and show how the team needs to align to meet the goals.
As the team moves into this phase, team members start to become more comfortable with one another, and their fear of rejection by the group has largely diminished. This is where conflict starts as different views, ideas and perspectives are exchanged in order to determine how to deliver on the goals and priorities. The leader has a critical role in establishing an environment in which conflict can be navigated and resolved. Conflict is crucial to creativity and, somewhat counter intuitively, it’s also critical for gaining consensus. Establishing an environment and ground rules for navigating conflict will allow it to be seen as ‘healthy debate’ rather than something that is a roadblock to progress. Unless a team moves through the Storming phase it won’t become a high performing team, and without strong leadership many teams get stuck in this phase.
Once a team has successfully moved through the storming phase they can start norming, and this is where real progress starts to be made. Instead of individuals working independently or in conflict, the team gels, work is delivered, progress is made and collaboration is high. People understand their role and the contribution they are making. As leaders it is still important to reinforce the goals and vision of the work and provide clear direction, but the leader can now take a more individualized approach to leadership. Rather than being directive the majority of the time, leaders can look at the situation and the people and see what they need, providing support and empowerment.
If you’ve ever worked in a high performing team you know how this last phase feels. It’s like you’re in a groove, there is flow, you’re almost at the point where you’re finishing each other’s sentences! It’s not that there’s no conflict, but the team moves through it with ease. It’s not that you don’t have to provide direction, but that you have to do it less often because the goals of the work and the ways things get done are established.
So for all of you that lead any kind of change initiative, or teams that are newly forming, notice what stage your teams are in and how you are showing up as a leader. A small adjustment in style can have a dramatic impact on your team, as can an acknowledgement that the team is going through some changes, and that change is sometimes hard. “
Thank you Karen for your perspective. As always I love learning from you.
You can enjoy a more detailed view into Karen’s perspective at this link:
Karen Davey-Winter, PMP, ACC, Executive Coach/Management Consultant, www.worklifeperspectives.com
As I listen and reflect on Karen’s message, I am reminded of the many teams I’ve had the pleasure of building, leading, and working with over the years. The journey through the storming, forming, norming and performing is not always linear. You can be riding on a perfectly calm sea under a beautiful blue sky and not see the storm brewing in the background. The complexity of the initiative, the scope of impact, introduction of new requirements, change in team members, or technical challenges along with additional factors such as the volatility of the organization creates the potential of returning to storming even while performing. An uncontrolled return to storming can be very harmful if it results in a team crash.
A team crash is when the conflict and debate within the team is no longer effective or productive. You will recognize it by in-fighting, “sides” forming, unproductive dialogue, slipped deadlines, and in the worse of cases team members shutting down or resigning. All in all, a most unfortunate state as I cannot recall ever seeing a team crash recover on its own. The longer you allow it go on the harder it is to recover.
As a leader we best serve the team when we keep an eye on all aspects of the operations and temperature to prevent a team crash. If one does slip by you must dive head first in to discover root cause and resolve immediately. If you’ve been there or are there and need help with your specific circumstances please reach out to discuss techniques for identifying root cause and tackling recovery.
Until next time, have an effective week! Next week we will continue with our change leadership discussion by focusing on our customer.
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