“Being a leader is not about you. It’s about the people that are on your team and how you can help them be successful.”
Last week, I began to discuss the art of leadership and offered a model from Sport Psychology as a tool, Situational Leadership. Being an effective leader is definitely an art. Though many people have some of the key characteristics that make a good leader, one needs to study and practice the craft to become a master. Another model from Sport Psychology leaders can use as a tool is Group Development, created by Bruce Tuckman.
Tuckman developed this model as a way to describe the journey that most groups go through on their way to high performance. First, lets define a group, or team, as 2 or more individuals that have a common task or goal that they are working towards. This “team” can be a cast of performers, a class of students, a graphic design team, a group of analysts, etc. In each of these examples, the leader has a different title: director, teacher, art director, and portfolio manager. However, all these leaders can use the Situational Leadership model along with the Group Developmental model to elicit high performance.
We learned through Situational Leadership that we should change our leadership style based on the readiness level (task ability and willingness) of the follower. In Group Development, the same construct remains, only this time the follower is the entire team. Tuckman’s four stages are Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. Below is a simple breakdown of the stages along with what Leadership style should be used.
Forming – Members have just come together. They are not clear on what is expected of them, what to do, and what the group mission/goals are. They are unfamiliar with other group members so there is no history or trust yet. Therefore, they are not committed to the team, but more to their personal agendas. Productivity/performance level is low. Leadership Style – Directing: Leader should be high directive with one-way communication. In order to move to the next stage, the leader must set goals/mission, establish roles within the group, set up expectations, begin to build group trust, and find ways to get the members to buy into the group as one.
Storming – Members are beginning to fight for different roles. There may be some infighting and smaller cliques forming. Individuals are still being led by their own personal agenda. Some members are starting to buy into the group, while others are still hesitant and maybe even resisting. The group still doesn’t trust each other much, and therefore problem solving is not efficient. Productivity/performance level is still low. Leadership Style – Coaching: Leader should continue to be high directive, but also high supportive with beginning to introduce two-way communication. In order to move to the next stage, the leader should actively reinforce team behavior, support and set up team wins, maintain and expect high expectations, define roles within the group, request and accept feedback, and continue to build group trust.
Norming – Members are aware and accepting of roles. Hidden agendas come to the surface and instead, they all have bought into the team’s mission/goals. Each member knows how he or she fits into that mission and feels purposeful. Feedback is easily given and received because trust has been built. Members are starting to take responsibility for reinforcing team norms, expectations, etc. Productivity/performance level is becoming higher. Leadership Style – Supporting: Leader should be low directive and high supportive with a lot of two-way communication. In order to move to the next stage, the leader should maintain open communication, support the members in making decisions, but not make the decisions for them. The leader should continue to praise the team’s accomplishments and maintain traditions.
Performing – Members are very motivated and are completely clear on their individual roles. They defer to the team instead of their individual needs and support each other. When problems arise, they think creatively and trust in each other. They take pride in the group as a whole and its successes. Productivity/performance level is high. Leadership Style – Delegating: Leader should be low directive and low supportive, but still maintain a presence. In order to maintain this stage, the leader needs to continue to challenge the team by helping them to set new goals. The leader needs to maintain a presence, but not make the decisions for the team, and support the overall well being of the team.
It is important to remember that individual members of the team may be at a different stage than the team as a whole. As a leader, this is where having a strong understanding of the craft is vital because you need to be able to switch your style back and forth. Another important thing to remember is that each stage is necessary to succeeding. You cannot skip any of the stages. In fact, skipping a stage (even Storming) can prove to have a negative effect on the team’s performance. The group has to go through the process step by step. In addition, if a major change happens or an obstacle arises, the team may have to go back to a previous stage and that’s OK.
Situational Leadership and Group Development are wonderful models to use even when reflecting on our own lives. Group Development is a great reminder of the importance of engaging in the process. The process of achieving personal goals is not always easy. There are times when we fight with ourselves (Storming phase) or need that extra support. We can use these models as a lens to help us define what we need and when we need it. Being able to do that is this definition of self empowerment.
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