How to Manage Team Development to Reach High Performance?
Understanding the nature and phases of team development and dynamics is of great importance for any leader. There are several models that give recommendations for managers on how to successfully manage team development and support high performance. They help improve engagement and can have an impact on the morale of your employees.
I’ve often witnessed managers taking things for granted, especially during good times. When everything is functioning as it should – with a high-performing, highly efficient team – leaders tend to forget about team dynamics. But the thing is, with any new member joining your workforce, your entire group is returning to the initial phase. If a team is well-formed, the adjustment period can go by more quickly. But, this doesn’t mean that leaders should stop consciously managing team processes.
The Tuckman model of team development is well-known for describing the four phases of team formation:
- Forming: the initial period when we try to answer important questions such as WHAT and HOW.
- Storming: the rebellious time of testing boundaries when we find out true motives and team member characteristics.
- Norming: a period in which we manage to achieve concord and understanding among team members.
- Performing: a time during which member roles, goals, and boundaries are well established.
What’s characteristic of the first phase is that team members focus on getting to know each other. Furthermore, they’re collecting information about the functioning of the team, as well as everyone’s responsibilities and goals. In this phase, the leader needs to be clear in their communication and to encourage patience among team members. This period can often be a source of tension, as many organizations define goals and responsibilities on the go.
Conflicts will characterize the second phase. Team members test established boundaries, as well as the leader’s role. Here, the leader needs to encourage working through conflicts through joined forces, as well as to support underperforming employees through individual coaching. A directive leadership style can work best in this period.
We can recognize the third phase by seeing a team that’s in sync regarding their way of working. Members have trust, understand, and accept each other. During this period, the leader can rely on coaching methods and use a less directive style of management. This is the best time to focus on team cohesion and team spirit, as well as to encourage healthy relationships and trust.
The fourth phase allows the leader to focus on developing team members. It gives room for creative challenges, rewards, and celebrating mutual successes.
The Tuckman method was later revised, adding the adjourning phase during which the leader has a role in helping team members determine the next steps in their career paths.
The Tuckman method inspired most other models.
Ken Blanchard and his contributors have also developed an interesting model of team dynamics. It is based on contemporary research. The model offers guidelines for successfully managing teams.
Phase 1: Structuring and orientation
This is the phase for defining team roles and purpose. Every time a new member joins a team, this phase is repeated. The same thing happens when the project on which a team is working on goes through changes. These changes affect work roles, as well as purpose. During this phase, the leader needs to: set the context of the work, help team members get to know each other, give directions regarding expected behaviors, set expectations, and determine boundaries.
Phase 2: Dissatisfaction
During this period, the morale and efficiency of a team tend to go down. The causes for this can be different, ranging from workload increase, new demanding projects, market crises, the piling up of unsettled problems, to disagreements among team members. During this time, the leader needs to address conflicts, make way for discussion, encourage team members to be honest and curious in their communication. Furthermore, they need to offer feedback about the team’s progress and make sure that everyone’s voice is heard.
Phase 3: Integration
At this time, work efficiency and morale start to rise again. Problem-solving improves, as does team communication. Cooperation becomes more efficient, and members gain skills faster. During this time, the leader needs to encourage inclusion, cultivate trust, recognize and reward member contributions, as well as to nurture and encourage responsibility.
Phase 4: Productivity
This last phase is the one during which a team achieves a high level of productivity, performance, and is communicating exceptionally well. During this phase, a leader needs to reward creativity, agility in behavior and thinking, as well as to encourage taking risks, and celebrate successes. It’s also important that the team learns how to apply all learned lessons to new challenges. Furthermore, the leader needs to be ready to give up control to nurture trust among employees.
Whichever model you decide to go with – depending on what works best for your needs – you mustn’t forget that team dynamics are something to be addressed on a continual basis. Even more, remember that no phase is permanent and that your approach will need to change depending on where you and your employees currently are.
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