What is your leadership role?

What is your leadership role?

Dec 01, 2004

The leader's role changes at each stage of team development. Are you doing the right things to help your team grow and go?

Team development follows a pattern similar to human development. The Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing stages of teamwork are analogous to early childhood, adolescence, young adulthood and maturity. Just as the parent's role has to change at each stage of a child's life to ensure healthy growth and autonomy, so does a leader's role have to change at each stage of a team's development.

Stage 1: Forming (Early Childhood)

In the Forming stage of team development, nothing much changes from the familiar top down management style. The leader sets the team's agenda, assigns roles and manages the work.

The leader's job in the Forming stage is to provide structure, strong direction and a supportive environment so that the group begins to develop confidence in its ability to accomplish things together.

Stage 2: Storming (Adolescence)

In the Storming stage, team members are beginning to assert their own ideas and test boundaries. They begin to challenge each other and the leader. This is an uncomfortable, but normal, necessary and healthy development step.

The Storming stage is a tough one for leaders. It is as challenging as dealing with an adolescent, who one moment acts like a child and the next like an adult. The leader's role is to encourage team members to think for themselves and value the diversity of opinion within the group. Most importantly, the leader needs to teach team members how to resolve their conflicts through discussion and thoughtful compromise so they can make decisions and move on.

Stage 3: Norming (Young Adult)

In the Norming stage, team members have enjoyed some team success. Disagreements continue, but the members have developed methods to work through them. The team members know how to get things done, and they feel more secure in their team identity. Like a young adult, they become very goal oriented and task focused at this stage e.g., find a job, start a family, buy a house, achieve the goal.

The leader's job in the Norming stage is to step back and assume more of a consulting role: asking questions to make sure the team has thought things through, set appropriate goals and put together realistic plans for accomplishing them. This is another tough stage for a leader, because it means "letting go" and letting the team take off on their own.

Stage 4: Performing (Mature Adult)

At the highest level of teamwork, the team members are confident, capable and charged up. They work well together. They are good at what they do, and they expect success from their efforts. The greatest risk is that they will become bored and lose interest.

Your job as a leader is to make sure that the team has challenging tasks to keep them engaged. You also need to ensure that rewards are geared to team, not individual accomplishment, and that the rewards are in line with the team's increasing contributions to the practice. This is the best stage of team development. Leaders now have a highly functioning team that they can count on to make good decisions and get things done on their own.