Helping you mobilise your inner resources to achieve your dreams

Are you part of a TEAM? Or are you one of a GROUP? What’s the difference?

To most, they probably sound the same: a number of people, together at the same time, for the same purpose. However, they are different entities. A group tends to be a more informal gathering of individuals lacking specific roles and a shared vision. ID-10046929

A team, by nature, is more action-orientated. Containing a firm structure – typically a hierarchy – a team plays to its strengths and progresses through various stages until its overriding purpose is achieved and it becomes self-reliant. Conversely, groups often waste time scrambling for time ‘on stage’, with the loudest voice taking leadership.

I’ve worked with many teams and have found, through practice, the wonderful Bruce Tuckman’s model to be by far the most effective for giving members an insight into the maturity of their team.

Tuckman sees four clear stages in the evolution of a TEAM (though Tuckman, and others, have added further stages, my clients have often found these to be unnecessary and of less practical value):

  • Stage One: Forming. This is probably the stage where groups and teams seem the most alike. The focus of the team centres on gaining knowledge of its components. Members will naturally ‘size each other up’ in order to find their own position amongst their peers. Performance is, naturally, low but climbing.
  • Stage Two: Storming. Given that informal leadership – the pecking order – has yet to be decided upon, it’s not surprising that conflict can prove a common theme in this stage. There’s likely to be jostling for ‘top dog’ position as cliques and alliances form. More talk than action will occur as even the quietest members find their voice. As a result, cynicism and a lack of trust are inherent. The team has yet to be purposeful; to utilise members effectively, their individual strengths and performance need evaluation but ensuing squabbles impede performance.
  • Stage Three: Norming. As the word suggests, things start to settle down and become more ‘normal’. Members recognise the structure and order of the team and challenges lessen as a result. Because individuals know more of what’s expected of them – and therefore, can stop looking inwards – they’re now able to discuss the purpose, performance and progression of the team as one entity.  Performance bottoms out and starts to climb again.
  • Stage Four: Performing. The team know what they’ve to do and why; who will do it, how, and where. Therefore, this stage is very much about the ‘doing’/implementation. Progress can now be measured and continues to rise. Sub-groups may form as the team continues to be more efficient and effective, but these are met with understanding and not with hostility, like the cliques in stage two.

winning teamIt’s often interesting to see where team members think the team is in this process. Differences in opinion are interesting and can prove eye-openers to the team leaders. I have worked with teams and seen different organisational cultures have an impact on how quickly teams progress through the stages. For example, I have worked with scores of Health Care teams.  The caring side of their vocation frequently means these teams have difficulty progressing into ‘storming’. The jostling and plain speaking needed to propel the team through this stage feel awkward and uncomfortable, so conflict tends to be avoided. Unfortunately, this suppresses team performance, when dealing with the conflict, although hard, would clear the air and enable team members to move forward.

By recognising these separate stages team leaders can adapt their leadership style as a result, and steer the team through the issues they’ll face in that particular step. The ultimate aim is for cohesion and recognition of the team’s structure – with regards to each individual member, and the leadership – and the role each plays towards the goal.

Groups stall progress through the different stages, and remain splintered or consumed by the battle for control. Because there’s little harmony or shared purpose, ‘groups tend not to perform or achieve as much as ‘teams’.

Next week, I’ll explore different leadership styles: without the correct approach, teams risks losing structure and momentum. If you’ve any comments or questions regarding team building, or any aspect of executive or leadership coaching, contact me on 01302 220221.


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