Saturday, January 15, 2011

Is Your Team Storming or Performing?

In my life, I belong to many groups - Toastmasters, Masterminds, Networking Groups, and Community Groups. In some of the groups I have a leadership position, for example, I am the President of my Toastmasters group. In other groups, I am a member, or have served on adhoc committees for specialty projects. No matter what role I take on, it seems like the groups I belong to are consistently in different stages of flux and change, which, to my relief is not only normal, but necessary for the growth and survival of a group.

Recently, I was faced with a challenge in one of my groups that was particularly distressing to me. We had a great group of people who worked well together. All the members were very like-minded, we had similar goals and interests. I looked forward to every meeting with anticipation and was eager to jump in and help out at every opportunity.

The dynamics of the group started to change when a few of the founding members left, leaving leadership positions open. The remaining members were left to pick up where the former members left off, and power was shifted from one member to another. Some members felt resentful because they felt they were carrying all the burden, and others felt they were being micromanaged and not trusted to take on more responsibility. Meetings became tedious to go to, and I often thought about tendering my resignation. Emails flew around member to member, in a flurry of "respond to all" and "carbon copy." I dreaded checking my inbox, and felt the energy drain right out of me every time I attempted to follow the string of emotion filled, sometimes endless rants. Finally - one of us screamed "UNCLE!" and demanded the email flurry to end - we had to find a more efficient and effective way to communicate our feelings without feelings getting hurt. Instead, because our time was valuable, and not every member was able to drop everything and attend live meetings, we used a free conference call line, and hashed things out over the phone. A few conference calls later, and we felt renewed and focused.

During the next few weeks, I found myself checking in with my own urge to "take over" or "regain control"... I allowed the process to work and supported the new leaders of the organization to step up and get comfortable with leadership. I'm really glad I practiced restraint, because the new leaders really came through, and grew and flourished.

Since the "shake down" of our group, and the reforming, we have become highly efficient. We have welcomed new members, and have accomplished notable goals and accomplishments. I enjoy attending, and look forward to the next meeting. Heck, I am even thinking of running for an officer position during our next election.

One of the group members approached me after a particularly energizing meeting, and said "and to think of all the time we wasted having all that conflict last summer!"... and I nodded in agreement. But upon further reflection, I was reminded of a college course I took, Organizational Behaviors, and a group forming model proposed by Bruce Tuckerman who maintained that four stages: Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing are all necessary and inevitable in order for the team to grow, to face up to challenges, to tackle problems, to find solutions, to plan work, and to deliver results.

Realizing that, I am really GLAD we went through the Storming phase - it was a necessary turn of events to get us to where we wanted to be - the Performing stage.

Think about the groups in which you participate. In what stage of the group forming are you? What needs to be done to move through another stage? If you are in the Performing stage, what needs to be in place to stay there, or, if you should cycle through the stages again, what plans do you have in place to get back to Performing?

If you are in conflict with a group - rejoice! Don't despair! You are exactly where you are supposed to be. What makes the difference is how you communicate as a group to get through to the next stage.

If you have questions about how you can create a high performing team - please leave me a comment or contact me. I'd love to hear from you!