Team Members as Leaders – In 4 Easy Steps

In today’s post, I thought I would revisit and share with you Bruce Tuckman’s model regarding teams, however, this time from an approach of encouraging team members as leaders…

For those who don’t know, Bruce Tuckman (Smith, 2005) was an educational psychologist who came up with a model regarding small groups (teams) that I believe makes perfect sense when it comes to understanding what you need to do regarding better team leadership and how to resolve conflicts that may occur.

Alhough there is a wealth of information out there regarding team development. Tuckman’s model is, in my opinion, still the best. His model makes it easy to understand what is happening with your team, explaining to your team why this is happening and what to do with such a hurdle.

Tuckman’s Key Advantage – Keeping it Simple

One of the key advantages of Tuckman’s model is that as a leader, you can make it as complex or as simple as you like regarding your situation. For my mind, keeping it simple is key.

Forming

When pulling together your team for the first time, or even if you are trying to reinvigorate your team, help the team members develop a set of rules regarding the team’s purpose, how it will function and the outcomes required.

Teams generally get through this stage very quickly. However, what happens in the next stage is the tricky part. However, you have already instilled in some team members a key leadership skill for the future.

Storming

Usually, teams hit a roadblock or two early on in their development. In essence, this is about one or more team members “bucking” againt the rules. To help the team get past this stage, call them out together as a team and teach them the very basics of conflict resolution. Remember, keeping it simple is best, so use things like revisiting the team rules, stressing the importance of win win outcomes and what it means to work as a team (we embrace our differences).

Your aspiring leaders have now seen how to resolve conflict, effectively.

Norming

To achieve this stage, introducing the concept of shared leadership to the team is a must. Shared leadership is where team members influence each other and share responsibility for tasks, rather than the concept of a team being led by a specific leader (Fowler, 2019). In essence, you act as a coach to help team members develop some leadership skills so that they can in turn, lead the team through aspects (actions) of the task, project or service they have direct responsibility for.

Performing

More often than not, the norming stage is where teams settle. However, if you want to open the door on the team jumping out of its skin and achieving more outcomes on a consistent basis, then empower the team to use the peer approach (Nasif, 2021).

Peer leadership is really mentorship in action within your organisation. In essence, this is where team members are encouraged by you to turn and to connect with others outside the team who can share their knowledge and experiences regarding how to solve certain problems. However, note that peer leaders aren’t just a resource for addressing problems — they share tips and strategies for those looking to grow professionally as well.

Your role as leader then becomes more focussed on the strategic work ahead.

Adjourning (Mourning)

Tuckman about 12 years later added a fifth element to his model: adjournment. This is what happens when the team dynamic is disrupted due to the team losing one or more members. This is a topic for another time, but essentially, the team needs to regroup and start the team cycle all over again.

A Short Example

About five years ago, I was conducting a training program to 20 elected members (local government councillors or aldermen) from five local governments regarding their roles and responsibilities. During one of the sessions on meeting procedures and debating, I was asked a question by a number of councillors as to why there was conflict amongst their respective councils.

As this was a buring question, I stopped the training session and asked the group if they wanted to understand more about team dynamics. Of course, there was a unanimous response. So I quickly explained Tuckman’s model and asked each group where they saw their council in the team cycle. The majority quickly said “the storming phase.”

As a result, I was able to give suggestions on how to break out of the destructive pattern caused by going around in circles. This included the need for them to revisit and understand the rules in place for each council (how we do business), weathering the storm through active listening and how to “norm” their behaviour through applying greater levels of due diligence (making more of an effort to understand the reports before them when making key decisions).

Further Reading

Kelly Palmer and David Blake (2018). ‘How to Help Your Employees Learn from Each Other.’ Harvard Business Review.[https://hbr.org/2018/11/how-to-help-your-employees-learn-from-each-other. Retrieved: 13 April 2022]

Fowler, A. (2019). ‘Shared leadership: Fundamentals, benefits and implementation.’ [https://www.ckju.net/en/dossier/shared-leadership-fundamentals-benefits-and-implementation. Retrieved: 13 April 2022]

Nasif, N. (2021). ‘Want a more inclusive culture? Consider the power of peer leadership.’ Chief Learning Officer.[https://www.chieflearningofficer.com/2021/01/12/want-a-more-inclusive-culture-consider-the-power-of-peer-leadership/. Retrieved: 13 April 2022]

Pushfar. (2021). ‘Mentoring vs Coaching: The Key Differences and Benefits.’ [https://www.pushfar.com/article/mentoring-vs-coaching-the-key-differences-and-benefits/. Retrieved 20 April 2022]

Smith, M. K. (2005). ‘Bruce W. Tuckman – forming, storming, norming and performing in groups, the encyclopaedia of informal education.’ [http://infed.org/mobi/bruce-w-tuckman-forming-storming- norming-and-performing-in-groups/. Retrieved: 13 April 2022]

13 Comments on “Team Members as Leaders – In 4 Easy Steps”

  1. G’day SurePaw,

    Another masterful collation of ideas, I’m amazed at your skill to simplify the complex human dynamic of team evolution.

    A word of warning to aspiring team players – firstly, undertake a sanity check to clarify whether your group is in fact a team – not merely by name – or, alternately a Working Group. This is a critical difference that Sean may be able to enlighten us about with a case study.

    Sean, it does not surprise me where your councillors placed their own shire councils on Tuchman’s development spectrum. My own jaundiced views of local council representatives reinforces a fairly disparate group; however, the effective functioning of this decision-making group is your focal point.

    Really appreciate your tips about the practical and highly visible leadership strategies you advocate throughout the process, Sean. I believe that management course providers like AIMWA would benefit by aligning these principles in units like “Leading Effective Teams”.

    What comes through strongly is the difference (vicarious, engaging, thought-provoking) that an individual’s attitude can make to getting the job done responsibly & sustainably.

    Funny how Easter can trigger philosophy, Big Fella 🙏🏼

    Kind regards,
    Laney of the UnderCroft 😎

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comments as always, Laney. Some very useful thoughts around how an indivual’s attitude makes the key difference 😊 You also read my mind re working groups vs teams – so I will put something together based around some case studies to highlight the difference 🤔

      Like

    • I am so glad you dropped by, Patty. And, thank you for your positivity re my posts. Yes, all is well here, amongst all the usual trials and tribulations. We have a Federal election on at the moment, and it is perhaps, the worst campaign I can recall. So, tipping on its head – we have some good local candidates to choose from!

      Liked by 1 person

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