What every person managing a team must know.

What would you say are the essential things someone managing a team must know?

My name is Krista Powell Edwards, and I work as People Development Partner for Chwarae Teg’s Agile Nation 2 project.

I’ve spent 20 years as a trainer and consultant in work performance and management skills, and from this experience I will share with you the two most important ( and useful ) things that any person managing a team should know.

Note. Looking to gain team leading and management qualification? Agile Nation 2 – fully funded Career Development Programme for Women.

#1 ~ Adair’s Action Centred leadership model.

In the model Adair describes leadership in terms of a leader’s actions in relation to:-

  1. Managing the task, the task that has to be done, and how to do it most effectively.
  2. Managing the team, and how to get people to work together effectively.
  3. Managing individuals, how to get the best out of them.

Activities in the task function.

  • Defining the task.
  • Making a plan to achieve the tasks.
  • Allocating work and resources.
  • Checking performance against the plan.
  • Adjusting the plan.

Activities in the team maintenance function.

  • Setting standards and an example.
  • Maintaining discipline.
  • Building team spirit.
  • Ensuring communication within the group.

Activities in the individual function.

  • Attending to personal problems.
  • Praising individuals.
  • Giving status.
  • Recognising and using individual abilities.

All these areas overlap – like a Venn diagram.

Each function will impact on the other functions. Sometimes more focus needs to be on one function; however the other functions cannot be ignored.

Like someone balancing spinning plates on sticks, an effective team leader or manager keeps a continual eye on all three functions so as to be aware where some attention or intervention is required to keep all the plates spinning as they need to.

The critical difference between being a member of a team and being a team leader is the need to manage the team and individuals within the team as well as manage the task.

#2 ~ Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development.

Tuckman identifies five main stages of a group’s development.

Forming.

When the group gets together.

This could be with a team of completely new players, a newly formed team, or one where a new member or members have been acquired.

Group members in this stage are very focused on identifying and establishing roles in the group, in assessing and building relationships, and exploring boundaries.

There isn’t a great deal of conflict in this stage as the focus is on working out ‘the lie of the land’, and assessing appropriate behaviours.

Performance is relatively good at this stage as people are in ‘good behaviour’ mode.

Storming.

The next stage is storming.

This is where group members are identifying their boundaries and in doing this will be pushing them to see how far they can go, in terms of what they can or can’t do, both in relation to the task and to each other:- identifying what behaviour is acceptable or not.

There is conflict at this stage as a lot of time and attention is spent on building up and defending territory. Conflict is not always overt, but it will be present.

There is usually a dip in performance as the focus is not on the job in hand and on collaborative working, but on establishing and defending positions in the group.

Norming.

This is where group members become aware.

Of the boundaries and expectations, and relationships are more developed. Group members discover what is expected of them, what are the norms of the group, the norms of behaviour and performance.

Performing.

Then comes the performing stage.

This is where the group becomes a team. Able to focus on achieving the job, as they know their boundaries, relationships are developed; people know their own strengths, and the strengths of the team.

The focus can be on the job in hand. In this stage the team is performing effectively.

Adjourning.

The final stage is adjourning.

This stage this will occur when people leave the group. There is a dip in performance as people get used to the new framework, and deal with the impact of people leaving.

The group is then essentially a new group and will go through the stages of development again.

Many team leaders/managers don’t know about the stages of team development.

When they first lead/manage a team it is performing satisfactorily as it’s in the forming stage.

When the storming phase starts, the leader/managers hopes that it is a temporary glitch and that normal service will be resumed soon – i.e. that the team will revert back to its previous behaviour.

And then, the team leader simply steps aside and hopes for the team to settle back into the norm on their own.

Unfortunately, this will not happen!

Instead of ignoring the storming phase the team leader/manager’s responsibility is to get the team through it as effectively and quickly as possible – so it can norm and then perform.

Team leaders and managers have frequently told me that they have inherited a problem team, a team whose negative behaviours have not been dealt with, and so the negative behaviours have got worse.

Leading to a toxic impact on the team and the individuals in it, and on the organisation they work in!

What every person managing a team must know is …

… Storming is an essential part of team development and the stage needs to be managed, and managed effectively if the team is to perform.