One of the manager’s main concerns is of team building; for team members to cooperate and achieve results. However, individual and team performance is affected by many factors. For instance, membership, environment, organisation, and maturity. Leadership styles influence these areas greatly and ultimately determine the success of the team.
Bruce Tuckman’s model for small group development: Forming, storming, norming and performing describes how teams develop and relationships are forged. In contrast, Situational Leadership tells us that there is no single best style of leadership.
In this article Martin Webster briefly introduces Tuckman’s model before looking at other factors that affect team building and team cohesion. He concludes that management and leadership styles contribute the most to the efficacy of teams. In other words, you—the leader—are responsible for team building, team cohesion and the accomplishment of results.
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Table of Contents
Tuckman’s Model of Team Development
This popular model of team development, which was first introduced in 1965, identifies four successive stages of group development and relationships: forming, storming, norming, and performing. This has some similarity with Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership model.
The four stages of progression are defined below—including a comparison with the Situational Leadership model— and apply to groups of any duration. That is, the model is equally valid in project teams as in groups that run for a several years.
In the first stage of team building forming the team takes place. The group is concerned with orientation and seeks to establish boundaries by testing assumptions. Many questions are asked: there is a high dependency on the team leader since roles and responsibilities are unclear.
The team leader tends to be more directive during this stage (similar to the telling style in the Situational Leadership model.)
From experience, I’d say that this is an important phase of group development. It’s about laying down the foundations. Setting expectations and goals. Communication and regular team meetings are needed.
All your strength is in union. All your danger is in discord. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The next stage of team development in the sequence is storming. This is categorised by conflict and polarisation and is a normal and necessary part of team growth. Group members compete for position as new ways of working are established.
During this period the team needs to focus on its goals and objectives. The team leader continues to direct. However, the focus is on why things are done in a particular way. This is akin to the selling style–coaching–in the Situational Leadership model.
Expect some team members to challenge openly and others to resist the changes you are making.
In the third stage resistance is largely overcome and the team begins to work as a cohesive group. Processes and procedures are largely in place and everyone is committed to the team’s goals.
Moreover, people get to know each other better and are comfortable to take on more responsibility. The team leader focuses more on relationships and less on direction (similar to the participating style in Situational Leadership.)
Finally, in the last stage of team building the group moves to the performing stage. The team knows what it is doing. We see strong interpersonal relationships where roles are flexible and functional. The team is supportive in pursuing its goals.
What’s more, the team is competent, knowledgeable and motivated and operates within a performance management framework. The team leader delegates most of the day-to-day running of the team and usually adopts a participating approach. This is similar to the Situational Leadership delegating style.
Team Building and Team Cohesion
Tuckman’s model for team development takes us through a series of steps and behaviours. From the newness of circumstances to a period of conflict and exploration. Finally, by overcoming difficulties the team pulls together, matures and puts its problems firmly in the past. The team performs. This is what team building is about: forming a united whole.
Cohesion Noun The action or fact of forming a united whole.
Team cohesion develops through each stage as members get used to each other and build trust. But this doesn’t happen by chance! There are a number of factors that need to be present to build team cohesion:
- Good communication
- A common goal
- Firm commitment
To build cohesion within a team communication is essential. This provides team members with opportunities to interact socially and to build trust. Furthermore, a safe environment is needed so the team can deal with conflict without fear; remember conflict is a normal and essential part of team building.
With purpose or a common goal the team will form bonds and experience cohesion. In contrast, the group will eventually splinter if there isn’t unity of purpose. Team members are more likely to work towards their own personal agendas. Therefore, it is important for team members to see themselves as a part of a team working towards a common goal.
Teams that are committed to each other experience cohesion. When commitment is present team members are likely to work toward the team goal. However, to gain commitment employees must know what to do and how to do it.
Leadership styles play a crucial role in team building. The team leader needs to adapt style according to:
- the maturity of team and team members
- the stage of team development
Both models—Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development and Situational Leadership—guide the leader through this journey. They help us to choose an appropriate leadership style; one that supports the team develop. Accordingly, it is crucial for the leader to understand the type of influence that will help move the team forward. Indeed using the wrong type of control can be ineffective or damaging to team development.
Leaders think. They think because they are leaders. They are leaders because they think. – Paul Parker
Therefore, use the right approach. Create an open and honest atmosphere for the team to develop and make sure everyone knows what is expected of them. Build commitment.
The following table blends both models and summarises style (dimension) and objective for each stage of group development and .
Dealing with distractions
|Resolve conflict/ facilitate relationships
Discuss team progress
|Share decision-making responsibilities
Develop team processes
|Coach team members
Observe and support
|Focus||Individual tasks||Team relationships/ working through differences||Team processes||Self-
How you lead and manage your team determines the measure of success you create. But remember this: the situation in which you and your team functions influences the approach you adopt.
Bruce Tuckman is a psychologist and Professor of Educational Psychology at The Ohio State University. He created and developed the 4 stages of group development after analysing the behaviour of small groups in a variety of environments. He is best known for his article Developmental Sequence in Small Groups published in 1965. Much of his work is concerned with educational research and educational psychology.
Ken Blanchard is an American author and management expert. His book The One Minute Manager (co-authored with Spencer Johnson) has sold over 13 million copies worldwide. In the 1960s Blanchard co-developed the Situational Leadership theory and model with Paul Hersey. He founded the Ken Blanchard Companies, Inc. in 1979.
Paul Hersey is a behavioral scientist, author and management expert best known for developing Situational Leadership theory with Ken Blanchard. He is professor of Leadership Studies at Nova Southeastern University and established the Center for Leadership Studies, which provides training and development in leadership, in the 1960s.
Have Your Say
What is your experience of team development? Do you think Tuckman’s model still holds true? Are you adapting your leadership styles to the needs of the team, team members and the stage of team development?
Have your say about what you’ve read and join the discussion on our related post: 5 Steps to Forming a Team.
Creative Commons image courtesy Dan4th.