Forming, storming, norming and performing
FM consultant GRAHAM CONSTABLE continues his inimitable look at facility management challenges, with the stages teams must progress through to be effective.
Marcus looked at his watch. Then he saw Harry approaching.
“So sorry to hold you up, Marcus.”
“You’re OK.” He studied Harry. “How about everyone else?”
Harry shook his head. “Is it that obvious?”
“A little. I look for these things – as you know.”
Harry invited Marcus. “Let’s talk in a minute – I have a small room booked.”
The room was functional, enough for a small round table and two chairs. No natural light, no phone. They sat.
“I was collared by one of my team. He told me he and some others wanted to talk about something important.” Harry raised his eyebrows. “He wasn’t pleased when I told him it would have to wait.”
Marcus nodded – he knew there was discontent in Harry’s team.
Harry changed the topic. “So how was your meeting with Alan?”
“Interesting. I achieved my original goal and set a few others.”
Harry chuckled. “Of course you did! What was the win?”
“Getting an agreement to be paid!” Marcus smiled, then changed the topic back.
“Your comment about your teammate doesn’t surprise me. Did it you?”
“What’s Alan been saying?”
“Nothing you shouldn’t already know, Harry.” He let this sink in. “I commented on your renewed enthusiasm for FM and your revived commitment. Alan thinks the momentum has returned to the account.”
“You know, one of the main breakers to momentum is doing things yourself. Lasting momentum arises from team victories in which your whole team can claim to have participated. Alan believes there is no team effort behind the recent turnaround of your account.”
“He’s never happy!” Harry sighed deeply.
“Maybe so, maybe not.” Marcus sat forward. “We’re meeting again and I will recommend doing some workshops around achieving collective results.”
“The whole team – Alan included!” “But we’re improving financially.”
“He knows this, but he doesn’t see your team involved as much as they should be.” Marcus paused. “Alan knows members of your team are not happy. They have gone to Alan for help.”
“Why not come to me?”
“They did, a few minutes ago – but you chose to see me first.”
Harry shook his head. “You sound like Alan now. What should I have done then?”
“Attend to your team first. We could meet afterwards.”
Harry looked despondent.
Marcus knew Harry needed some tools. “I have also recommended to Alan that you all focus on regaining trust with each other. I shall plan some interventions to help.”
“When will these happen? We’re all busy.”
Marcus ignored the bait. “Harry, I recall you saying you were hoping to give Alan good news around being chosen as your client’s change manager. Remember?”
“Sure. It’s true!”
“Your client account profitability is starting to improve. The good times are returning and Alan credits your efforts. To really make a difference I would suggest you prioritise effort rather than focus on doing something to impress your boss or to get him off your back. This strategy is not going to work. As we see from the response of your team.”
Harry sighed again. “Look, I thought we were going to be discussing the change management opportunity?”
“Do you want to just talk about it, Harry or do you want to demonstrate worth to your client by doing it here and now… on this real live issue?”
“Look, when things are going well any relational issues can easily be glossed over or forgotten. Your account has been suffering for some time, but now it’s improving. You’re seeing the change, because you are driving it. However, your team isn’t because everyone else is detached from your effort; all they can see are the exposed cracks in the team.”
“How do I change this then?”
“Good question, Harry. First, the team issue.”
“We’ll also talk about team dynamics; the two complement each other.” Harry scanned through his meeting notes. “Oh yes. I recommended Alan should see himself as a team member.”
Harry nodded. “Ahh. What did he say about that?”
“He’s learning like you!”
Marcus spent time with Harry understanding the composition of Harry’s team, their roles, responsibilities, skills and competencies. Marcus then asked Harry about his leadership style.
“I see myself as more of a manager,” responded Harry.
“So you don’t lead in any way?”
“Yeah, I suppose so, but I don’t know what style I use.” A pause. “What’s the best one?”
“The one that gets the job done…” Marcus grinned. “But remember to keep a balance between your relationship with your team and the task at hand.”
“That doesn’t really help me, Marcus.”
“It means you have to determine the best style according to the situation you’re in.”
“Sometimes you will need to lead by example – show the way something should be done, such as standards of behaviour. Other times you will need to persuade someone of the merits of doing something. And yet other times you’ll need to compel people.”
“The last one sounds confrontational,” Harry frowned.
“It can be, but you need to have a good relationship to be able to use this style well.”
“I thought I did until today.”
“Let’s talk about that now. Putting aside the reasons why, you’ve had a couple of team members leave recently.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“Every team goes through phases of effectiveness all the time; these are dependent upon circumstances,” Marcus explained.
“Like people leaving?”
“Exactly. I imagine those two were good mates with everyone. Now they’ve left there is a ‘hole’ to fill. Not just from a workload perspective, but emotionally. They will be missed.”
“I hadn’t thought of that.”
“Your team will be wondering what has happened. They’re probably not sure about you anymore – professionally speaking – and there is, from the sounds of things, an element of friction across the team. Also, some of your team may be angry and confused. Technically, this is referred to as the ‘storming’ phase of teams.”
“Storming? Where does that come from?”
Marcus explained, “There’s a model of team dynamics that is called ‘forming, storming, norming and performing’.”
“It’s a very useful model. Bruce Tuckman developed it ages ago. It spells out the different stages teams pass through on the way – hopefully – to effectiveness and closeness.”
Harry made a note. “I’ll Google it.”
“Good idea. Every team has to progress through this storming stage if it is to gel. Without it, the team cannot reach its full potential. I suspect your team is also going through a ‘forming’ phase where they may be asking themselves why they are there, who will be doing what and how! It’s as if the team is starting from scratch again. Relationships are having to be rebuilt in some cases.”
“Especially with me by the look of things!”
“True Harry. Once all of these questions are answered and the issues addressed, then teams reach what is called ‘norming’.”
“What is this?”
“Norming is essentially where the team gets organised once more. It knows how it will work together and it knows what it needs to work well together – information wise, for example. People start to collaborate better.”
Harry nodded his head. “Which goes to what Alan is saying about collective results.” “Exactly – and Alan is a key part of all this too.”
“So what do we do first?”
“Rebuild trust across the team. This is the foundation of everything.”
“Define trust for me. I thought I could rely on my team to do what they should be doing.
“As I mentioned to Alan, trust is more than knowing someone will do something well because he/she has regularly done so before. Trust is where team members are confident that everyone’s intentions are good. They know they can admit their mistakes and ask for help.”
Marcus let Harry absorb this.
Harry admitted, “I guess we’ve never communicated these things with each other. I wouldn’t know what motivates my team.”
“Well, we’re hopefully about to find out. Eventually you will become an effective leader and facilitator, and your team will focus more on being better at what they do and share in the benefits.”
“You make it sound so easy!”
“Remember that I am providing the canvas and the means. You’ll be doing the hard work.”
Harry smiled. “And Alan agreed to pay you for our pain?”
“I suspect the pain could be worse.”
“Only kidding, Marcus – I’m a big fan. But what about our change management discussion?”
“We’ve just started it. And what better way to show your client you understand all this by living and breathing it, with outcomes that will ultimately benefit him?”
“I guess I’m impatient.”
“So what are you going to do now, Harry?” “I’m going to catch up with Charlie who collared me earlier. Find out what he wants to talk to me about.”
“Good. Assuming he’ll open up, I suggest you focus the discussion so it is productive.”
‘First, allow him to be reflective, personally. For example, tease out where he may be confused; even ask him to share if possible what emotions he has been experiencing. Then focus him on revealing what has actually stood out to him recently. For example, what behaviours he has observed with the events over the past week or so. You’re asking him to be more objective here.”
Marcus waited for Harry to scribble.
“Then ask him what insights are emerging, what are the key issues and what he thinks are the options ahead. You’re asking him
to interpret here. Finally, see if you can encourage decisions. See what his and the team’s resolve may be; perhaps ask him what can be done differently.”
“I’ll need a few hours, Marcus!”
“You should set aside time so he sees you are serious. If you can get through all this, then he and the others will be ready for the workshop I’m planning with Alan.”
“I wonder if I’m ready!”
“That’s why you’re paying me!” “Touché!”
This article is part of Graham Constable’s regular column ‘Connections’, published in Facility Management magazine.