The Leader’s Role in Building and Mentoring the “A” Team

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The new business environment is witnessing unprecedented inclination of the players towards adopting quality management systems. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly important to understand and evaluate the significance of involving the human resources that will help achieving the effective implementation of the quality management system.

Pondering over the principles of quality management, involving  leadership and human resource, we are finding that creating a fertile environment for teamwork, where participants will feel encouraged to share and discuss their professional experiences will significantly contribute in accelerating the team performance to the top.

US- Navy Theoretical discussion about team building and encountering challenges with team effort is quite common but only a handful understand how to capitalize over potential of the team and how to use it for the best organizational benefit. In many cases, lack of experience also functions as a major contributing factor behind failure of team to reach the desired goal. In order to anticipate this issue, quality leadership is required. With proper guidance and realization of the problem solving capacity, a team starts learning about something that is greater than their respective professional benefits or gains, contributing to the overall organizational success.

The Stages of Team Development – ‘Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing’

Based on Dr Bruce Tuckman’s theory – Forming Storming Norming Performing – a model for team development has been introduced. It is also considered as one of the most simplistic yet sophisticated guidelines, contributing constructively to team development and behaviour. According to this model, a leader’s approach towards the team should change the team matures and reflects better problem solving capacity. Ideal leadership, as per Tuckman’s model, should be directive at the beginning, then slowly shits to coaching, to participation, to delegation and finally almost detachment. At this point, generally, the team produces someone who is worthy of succeeding the earlier leader, providing him with the opportunity to guide a new team.

Forming – Stage 1

At this stage of development, a team is almost entirely reliant on the leader for finding the right direction in solving problems. The discretion to take independent decision without the leader’s interference is very limited. On the other hand, the leader should be flexible enough to provide prompt yet insightful answers to team members about purpose of the team and its objective. The Leader must be prepared to answer lots of questions about the team’s purpose, objectives and maintaining external relationships. In the first stage, strict binding of processes is often kept aside for satisfying the learning process of team members. While it is a test for the leader to exhibit his patience and tolerance to team members, on the other hand, the leader also judges tenacity of the members in the competitive environment.

Storming – Stage 2

At the early stage of team development, decision making becomes a challenging process. Moreover, in this phase, the chance of team members conflicting with each other becomes higher. The team figures out their purpose but several other uncertainties prevail, leading to power struggle within the team, powerful enough to segregate it. This problem can best be resolved with the help of persistent focus on the goal, as in this way the team members can be distracted from indulging too much into tensions on relational and emotional aspects. While compromising with each other becomes a major way to solve this issue, proper coaching and guidance of the leader becomes equally important to address this issue.

Norming – Stage 3

In the third stage, the problems related to power struggle is largely overcome as team members respond to the leader’s facilitation. Additionally, the team members receive a better insight about their respective roles and responsibilities. In fact, the process of big decision making also eases up, thanks to group agreement. A leader, at this stage, confidently caters the responsibility to taking smaller decisions upon individuals or small group of people. Commitment and unity receive stronger foundation as the team indulges into entertaining social activities. The barriers regarding professional progress and improving the work style is also overcome through sensible discussion. While the team acknowledges the role of the leader, on the other hand, they become powerful enough to take the right decision in a timely manner.

Performing – Stage 4

In the final stage, the team becomes conscious and perfect about their strategic capacity. Naturally, they start contributing most constructively in the overall organizational functioning. In this stage, the team members collaboratively agree upon their mutual vision and they take all the necessary steps to achieve that goal. However, there may be the ambition to over-achieve the target given and in that quest, they often violate the prior agreement with the leader. The best part of this stage is that the team members complement each other professionally and in this manner, they get over the dependence of the leader at the crucial decision making stages. Naturally, a leader is left with no other task except delegating the responsibilities to the most qualified person and oversees the entire performance.

The final stage was added to this model after Bruce Tuckman corrected and improved the earlier model around 1975 by adding a fifth stage that he termed as Adjourning. Adjourning, precisely, is the fragmentation of the team once the task is accomplished successfully. While at this stage, the company apparently encourages everyone to experience newer aspects and lets them move on with a sense of accomplishment, on the other hand, from an organizational perspective, this action is meant to help employees overcoming their emotional vulnerabilities, such as, the emotional attachment developed during the long course of working.

If you are already in the position as a team leader or aspire to be one, it is important to remember that becoming a great leader means building an “A” team. However, this objective cannot be fulfilled unless you share a deep understanding of the mission or vision of the organization. This understanding, furthermore, contributes to establishing a constructive professional relationship between you and your teammates. The collaboration should direct the entire team to the realization that by using everyone’s unique capability to address the problems associated with an assignment the right approach will be found; consequently, the path to achieve the goals should widen up at the same time.

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Monika Ardianto

Quality Management Consultant and Auditor at Monika Nonce Ardianto
Monika Ardianto is a Certified Quality/Operational Management Consultant with over 20 years of experience in improving quality management systems of large businesses. She is an award winning author of "Winning the Audit".

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