Leadership Notes #16 – Situational Team Leadership

(This series of “notes” first appeared in the YahooGroup “VenturingList” and are written by Michael Brown. I thought that they were worth sharing with the Commissioner Corps.)

Teams are a big part of what we will deal with as leaders. Much of what we will do will be as part of a team or leading a team, and we need to understand how teams work, how to be part of a team (sometimes called `followership’) and how to lead a team. One of the main ways of dealing with teams is the application of Situational Leadership (covered in Notes #3) to teams, sometimes called Situational Team Leadership. Of course, this entails several concepts.

First off, we need a better understanding of teams. We are many times part of groups, large and small. We may be part of various groups and orgs, such as local clubs or professional associations or the like. Our crews are groups. Many of these groups may have subgroups, such a committees or subcommittees (these we covered in Notes #13).

The thing is a group is not necessarily a team. This is a mistake many make. They could be a team, but it’s not automatic. I have been part of many groups, but not all of them were teams. They may have been very successful, but this was because we had a good group of people working to achieve an end, but we weren’t necessarily a team. One time I was kicked out of a group, and when I asked why, I was told that one of the main reasons was I “wasn’t a team player”. I mentioned this to another individual who was part of that group, and their first response was “what team?” That was telling. The group we were part of was NOT a team. So how could one be accused of “not being a team player”?

A team is more than a group brought together to address some issue or matter. They come together to *collaborate* on the solution or the shared goal of the group. If the group is just a bunch of individuals, each working on their own task (as given by the leader), with little or no interaction between the members, there is no collaboration. Thus there is no effort between the members of the group to achieve their shared goal. There is no teamwork, and so there is no team. This doesn’t necessarily mean the goal of the group is not achieved or not achieved well. But it could have been much more successful had this collaboration gone on.

One thing that is important is accessing the group you are part of and see how good of a team it is. There are a variety of models. Blanchard et al uses the PERFORM model, and this used to be used in Wood Badge (if it still is, I have no idea). PERFORM is:

  • Purpose and Values
  • Empowerment
  • Relationships and Communication
  • Flexibility
  • Optimal Productivity
  • Recognition and Appreciation
  • Morale

These terms are pretty self evident. I find it funny that when I review these items and assess some of the groups I have been part of, those I felt had a good teamwork element were those groups that succeeded in meeting most if not all of these elements. Those groups that I felt had an absence of teamwork lacked many of them (if not most of them).

Teams, teamwork and assessing teams are all big topics and will be touched on in future notes, but in this one we focus on one method of team leadership: Situational Team Leadership. We actually deal with a couple of concepts: the Team Development Model and the Team Leadership Model.

Actually, there are several different concepts of Team Development. Different authors have put forth different stages that teams go thru in their lifetime. There can be, depending on the author, four to six stages. In NYLT and Wood Badge, we use four: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. This is not original, and is based on the original set developed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965. Except that Tuckman added a fifth stage: Adjourning. Blanchard et al has five stages: Orientation, Dissatisfaction, Integration, Production, and Termination. In the Blanchard model, we also track productivity and morale of the group. In Wood Badge, they used to call the stages Orientation, Dissatisfaction, Resolution, and Performance until going with the Tuckman terms.

What are these stages?

  • Forming/Orientation is when the group is coming together. They are usually excited about what’s going on, but are finding their way. Ideally, the leader is bringing everyone together to define what they are about, and their goals. We say we have high morale, but low productivity.
  • Storming/Dissatisfaction is when the group is starting to get going, but there is confusion and frustration. The group is beginning to together, but things need to shake out. Moral drops, and productivity is still low.
  • Norming/Integration is when the group has started to come together. The inter-conflict issues of the previous stage are being overcome; the group is starting to come together into a team. Moral and productivity are increasing.
  • Performing/Production is when the group is now a team. Things are humming together great. Issue may still come up, but are more easily addressed by the team then when the team was in prior stages. Moral and productivity are at the highest.
  • Adjourning/Termination is usually the wrap up phase. The goal of the group is finished. We are finishing things up, perhaps doing a post mortem of the project/goal, and the members of the group are leaving to go to other groups.

In most cases we are speaking of teams which have a final goal or project in mind. When we speak of committees, these are your special or ad hoc committees, instead of on-going committees or groups. However, these can also go thru the same stages, except for the `adjourning/termination’ stage. Instead, we may speak of another stage, the “re-forming” stage. This can occur when there is an influx of new members to the team, or perhaps a refocusing of the team on a new goal or project. The team needs to reform with these new members. Some teams may deal with this at set times (when standing committees are re-orged when new officers are elected, or when groups get new members).

As we covered the stages of team development, how then do we lead teams as they go thru these stages? In general, we call this the Team Leadership Model, and here again there are several models. Applying Situational Leadership to teams is one method, and here we map the four basic stages (Forming/Orientation, Storming/Dissatisfaction, Norming/Integration, Performing/Production) to the four leadership styles of SL. (and hence why I feel it’s important one understands SL before tackling team leadership). So we match up these stages with the styles of Telling/Guiding/Directing, Selling/Persuading, Participating/Supporting, Delegating. Basically:

  • Forming/Orientation <—- Telling/Guiding/Directing/Explaining
  • Storming/Dissatisfaction <— Selling/Persuading/Coaching/Demonstrating
  • Norming/Integration <— Participating/Supporting/Guiding
  • Performing/Production < — Delegating/Enabling

(I’ve tried to use the terms you will see both in NYLT/WB as well as in other resources)

Situational Team Leadership is a big concept. I’ve tried to give a very high level overview of this. It’s not a replacement for delving into the topic. For those wanting to learn more about Situational Team Leadership and teams, there are a few resources. I would recommend using Blanchard et al’s “One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Team” (2009), which is readily available and is a good introduction to the concept. Look for the third revised edition, which was updated to bring this in-line with Blanchard’s recent “Leading at a Higher Level”, which I covered in the previous Notes. Another resource I would recommend is Blanchard et al’s “High Five!: The magic of working together.” The concept of PERFORM, which I mentioned earlier, is also from Blanchard, and is covered in these resources.