Behavioral scientists have spent decades studying teams, how they function, and what makes them most effective. Watson (2011) summarized the researchers' findings. As the name suggests, in the forming stage, the team is organized, and tasks are assigned. The next step is perhaps the most challenging for a team leader, the storming stage. As storming progresses, team dynamics will likely devolve to chaos and conflict at some point, and members will likely rebel against the assigned task or goals and even the team leader. The culture of the team is forming, and members are adjusting to their new roles and establishing norms. The greatest challenge will be to help members balance frankness with civility in their interactions and to anticipate and support members' need for recognition and acceptance from the team. As the team moves into the norming stage, the group's members will become more committed to team goals. The team emerges from conflict and challenging to a prevailing spirit of cooperation and mutual support. In this stage, researchers observe positive forward progress in meeting team goals and completing tasks. Ideally, the team will seamlessly progress to the performing stage, although not all do. Performing is an essential time for the leader to focus on strengthening group cohesion as the team's efforts should now optimize and reach highest levels of performance. Often the team has solidified by this point, and it can tolerate members' departure and new members' additions without losing its effectiveness. Note that not every group will reach the performing stage as some will disband earlier. Finally, there is an adjourning stage, sometimes referred to as the "mourning" phase, when members of the group begin to depart in more significant numbers, and team activities wrap up because tasks are complete.
Regardless of the type of team, the primary role of its leader is to provide clear direction and to work with team members to keep processes moving. Although no clear rules exist for a team leader to mechanically follow, the role of a team leader is different than that of a traditional manager. The team leader's most significant responsibilities, which s/he cannot delegate, are to create an environment that allows the team to respond to change, to coach team members, and to support individuals' successes (Levi, 2017). The optimal climate will nurture members' need for autonomy in their work as experts, invest in their continuing development of competence, and nurture a culture that supports their needs for relatedness with each other (Ryan and Deci, 2000).
The existence of a leader can be very lonely. But it can also be gratifying. If you are looking for ways to establish or re-establish a culture for which your team or organization can be proud, we are here to help. Our consultants can help you and your team to find your "why," support your goal-setting processes, and establish a system of accountability for meeting goals. Finally, your MSP mental performance consultant stands ready to equip you with the mental performance tools that allow you to harness the power of your mind to elevate your performance.
Let's get started on the vital work to develop psychologically healthy teams that perform at an elite level in their sport or industry. Contact us:
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The Mental Side of Performance
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Levi, D. (2017). Group dynamics for teams (5th Ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68–78.
Watson, Laura (2011). How a Group Becomes a Team? The Stages of Team Development. BC Coach's Perspective, 6-8.