How to use a classic model in leading change with your team

Leading change is a challenge and a responsibility

Having a classic model to help you in leading change gives you the confidence to keep moving.

This is Part 1 of a two-part series in leading change with your team (I like to build anticipation!)

The five stages of group development is based on a model developed by Tuckman and Jensen (1977).

The model provides a guide to understand the processes operating within a group at any given time. The model helps to explain the different group behaviours over the lifetime of a group – or even over the course of one meeting!

leading change

Building on the model, we can begin to identify the role of the team leader at each stage of group development to help guide the group through this process.

Stage 1. Forming – tips for leading change

According to Kelsey & Plumb (2004), in the forming stage the group is polite and cautious. They are waiting to get to know each other better before they do anything risky. People are anxious with their new environment and have a desire for acceptance by the group. Many people are checking the ‘lie of the land’. They size each other up and think about the personality types in the group and how these compare to themselves. In the forming stage, groups tend to keep things simple and to avoid controversy. Serious topics and feelings are avoided.

Role of the team leader in leading change

  • Observe the group in action to see who stands out as possible leaders.
  •  Observe how people interact and the CLICK! styles they exhibit
  • Be welcoming and confident and to some degree, directive in helping the group to start to work together and gain focus.

Practical approaches

  • Plan ways for people to feel more comfortable in and trusting of the group.
  • Plan various introductions or warm up exercises, and help the group to set ground-rules.
  • Assist the group to clarify its tasks or reason for existence.  This can be achieved through identifying the vision (aim) and mission (role) of the group, along with the group values (what is important to them).


Moving to the next stage

To grow from this stage to the next members of the group must be prepared to start dealing with some of the more difficult issues, where they may feel uncomfortable and potentially be in conflict with each other.


Stage 2. Storming – tips for leading change

The storming stage is characterised by high levels of enthusiasm, energy, excitement, competition and challenge. Kelsey & Plumb have observed that during storming group members are testing the rules and jockeying for power. You will see disagreements, challenges to the process, and emotional responses. Tuckman and Jensen suggested that individuals have to bend and mould their feelings, ideas, attitudes, and beliefs to suit the group organization during this stage. Similar to style flexing, this behaviour requires much energy and can be very uncomfortable for many people.

Group members will be asking themselves:

  • Do I feel passionate about the purpose of this program or project?
  • Do I like how they are planning to meet my needs & the needs of the project?
  • What am I going to do or say that will get my opinion heard?

Some participants will be experiencing a “fear of exposure” or “fear of failure”. They will need to rely on a clear group structure or ‘terms of engagement’ as identified in the forming stage. Some conflicts may not arise surface as group issues, but still be there under the surface.  Conflict may also arise regarding the roles of leadership, power, and authority within the group. Because of the discomfort generated during this stage, some members may remain completely silent while others attempt to dominate.

Role of the team leader in leading change

  • Build on the work from the forming stage to clarify tasks, help assign roles and keep disagreements from becoming personal conflicts.
  • Have a calming influence, as well as enforcing the ground rules.

Practical approaches

  • Set and maintain a positive tone for the group and look to include time for fun or social activities
  • Encourage input

Moving to the next stage

In order to progress to the next stage, group members must move from a “testing and proving” mentality to a problem-solving mentality. The most important trait in helping groups to move on to the next stage is the ability to listen and clarify.

Coming up

The Norming, Performing and Adjourning phases and how you can help your team through these.

Want help in the process? Get in touch.

Andrew Huffer

Andrew Huffer has over 25 years experience in working with organisations, businesses, managers and communities and at a state, national and international level. He designs and delivers specialist engagement processes, with a focus on facilitating open decision making processes and skill development of clients. He has delivered presentations and workshops at a number of state, national and international conferences.

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