We as legal marketers find ourselves joining new teams all the time. Sometimes it’s for a new project, assuming a new role, starting a new job, or perhaps it’s a new volunteer position with LMA, like me. We all want to get past the “meet and greet” and move on to achieving our goals faster. So, how can we speed up the process?
Organizational development professionals have a variety of models and methods that can be used to facilitate this process based on each team’s organizational type and needs. As President-Elect of the LMA Mid-Atlantic Region, I wanted to try a combination of ideas I learned during a change leadership program in order to help our regional board of directors establish group expectations and continue to provide high-quality professional development opportunities to our members.
My process was heavily based on the Tuckman Model, developed by psychologist Bruce Tuckman in the 1960s. The stages in this model are: forming, storming, norming, performing. Each individual stage plays an important role in building a high-functioning team. These stages start from the moment a group first meets and progress until the end of the project, and every time people leave or join the group the process restarts.
- Forming. In the forming stage, the focus is more on people than on the work, so it’s usually not terribly productive. You might call it the “honeymoon period.”
- Storming. In the storming stage, the reality of what you need to do is now clear to everyone in the group. The honeymoon period is over, and more than likely, conflict will enter the equation. But remember: conflict is normal and avoiding it will just cause problems later on.
- Norming. In the norming stage, the group starts to work together and the momentum towards goals picks up as trust is built amongst members.
- Performing. In the performing stage, the group is confident and motivated, and individuals have successfully built trust among team members. The group’s initial goal or objective is now in sight.
- Adjourning. In the adjourning stage, the project is complete, and your team’s goals have been met. This is an important time in the process to celebrate what you have achieved, thank everyone for their contributions, and create closure for the group.
I saw our 2019 Board Retreat as the start of a new project – leading the Mid-Atlantic Region – and I asked myself what steps I could take to help expedite the time between forming and storming to get to norming and performing.
Rather than let our group develop our roles and expectations naturally during the forming process, we chose to strategically conduct a group activity that would help move from the forming stage straight into the storming stage and approach norming over the course of a few hours. Here is what we did as a board at the retreat, broken into steps that you can apply to your teams:
- Without attribution, consider your best team experience. Identify what was great about it, what it felt like, and how everyone involved acted during the duration of the project. At our retreat, we solicited feedback from the board and showcased that feedback in a place where everyone could plainly see the characteristics identified by the group.
- Without attribution, consider your worst team experience. Identify what made it so hard, what it felt like to be a part of that struggle, and how everyone involved acted. Again, we solicited feedback from the board and showcased that feedback in a place where everyone could plainly see the characteristics identified by the group.
- We then discussed the characteristics we wanted for our group, in ideal terms. We also put that feedback on display.
- We discussed how the group could achieve these visions and how the group should hold themselves accountable, both individually and collectively.
- We sought agreement from the group on the rules and methods of accountability. We clearly transcribed those rules in the same place where everyone could see them.
- Finally, we discussed each team member’s communication style and preferences. Each member filled out a “user manual” wherein we shared our preferred communication styles, methods, and any other things people should know about us in order to communicate effectively throughout our board service.
If possible, have an outside facilitator or designate a team member take on the role of conducting this exercise. That person should be responsible for making sure no single voice dominates the conversation and ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to express his or her view. The facilitator is also responsible for keeping the dialogue moving forward and staying on topic. If ideas come up during the conversation, the group can agree ahead of time to move things not directly related to the “parking lot” and come back to those items after the exercise is completed.
Create rules and norms and bring them to every meeting. Periodically make sure the group still agrees with them. It’s not uncommon for the rules and norms to evolve with the group as time progresses and circumstances change.
By Rachel Shields Williams, Senior Manager, Experience Management, Sidley Austin LLP