In the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world we live in Norming is almost an impossibility, but for the purposes of team development it follows on from Storming and can be seen as a settling stage.

Last month’s Storming article was about individuals feeling their way and testing their place and space in the team.

Norming is about consolidating. Roles and expectations have been clarified. Some of the uncertainties have been dealt with and there is a sense of calm as the team goes about their business. They have mechanisms in place to voice their concerns and they understand their role and how they fit into the overall structure.

The emphasis has been on the team as a collective entity and what it needs to be successful. There is a myth that there is no ‘I’ in team. This often leads to a team taking collective responsibility (or lack of) rather than personal responsibility. A team can only be successful if everyone is doing their bit. Every ‘I’ is really important contributing to the whole.

The coach now needs to work on the team and the individual in parallel. Once they have committed to working together, their skills and talent need to be optimised. This is the ideal time to introduce individual coaching for the team members, alongside team sessions. This coaching can address two aspects of the individuals’ roles:

  • Task/performance which is more of a line management function although specialist coaching may be required for technical issues and skills. This is usually referred to as ‘on the job coaching’, although it is often more of a mentoring role. 

At this stage the coach is working with the skills that the individuals need to perform effectively in their role. If there is a performance management process in place then that agreement forms the basic expectations for the individual. Unpacking what the person does well and giving recognition is important and this should be a joint activity with their manager. The manger and individual together set realistic but stretching performance objectives and then they, with the coach, work together as a team. The coach can monitor the individual’s progress against objectives, support and challenge him/her and constantly keep the individual and team objectives in mind. The manger can provide the on-site observation, encourage the individual in the process of change, and help them to keep on track.

  • Developmental coaching. Here the coaching is focused on behavioural skills that may need enhancing in the current role and the development of the management or leadership skills required for future progression e.g. delegation, collaboration and improved communication skills.

Succession planning and talent management are key in business today. Coaching is a way to prepare individuals to step up to the next level. The coach can work with the individual and their manager to identify the leadership skills that are required at the next level. Moving from managing self to managing others, to managing teams of others all require different skills and this may mean a major change for the individual particularly if they are moving from a technical position to one of management. What has made them successful to get to where they are may not be what they need to be good leaders and mangers of others e.g. ambition, self-reliance and single-mindedness got them to be recognised as a person with potential. As a manager/leader they will now need to achieve with and through the efforts of others, so engagement, collaboration and feedback become essential skills. They need to be both change agents and change drivers. They can no longer do it alone! They will need to engender trust in others so that people want to follow them as a leader. This takes hard work, commitment and change. All of which is very challenging without the support of a coach.

Coaching in the Norming stage has as its main purpose building the individuals and team into a high performing team. To do that there needs to be:

  • The constant reminders about team function, objectives and purpose
  • A focus on equipping the team members to perform effectively in their roles in alignment with that purpose
  • A view to the future development of the individuals in line with the organisation’s objectives in terms of talent development, succession planning, business continuity and sustainability
  • The issue of confidentiality is particularly important here as the coach is taking many roles and there need to be clear boundaries about what is and is not shared from individual coaching to team coaching. 

It is often useful to split the coaching of the team and the individuals over more than one coach so that boundaries are cleaner and clearer. There is the additional benefit of gaining another perspective on what is happening in the team. The common themes and patterns that emerge can be highlighted back into the organisation whilst maintaining confidentiality.

As the team is evolving the coaching also needs to evolve and we will look at what that means for the Performing team next time.

Veronica Wantenaar


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