David Harkins

David Harkins

Dr. David L. Harkins is a social scientist researching the human experience in systems and culture. He is an experienced executive coach and consultant, passionate educator, and keynote speaker. Through his teachings, inspiration, and guidance, he helps individuals and organizations identify and connect with their potential to make a meaningful difference in their communities.

Don’t be afraid of the storms

Highly effective teams have one thing in common: A very similar and structured process for achieving success.  The four steps in this process, Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing, are critical steps in moving the ideas of the team forward to a common and focused goal.

In the Forming step, teams learn about their project expectations and explore how to reach the goal a group of individuals.  The Storming step is where conflicts arise as the members of the team hash out their differences about the steps to achieve project success.  In the Norming stage, the team becomes more comfortable with the strengths and contributions of each and agrees to move forward with a shared goal.  The team hits its stride in the Performing step when the individual members know how to function together as a single unit and their reliance and dependence on each other fuels higher enthusiasm and motivation for the project’s success.

These steps are not always apparent to the team members, but a good team leader understands the importance of the process and takes the responsibility to guide the team through each phase.  Sounds simple, right?  Unfortunately, it is not as easy as it looks. Here’s why:

No one likes Storming.

You see, most people don’t like conflict.  You may be one of them.  Whether it’s a genetic predisposition, shyness, or their parents raised them to be polite, the very idea of an argumentative debate with another person over a business issue becomes horrifying.  I’m not talking about arguing for the sake of arguing; I’m talking about providing constructive criticism and personal insights to help shape and move the project forward in a positive manner.

So many will see this confrontation as a personal attack.  Therefore, most individuals on a team never rise to the level of Storming with their peers and a few strong-willed team members will take over the project.  Then the result reflects the ideas and solutions of the few, and not of the many.  Because the result is not representative of the team’s combined experience and intelligence, it falls far short of the ideal solution.

Now, I know you’re saying, “Where’s the team leader who’s supposed to guide the team through the process?”  The leader is there, of course, but most team “leaders” do not like conflict either.  Instead of encouraging and facilitating each step, the leader allows the vocal minority to take control.

Few projects, initiatives, or programs ever reach their full potential because most individuals and many “leaders” are too afraid to talk about the issues that are important to them as they strive to achieve their goals.  Lack of effective leadership is a serious problem in many corporations and nonprofits today—but that’s a topic for another post.

In our personal lives, many of us have similar challenges.  We go through the same steps—Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing—as our life circumstances change and we are forced to adapt.  But, we rarely allow ourselves to Strom—to confront and address those issues that keep us from moving forward.  Instead, we often find ourselves standing still, perhaps talking in circles, and repeating the same conversations time-after-time because the real issues are not being addressed.  Alternatively, we may just resign ourselves to carry around the burdens and frustrations of not being heard.  Either way, it may sometimes seem much more comfortable to keep quiet than to step up and be the force that drives our own lives forward.

Storming is a necessary part of life.  It helps us to confront the issues and overcome the conflicts that prevent us from achieving greater successes.  We must not be afraid to Storm, however uncomfortable it may be for us.  Storming is especially critical when it serves to move projects or ideas forward, or supports growth in our personal lives.  Refusing to Storm never allows us to be the best we can be, as an individual or as a member of a team.

Think of it this way: Storms always pass.  When we step outside after the dark clouds move on, look up to the clear sky and breathe in the clean air, we find ourselves giving thanks for the heavy rain the storm showered upon us.  When we move from Storming to Norming, to Performing—as a team or as an individual—I guarantee the feeling of gratitude is the same.


Featured Image Source: After the Storm by Phil’s Hat

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