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Team Performance Model: Purpose and Belonging

In 1965, I was born. In other significant news from 1965, psychologist Bruce Tuckman coined the phrase “forming, storming, norming, and performing” in his paper “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups”. Later, he added “adjourning or mourning” as a fifth stage. This phrase has become common language and foundational understanding of team dynamics. According to Tuckman, teams progress through distinct stages where they:

  1. Forming: becoming a part of something bigger than themselves

  2. Storming: struggling relationally with difficulty understanding teammates, culture, expectations, etc.

  3. Norming: developing behavioral and relational expectations and adhering to them.

  4. Performing: becoming a group or team that achieves more than the sum of its parts.

  5. Adjourning: celebrating and disbanding to move towards new teams and challenges.

In the forming stage, people are unsure of the team’s purpose, how they fit in, consternation about their ability to fit in or perform adequately, and discomfort with new people and work styles. They are anxious, curious, and excited usually simultaneously. They’ll be looking for direction and reassurance from the leader. This takes time.

Notice the parallels with the Drexler/Sibbet Team Performance Model that we introduced in the last article.

Why are we here? We will take the next several articles to go into detail in all of the seven steps of this model. The first step, Orientation, is very similar to the forming stage of Tuckman’s model. New team members need to find their place on the team and within the organization of which they are a part. People need to get their bearings. Literally, some people will be questioning where the bathroom is, what time is lunch, where can you get food around here, and is there a Starbucks within walking distance. Beyond the general logistics, people need to have a sense of purpose for the team and for themselves on the team. They need a reason to want to be there and find some meaning for the work that they are to do. Let me tell you a bit of my story to illustrate this point.

When I was getting my undergraduate degree, I truly had no vision for my life and was very inexperienced interviewing for jobs. I accepted and solicited every job interview that I could. I remember walking into the tiny interview room in the Georgia Tech Placement Office and sitting down across from a recruiter from JB Hunt trucking and logistics company. After our initial greeting, the recruiter explained to me that JB Hunt’s corporate headquarters is in Lowell, AR 40 miles from the geographic center-point of the continental United States. They then asked, “why would you be interested in living in Lowell, Arkansas?” I was flummoxed and speechless. I literally couldn’t come up with an answer. I apologized to the man for wasting his time and I left the interview.

Fast forward a few years, I was working at Procter and Gamble in finance. My manager at the time was talking to me about my next assignment. He thought it would be good for me to get out into the field and do an assignment as a finance manager on one of P&G Sales teams. He handed me a list of teams and their locations and asked me to talk to my wife. There were cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Charlotte, and Atlanta. I asked my wife if she could see us relocating to one of these cities for 2-3 years. Her answer was, “anywhere but Fayetteville, Arkansas.” It was about a week later that P&G offered me a position as Finance Manager on the Wal-Mart Customer Team located in Fayetteville, Arkansas. My wife, being an angel sent directly from God, agreed to the move and we went down and bought a house in Springdale, Arkansas, which is roughly halfway between my office in Fayetteville and Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville. Our house was also less than 3 miles away from JB Hunt’s headquarters in Lowell. God has a sense of humor.

As I started my assignment and was introduced to my new team, my big question honestly was what in the world does a finance manager do on a sales team. It seems like the Account Directors for the various brands and categories had similar unspoken questions. As the finance representative, I supported probably 20 or so Account Directors that were responsible for different parts of the business with Wal-mart. The finance role on these sales teams was relatively new. I felt like a fish out of water. I wanted to help and make a contribution but I frankly didn’t know how. I ultimately gravitated towards the 4-5 sales directors that I related to the best and ultimately, through relationships, we stumbled onto how I could best help the team. That said, it took a while and the lesson for me was learned. People need to be able to not only belong to a team but also feel like they have a vision where they could be helpful to the team. By the way, our time in Arkansas was very good. Our son was born shortly before we moved down there and it was a wonderful place to start a family. And I certainly learned a ton about retail, marketing, and merchandising while I was there. Additionally, we made some very good friends for life and, actually and ironically, it is where we first heard of this start-up new church back in Cincinnati named Crossroads.

As we refocus back on the Orientation step in the Team Performance Model, it is important to understand what Drexler & Sibbet believe is the goal of this step:

  1. Purpose. Not to be confused with mission or vision or goals. More on this later.

  2. Team Identity

  3. Membership or belonging

You will know you are not through this stage if any portion of your team is feeling things like disorientation, uncertainty, or fear.

And as I said in a previous article, I adapt this model when working in a Christian environment and/or from a Christian mindset. In addition to purpose, team identity and belonging, a follower of Jesus is also wanting to understand how this role is a calling and/or is associated with one’s calling. I ask new members on any of my teams, “why is God calling you here?” Invariably, I get answers that highlight their experiences and skill-sets that would help the team. Perhaps, they are right but I always challenge them to dig deeper. Think about it. If God wants something done, he can get it done without their help in literally an infinite amount of ways. He chose them. Why? I believe it is because God wants something done or something formed in them. This is about something God is teaching them. It is critically important that we all allow ourselves to be discipled into a more representative image of Jesus in all that we do including our team participation. It is sad when I see good people walk right by something great God is doing in their lives because they are distracted by the work they are doing sometimes even in the church. Romans 12:1-2 reads:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers (and sisters), by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Our worship is not only the songs we sing while trying to bring glory to God but also anything we do to bring glory to God in service to God including doing our jobs well and maximizing our efforts at work. We can easily get numbed into conforming with the world that our job is just what we do to pay the bills. It is not. We have to transform and train our minds to see it as worship in pursuit of the will of God.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)

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