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A Team Leader’s Challenge: Leading through the Four Stages of Team Development

Part 1 of 5

A number of years’ ago we wrote a two part article and case study on the Five Stages of Team Development. You can read them here: Part 1 and Part 2. This past article and case study on the Five Stages of Team Development will provide some background information about the stages of team development.

This case study (in five parts) will be focused on a team leader’s challenge of leading his team through the four stages of team development and how the challenges were addressed, keeping in mind the stages of team development.

This team leader, who we’ll call Joshua for the purposes of this story, is a coaching client of Abudi Consulting Group. Joshua was challenged with leading a very difficult team for a strategic initiative – that could not fail. We’ll share in this case study some best practices for moving a team through the first two difficult stages of team development (where the team is least productive) to get them to a point where they are a high performing team.

Through this case study we’ll discuss Joshua’s challenges through the four stages of team development depicted in Exhibit 1.

Four Stages of Team Development

Exhibit 1

Background Information

Joshua has been working for a pharmaceutical organization for over 5 years. The organization had 5 offices throughout the United States and in Canada. Headquarters was on the East Coast and this is where Joshua is based. Most recently Joshua has been leading a number of projects within the organization. This has entailed his reporting structure changing and Joshua reporting up the VP of Operations. Many of the initiatives Joshua has handled since reporting to the VP of Operations have been significant projects, but not projects where he felt significant pressure. He felt comfortable throughout the projects building his skills in leading initiatives and engaging the team. Yes, problems arose, but they were easily handled overall.

Joshua was then assigned what he called, “the project of a lifetime!” Joshua had the opportunity to lead a team of twelve to accomplish a strategic initiative in the organization. This initiative would reexamine all business processes with the goal of improving how the work gets done through increased efficiencies prior to opening another four locations in Europe and Asia.

The project sponsor, the VP of Operations, was confident that Joshua was the best person to lead this initiative given his success on other initiatives. However, he also knew that this could be a stressful project and therefore brought on Abudi Consulting Group in order to provide Joshua guidance as conflicts and other problems arose as well as to be a sounding board for Joshua. It was important to the VP of Operations that this initiative was a success for Joshua and for the organization.

The Team Members

The team that Joshua was tasked to lead was comprised of individuals from throughout the organization. The team structure is shown in Exhibit 2.

Team Structure

Exhibit 2

Table 1 provides some background information on each team member.

Name

Office Location

Years with Org.

Additional Information/Experience

Sally

East Coast

6

  • Reports to Director of Technology
  • Project scheduler; Microsoft Project® expertise
  • Has worked on a number of projects within the organization, primary IT-focused
  • Has worked with Joshua on the last three projects he led
  • Known for being easy-going, very sociable

Tony

West Coast

15

  • Reports to Director of Technology
  • Has worked on technology projects in both team lead as well as project manager roles
  • Extensive technical expertise
  • Can be a bit “rough” with people, limited patience

Heather

West Coast

5

  • Reports to Director of Operations
  • First time working as a team lead but has worked on a number of operational projects over the last 2 years
  • Has experience as a team lead at a previous organization
  • Easy going and seems to get along with everyone; however, has been perceived to be too easy going

Jeremiah

Mid-West

1

  • New to the organization; first job since graduating from college
  • Very flexible in his approach working with others

Melanie, Bobby, and Paul

Mid-West

5 (years each)

  • Report up to Director of Operations
  • Have worked on numerous operational-focused projects
  • Each have prior experience as project team members in previous organizations
  • All have worked with Heather in the past, none have worked with Tony

Jean-Luc

Southeast

10

  • Reports up Director, Research & Development
  • Extensive experience leading and working on a variety of research & development as well as operational projects
  • Very process driven and focused

Denise, Deborah

East Coast

2 (years each)

  • Report up to Director, Research & Development
  • They are actually twin sisters!
  • Denise is easy going and flexible – willing to do whatever needs to be done; Deborah can be more rigid and people who have worked with her commented that “she seems to like conflict!”
  • Have worked closely with Tony on a number of other initiatives

Siraj

East Coast

15

  • Reports up to Director of Research & Development
  • Has experience leading projects as well as working on projects in a team member function
  • Has had experience in project scheduling
  • Easy going, does not push others and will take on work that someone else is not doing rather than hold them accountable (avoids conflict)

Yujian

Southeast

10

  • Reports up to the Director of Technology
  • Expertise in application development as well as technology infrastructure
  • Process-oriented and very detailed in his work
  • Has worked on a variety of IT projects

Table 1

In reviewing the information he gathered about his team, Joshua knew that it was important to enable this team some time to get to know each other and figure out how they would work together.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Forming: Getting the Team Together for the First Time

Future parts of this case study:

  • Part 3: Storming!
  • Part 4: Getting the Team to High Performing
  • Part 5: Lessons Learned in Team Development