Who we are begins in our family of origin. As we start school, some kids gravitate to sports and outdoor activities while others form social circles based on personal relationships or indoor pursuits around the arts. These traits and preferences generally follow each of us through our educational pursuits and into the workforce. As we find ourselves on a team, these differences become apparent. A challenge for many of us then is to understand and effectively work with people whose styles are different from ourselves.
This all-too-common problem shows up in the Storming Stage as identified by Bruce Tuckman in his article Development Sequence in Small Groups, where he describes the four stages of group maturity: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. In the Storming Stage, differences among team members are often seen as bad and lead to a “we” versus “them” mentality. One may hear comments like, “You are always so detail-oriented” or “You never take things seriously.” Part of what others may be thinking is, “If more people were like me, things would be better.” However, that’s not reality—and it usually doesn’t result in the strongest teams.
During this Storming Stage, those members who are loud and blunt may clash with the quiet and slower-paced, while the member wanting to consider other’s feelings is trampled over and dismissed as weak. These common issues are the result of being unaware of differences in styles and not being able to see the benefit in another’s uniqueness.
On a team like this, team members often don’t feel safe. They are cautious. You may see team members vying for positions. Some team members may not share their perspectives, while others are pushing for their idea to be accepted. Team members may criticize others because they do not think or act like themselves. Other team members may easily give in to the loudest voices in order to avoid conflict. Maybe you’ve worked on teams like this.
In my work with teams, I have found many natural work teams and leadership teams like this. In fact, some have been stuck in the Storming Stage for years.
More than 20 years ago, I was developing a course on how to develop high-performing teams. I wanted to incorporate an assessment into the course that would help team leaders understand themselves and their team members. I asked a number of consultants and others what assessment they would recommend. Everyone pointed me to DiSC.
DiSC helps people understand their behavioral style. There are four main behavioral styles: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness.
Over the years, I have used DiSC with some 3,000 people. I have found it to be a very useful way to help team members, especially team leaders, better understand themselves and others. By understanding and utilizing DiSC, team members and leaders can become more effective in the workplace leading to better communication, improved relationships, and less Storming.
All DiSC styles are equally important, and everyone is a blend of the four styles, but each of us generally has a dominant style. Interestingly, the population is almost equally divided among the four styles.
Consider this story about Ken who learned about the practical use of the different DiSC styles in his work as a supervisor. While coaching one of his team members, Ken became annoyed at this person’s constant need for praise and encouragement. Ken would show the team member how to perform a task, and when the team member performed the task, he immediately wanted to be told that he did it really well, even though to Ken nothing special had happened. Ken, who was not one to openly praise anyone for less than a perfect performance, wanted to know more about why this person acted this way.
After both of them took a DiSC assessment, Ken learned that he was high in Conscientiousness and his team member was high in Influence. Ken also learned that his team member’s need for approval was part of his style and that Ken’s resistance to offering praise was due to his being uncomfortable around outward displays of emotion. As Ken started to practice what he had learned, it increased his ability to understand others whose style was different than his. He learned that to improve his communication with team members, he needed to consider the other person’s style and package his message in a way that better matched the other person. As he did, his communication was more effective, and his relationships improved. As his team applied the concepts, communication also improved, and they realized that those differences were a benefit resulting in less Storming.
Why not start the New Year off by being more aware of the natural differences among team members? Not only will you be able to communicate more effectively, but you can move your team toward the Performance Stage. Dr. Switzer at Switzer Associates Leadership Solutions has the expertise and experience to help facilitate a DiSC assessment with your team and leaders. Contact him at 916-622-3545 for a no-cost consultation and learn about your DiSC style.
For The Faith-Based
The Apostle Paul was called to tell others about Christ, especially the non-Jews. In 1 Corinthians 9:20-22, he says, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” I suggest that a principle found with the Apostle Paul was his recognition of differences in people and his willingness to adapt his approach to open the door for better communication and stronger relationships.
Too often we see “different” as being bad, but if we are willing to have a mindset like the Apostle Paul in recognizing the differences in others, we can choose to communicate and adapt our style to better connect with them. In doing so, we are honoring others and providing a bridge for better communication and stronger relationships.
In the team setting, when we do this, it helps us engage in more productive meetings with better outcomes. Over time, this enables our team to move toward a higher level of performance.