It’s Not Nice to Fool with Mother Nature

Living in Florida has really gotten me accustomed to thunderstorms. I was driving in the car with my husband the other day and we were looking at these gorgeous fluffy clouds that were stacking up on top of each other. My husband, the wonderful scientist that he is, put on his meteorologist’s cap and educated me on the concept of convergence.

CAUTION: THUNDERSTORMS AHEAD!

CAUTION: THUNDERSTORMS AHEAD!

The University of Illinois defines convergence as “an atmospheric condition that exists when there is a horizontal net inflow of air into a region. When air converges along the earth’s surface, it is forced to rise since it cannot go downward.” This happens a lot in Florida. Since the state is a peninsula, it gets battered with moist cool air coming in from the Atlantic and the Gulf coasts. When that air interacts with the heated land mass it forms those beautiful stacks of clouds called cumulonimbus. If the convergence is strong enough, which it is during the summer months in Florida, those cumulonimbus clouds often end up turning into thunderstorms.

Of course this discussion on convergence got me thinking once again about human behavior. What if a team has people with both “hot and cold air,” who are converging at a rate that makes them clash, causing massive thunderstorms?

Now, when we talk about convergence in an organizational teaming sense, it means that the group has come together to complete a task in which the impact that each person has on the task and on the team is profound. We could also define this as synergy – when the outputs are more than the sum. Bruce Tuckman is probably most famous for his “form, storm, norm, perform” model, in which he illustrates the development of teams. He says that when teams are in the storming stage of development they are not yet a team as they are internally focused or driven by personal agendas. It is when the group moves into the “norm” stage, where social and other rules have been established, that the group transforms into a team. At this point things do become very powerful and electric – and this spark of energy is just what the organization needs.

But what if this convergence is more like Florida’s thunderstorms rather than a Fourth of July celebration?

Here are some things you can do to help move your group from storming to norming:

  • Educate the team on the concept of social/emotional intelligence; that while they cannot control what other people do or say, they can control how they respond. When we are aware of how our emotions control our responses and how our responses control our behavior and ultimately our success, we are more apt to modify our behavior to be more effective. It’s the concept of calm, assertive energy.
  • Make sure there is a team mission that clearly identifies what the team is to do and how it will go about doing it. A good team mission will provide clarity, delineate a reason for being in existence and align members around a common goal. Once the mission is in place, you can start dealing with the issues of trust and integrity to help develop and strengthen the teaming relationship.
  • Make sure that everyone on the team has an individual role to play. People want to be a part of something bigger, but they also want accountability. When they know what individual success means, they will be more apt to exert the effort to contribute to the team goal as well.
  • Develop some team ground rules or a working agreement. If everyone agrees on a certain way of behaving, individuals are more apt to adhere to those roles since they had a part in making them.
  • Serve as a coach, no matter what role you play in the team. Most often the coach role is reserved for the team leader or facilitator, but I personally feel that when we all have accountability for building the team, we can build that trust through our demonstration of compassion and empathy for other team members. It takes patience and courage, but you can help move the team from storming to performing through the consistency of your behavior.
  • Don’t let the conflict stay in the clouds. Help the team leader or facilitator draw out and resolve differences before they get to critical mass. Conflict in teams is normal; it’ how you deal with it that is important. Not acknowledging conflict just makes things worse.

Remember, in a team sense, thunderstorms can be a good thing.

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