Stages of team growth

It is advisable to implement the following stages to support your team building, in order to help you in your advocacy activities. These stages are called the stages of team growth.

Stage 1 Team forming

When a team or network is forming, you need to explore the boundaries of acceptable group behaviour as the people change from individuals to gain member status. At this stage, the members of the team may feel excitement, anticipation and optimism, as well as possibly suspicion, fear and anxiety about the advocacy activities ahead. Members attempt to define the task at hand and decide how it will be accomplished. They also try to determine acceptable group behaviour and how to deal with group problems. Because so much is going on to distract members' attention, the group may only make a little progress. However, be aware that a slow start is a perfectly normal phenomenon.

Stage 2 Storming

At the storming stage, the team members begin to realise that they do not know the task, or may consider it is more difficult than they imagined. They may become irritable or blameful, but are still too inexperienced to know much about decision making. Team members argue about what actions they should take, even when they agree on the issues facing them. Their feelings include sharp fluctuations in attitude about the chance of success. These pressures mean that members have little energy to spend in meeting common goals, but they are beginning to understand each other.

Stage 3 Norming

During the norming stage, members reconcile competing loyalties and responsibilities. They accept the team ground rules or norms, their roles, and the individuality of each member. Emotional conflict is reduced. There is increased friendliness as members begin to trust one another. As members begin to work out their differences, they have more time and energy to spend on their objectives, and to start making significant progress.

Stage 4 Performing

At the performing stage, members begin diagnosing and solving problems, and implementing changes. They have accepted each other's strengths and weaknesses and learnt their roles. They become satisfied with the team's progress and feel a close attachment to one another. The team or network is now an effective support, and ready to help you in your health advocacy work.

Let us suppose that you form an advocacy group on the issue of banning female genital mutilation (FGM) in your local community. Your group includes influential members of the community. However, though everyone in the group is in principle in agreement, some members think that those who still agree with the practice of FGM should be punished by a 'naming and shaming' policy, where everyone in the community knows who they are and they become excluded. Identify which stage the group is at, and what could help resolve conflict in the group.

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This is a group at the storming stage. At this stage, the team members begin to realise that they do not know the full extent of the task, or perhaps they have underestimated how difficult it would be to address. Team members argue about what actions they should take. Their feelings include sharp fluctuations in attitude about the chances of success of their campaigning.

It is important to recognise these stages of team works as they will help you know what needs to be done at each stage and what you can expect to happen.

Stop for a moment and think about a team with which you have been involved. This does not need to be a health team. Any team will do. Look at the four stages outlined above and think about your involvement in this team. Can you identify some of these stages in the team that you are familiar with?

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Most people recognise these stages in teams they are involved in, particularly that stage when people do not think it is going well and they do not seem to be pulling together! However, this is perfectly normal activity in team building, and is usually followed by everyone beginning to have a clearer idea and starting to work much more for the common good of the team.

Good team spirit alone cannot bring success for an advocacy campaign. Identifying and building a constituency to support the network's advocacy campaigns is critical for their success. The better the support base, the greater the chances are of success. Network members must reach out to create alliances with other NGOs, networks, donors, civic groups, professional associations, women's groups, activists, individuals and model families who support the issue and will work with you to achieve your advocacy goals.

Supporting groups or advocacy groups are often called on to make hard decisions. The groups may find themselves deciding whether to take on a difficult advocacy issue–perhaps one that has little popular support or is controversial–or they may face the need to choose among pressing issues in response to limited resources. How well they work through the decision-making process is important to the overall success of advocacy campaigns. Therefore, preparation is an important element in decision making.

Guidelines for reaching agreement

  • Make sure that everyone who wants to speak is heard, and feels that their position has been considered.
  • Talk through the issue under discussion until reaching an agreement that everyone can support.
  • Understanding that agreement may not mean that all members of the network agree with it 100%. However, everyone should support the decision, at least in principle.
  • Ask questions and make sure everyone's opinion is considered before reaching a decision.

To make informed choices, network members need information. They also need to know how to set limits on–and goals for–their discussion. Good listening and presentation skills contribute to the clarity of the discussion as does the ability to keep an emotional distance from the subject under discussion.

You should be aware that successful advocates are skilled negotiators and consensus builders who look for opportunities to win modest but strategic policy gains. Therefore, it is advised that you need to become a skilled and artful advocate by incorporating creativity, style, and even humour in your advocacy events in order to draw the public and media attention to your cause. The art of advocacy cannot be taught through training or workshops alone. Rather, it emerges from your practice and from sharing experiences with the network members.

Thinking of events in your life in general, what sort of negotiator do you think you are? Do you make sure everyone is heard? Do you allow time for discussion? Do you ask questions and include people when decisions have to be made?

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Some people seem to be naturally good at negotiating, but it is a skill that everyone can learn with practice. Take time even when you are with friends and family to ask questions, to listen to make sure, everyone is heard that and you will be getting good practice at negotiating.

Last modified: Monday, 7 July 2014, 9:02 PM