Paul Bruce

Digital Marketing Professional

The Art of Team Leadership

We have all been part of teams that just seemed to work and more often than not, those that never quite seemed to be on the same page.

A team can be defined as “a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”  – Katzenbach and Smith (1993)

Great team leaders understand the different stages of team development and adapt their leadership styles to those stages.

There have been many team development models written over the years but one of the most well known is that of Tuckman and Jension (1977) which highlighted the following stages of team development:

1 – Forming

Where a team is in its infancy and there is a high level of dependency on the leader, at this stage team-members are establishing ground rules and are as of yet uncertain about how to act and what their goal is. Characterised by anxiety and uncertainty as the group forms and becomes familiar with each other and team purpose and scope.

Leaders need to ensure that team goals and roles are clearly defined within this stage, they need to work closely with the team to establish the working relationships within the team.

2 – Storming

Now that the group has an understanding of the team purpose and has an awareness of each other there is a need for clarity and refinement of roles and responsibilities. Often this stage will lead to conflict as more dominant members of the team aim to take control.

Leaders need to be aware there will be a high level of requests for clarity on a number of subjects, it is key that these are met by leadership to allow the team to progress from this stage.

They need to be aware of the dominant members of the team and work to ensure they are not drowning out other members. At this stage there is still a high level of involvement from the team leader. However many teams may never progress from this stage so it is important that the power be devolved in some areas so as to encourage transition to the next stage.

3 – Norming

After reaching this stage the team has now formed a bond and has mutual respect and support for each other. There is a good sense of identity and an understanding of the goal and shared responsibly to reach that goal. This stage is seen as complete once the group decides to hold to a set of values and how the group will function.

Leaders at this stage exist to motivate and guide the team, however the team has now found that bond and the general day-to-day tasks should be completed with minimal supervision. However a good team leader will monitor the relationships and assist in taking the team to the next level.

4 – Performing

During this stage the groups combined energy is channelled into the task at hand to reach the end goal. All structural issues have been resolved and the group is a well oiled and functional operating structure. They are strategically aware of the shared vision the team exists to complete and are able to resolve any issues internally with ease.

Leaders at the performing stage help their teams by continuing to deliver a shared vision towards the team goals, however the team is a well oiled machine and works mostly of its own accord. The team leader should seek to be a mentor to team members and help to enable them to reach their next personal level. They should also be aware of any new team members entering as it is always possible to revert back to a previous stage.

There is a fifth stage known as “Adjourning” however this was not part of the original model.

5 – Adjourning

This stage revolves around the break-up of the group, it is hoped this is after the completion of the task at hand. Although in many cases it might be due to a restructuring or change in strategy at a higher level. Thus it can also be seen as mourning, that the group break-up is due to occur. Thus there is often a feeling of insecurity or threat from group members.

Leaders at this stage have a role to play to ensure a smooth transition, if the goals were achieved and the team has been adjourned because of the natural completion then celebrating that success is recommended. If the team has been disbanded prior to this (e.g. In the case of a restructuring) then they have a role to play in ensuring team members are transitioned to their new teams. In all cases it is recommended to ensure team members stay in contact, particularly those that reached the storming level to keep that bond alive should there be a need for a new team to form.

What can manager do to support and develop a team?

Understanding the above team stages and giving support during these stages and learning when to stand back and let the team flourish is key.

A team leader should be seen to guide, encourage and motivate teams within those stages.

This can be shown to be effective through monitoring performance, positive feedback and team morale. On the opposite spectrum if this is not done or is done poorly it may be that there is negative feedback, low performance and low morale. Often this can spread through the team rapidly so must be monitored and the pulse of the team taken regularly.

There are also some key steps any team leader can do aside from these to further ensure effective teams:

Defining clear goals

These should be clear and offer the team direction; using SMART goal setting methods would assist with this. (Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Time-Bounce)

Decision making authority

Teams require a certain level of autonomy so as not to seek authority for every decision, this level of devolution of power is essential provided clear guidelines are given. This devolution may be required to occur on a gradual basis so as not overwhelm team members (Brower 1995).

Accountability and responsibility

With that power comes responsibility, whilst teams must not be paralysed by fear of failure they must know the boundaries they operate in and the responsibilities that come with those.

Effective leadership

Strong team leaders should offer coaching and mentoring as opposed to directorial efforts (Carr 1992). Set within the group stages listed above they need to be prepared to stand back and offer varying levels of management through to leadership, enabling a shared clear vision in line with set goals without the need to micro-manage.
Training & Development

A successful team should have their development needs continuously under development. Whilst many team members may come with the core skills required for their intended role they may be empowered with learning new skills alongside those they bring to the table. This may include communication, conflict resolution and project management skills. This will also seek to address retention of those team members by investing in their future and will help to maximise their potential.


Ensuring that the team has the resources needed whether this be money, time, equipment or information (Robbins 1998) is a pivotal part of effective team operation. As above the provision of resources requires responsibility from the team and trust from the organisation. The assistance with this by the manager can be seen as a key helper in the process of the team although in the particular case of information the team should be enabled to obtain this for itself as the dynamics progress.

Organisational Support

Teams need support and commitment from middle and upper management (Bower 1995). Teams also need support and encouragement from the wider organisation including buy-in from senior management that offers a nurturing environment for the team (Margulies & Kleiner 1995).


Training for Zombies

We’ve all been there, the trainer stands up in-front of the room of eager to learn trainee’s and proceeds to turn them into Zombies by the end of day, brain-dead and learning nothing. By the time you reach the afternoon session you certainly wish you were one of the living dead so you could go ahead and eat your trainers brains and make the pain stop.

So what are the causes of those terrible zombie training sessions and how can you avoid delivering one yourself?

Information Overload

Trainers that proceed to brain-dump all their worldly knowledge into a single slide appear to believe there is some kind of mind-merge process in place. Whereby their subjects can simply ingest this information in a single showing and remember it all.

Instead trainers should use methods such as chunking to break what needs to be learnt into smaller chunks. Your trainees will thank you for it in the end.

Top 3 Tips

Break it down – Instead of spending 5 minutes on one slide with 20 bullet points, break it down into 10 slides, spending 30 seconds on each and only a few pieces of information on each.

Visual Aid – Use tools such as power-point only for visual aids and not to display all the information ever written on the topic. That can be supplied later through follow-up documentation or on-line blended learning techniques such as blog-posts and e-learning follow-ups.

Recall – Ensuring you have regular recall sections where trainees are asked to recall specific parts of the training ensures they are forming those synapses in their brain that will allow them to have long term memory of the material.


Body Language

Remember many people won’t be looking at your power-point, more likely they will be watching your body language.

How you as a trainer come across in your session will determine in large part how much your trainee’s remember of the subject matter. If you are seen to be passionate and speaking with authority on the subject at hand.

Top 3 Tips

Know your material – If you don’t you will probably spend more time reading the powerpoint than your trainee’s.

Know your audience – Your delivery has to relate to your audience, the tone and body language you use must be relative to them so understand who you are training, is it CXO level? do they have prior knowledge of the topic?

Move – Were not saying do a song and dance, but sitting like the teacher up the front of the class rather than moving round ……


Good training excites, it sparks different emotions and keeps the brain wanting to learn.

It doesn’t have to be all about memes and animated gifs. It’s about conveying why what you are training is important, useful and ultimately relevant both to the trainee and the world they are living & working in.

Emotion doesn’t have to be done through any kind of prop, indeed at it’s most basic the passion you hold for the subject you are delivering training for is your biggest asset you have.


People remember stories more than they do heavily laden power-point slides, use of good old story-telling techniques can prove an invaluable tool in the trainers arsenal.

Those stories may be in the format of carefully crafted case-studies, showing real world examples of the topic you are training on.

The Power of Persuasion

Persuasion is a vital skill in the workplace, whether you are seeking to expand your team, buy-in for your latest project or to climb the ladder there are ways that effective persuasion techniques can help you.

Effective persuaders use dialogue to learn more about their audience’s opinions, concerns, and perspectives. (Conger, 1998).

As Conger states it is important to understand their view of the issue at hand, understanding the lens the person(s) you are seeking persuade are looking at the situation through, as this will help you to adapt your approach and gain the win-win result that is desired.

Once we understand our audience we then need to adapt our strategy for persuading them. Dr. Robert Cialdini in his book “Influence: The Pyschology of Persuasion” lists 6 principles of influence, these are:

1 – Reciprocation

People are more likely to be influenced if they have already received something previously from the person (e.g. This could be in the form of information).

2 – Social Proof

People are more likely to be influenced if others are already doing it (e.g. Not wanting to be the only person in a shop).

3 – Commitment and Consistency

People are likely to keep to commitments (e.g. When the team behind Obama issued pledge cards to supporters to influence their vote on the day).

4 – Liking

People are more likely to be influenced if they like the person, are attracted to them or they believe they are similar to them.

5 – Authority

People respect authority and are more likely to follow them, even if that authority is faked through appearance. (e.g. A common approach in many grifter scams where a uniform gives the impression of authority)

6 – Scarcity

The belief that the rarer something is the more valuable it is leads people to value scarcity and is more likely to influence them into a positive decision.

While not every situation will require all of the above methods of persuasion, using a mix of these for the different situations you find yourself in will serve you well in your journey to become an effective persuader.

Conger’s “The necessary art of persuasion” was written back in 1998 and makes mention of the generational differences in our workplace, with baby-boom’ers and GenX’ers bringing different styles to the workplace. Of course these days the discussions around Millenials in the workplace is a common one and it doesn’t seem that a day goes by without another article being written. When we take the generational differences alongside those of the temperament theories of introversion/extroversion it serves to highlight that persuasion cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution, it’s only by listening and understanding to those we seek to influence that a win-win solution can be achieved.

4 key stages of effective persuasion

1 – Establish Credibility

In the workplace, credibility grows out of two sources: expertise and relationships (Conger 1998).

We all know that office politics exists, however in many cases it can be used for good. It is the politics of office relationships and influence that are required for effective persuasion. Knowing who holds the power, being known as a trustworthy and reliable person. As we saw above people are more likely to be persuaded if they like someone, therefore it is important to build relationships in the workplace.

In terms of expertise this doesn’t necessarily have to be your own, the use of consultants or external reports that back your case could be part of your strategy to provide implied expertise to your case. Involve co-workers you trust who hold expertise in the area and leverage that expertise as part of your persuasion strategy.

2 – Frame for common ground

Effective persuasion is a process of identifying shared benefits (Conger 1998).

As we discussed above persuasion is largely about understanding those you are trying to persuade, only be listening and studying what it is that matters most to the person(s) you are attempting to persuade.

Only by understanding that can you begin to frame your proposition to their perception of the problem and achieve that win-win result you are seeking.

3 – Provide Evidence

Effective persuaders supplement numerical data with examples, stories, metaphors, and analogies to make their positions come alive. (Conger 1998).

Traditional strategies would be to produce a power-point and lay down some statistics, providing evidence of increased sales, however this can often by counter-productive. Ultimately they are too clinical and in many cases simply don’t provide the emotional impact needed for effective persuasion.

The use of vivid language and persuasive stories is far more likely to gain the result you are looking for

4 – Connect emotionally

Good persuaders are aware of the primacy of emotions (Conger 1998).

The use of emotional intelligence is key in effective persuasion, by understanding the emotional state of those you seek to understand you will have a better understanding of how they are likely to interpret any attempt to influence them and adapt as necessary. It may be that adaptation is a change in the story you use or it may be a change in the time. Perhaps now is just not the right time to approach them, again understanding not only their needs from any attempt but also their emotional state is vital for a successful outcome.

Aside from their emotional state is your own emotional commitment to your proposal, if you seek to persuade with little emotion then it is possible you will be seen as lacking faith in the proposal. However too much emotion may do exactly the opposite and show you are thinking with your heart and not your brain. It is a fine line to walk but one that must the effective persuader must tread.


Persuasion is about more than simply being passionate about something. We must seek to understand how those we aim to persuade will react and how we could present our proposal in a way so as to benefit their aims also whilst seeking to connect with them at an emotional level.

We should aim to use more than the trusty power-point full of financial figures and 5 year plans, rather seeking to build a vision of our proposal through vivid language and analogies.

Ultimately persuasion is about human connection, that of emotion, relationships and shared visions where everyone wins.

Parents and social media

Recently I had the pleasure of the regular e-mail newsletter from the head teacher of my kids school. This one caught my eye more than others however with a interesting section on internet safety. Pointing out to us parents that under no circumstances should our children be on social media.

Internet and Digital Safety

I am sending home today a leaflet for P4-7 parents entitled “How can I keep my child safe online?” I have been concerned to hear that some of our pupils have not been acting responsibly online and this leaflet outlines ways in which parents can support the school and ensure that their child can use the internet safely. The leaflet also includes facts about social media. I would like to draw parents’ attention to the guidelines for responsible use. Users of Facebook must be 13 or older. Snapchat is not intended for anyone under the age of 13 either and children 13-17 need parental permission. Instagram is also for 13 years and older. Children will be learning about and through ICT at school and part of that education is about using the internet safely. I would very much appreciate parents ensuring that their child is not using social media or Snapchat/Instagram as issues which arise from young children using these sites can affect friendships, learning at school as well as more serious child protection issues.

It got me thinking however about how this could be handled much better, it’s almost as-if it’s expected that kids suddenly turn 13 and fire up their internet browsers to sign-up to Facebook. Of course that’s not true, they go where (and when) their friends are. There’s little to be gained by demonising social media to our kids and everything to be gained by educating them on safe use.

Sitting on the bus the other day there was a young girl and her mum and the girl proceeded to speak to 5 or 6 different friends through Facetime one after the other using the free bus wifi. It brought home what a different world our kids are growing up in, never more than a click away from their friends at any point. When my 9 year-old son came home a few weeks ago to ask about getting a YouTube channel because one of his friends had one it reinforced this.

Age Restrictions on Social Media

First thing to understand is that Facebook (and other networks) would love to target kids for their platforms, it’s not that they don’t want younger users, rather that US law makes it very difficult to do this. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) gives owners of these platforms strict rules on what they need to do if they want to encourage users under 13 (and collect “personal information”) by stipulating that they must have the parents permission and that the parent must have access to all that childs data (amongst a plethora of other criteria and stipulations).

While schools can’t come out and support those under 13 to use these services (nor should they) they can offer guidance other than – don’t use it and making it sound a scary place. Instead seek to educate our young about the opportunities and good that social media has brought to the world and how it can be used for good in a safe way. It’s like letting your child sit in the driving seat in the car, their too young to drive but you let them sit there and get a feel for it because it’s fun and one day they will want to drive.

The dangers and confusion for parents

There’s no doubt that social media unguarded can be dangerous, but there are ways and means.  Take for example the XBox Live model, in which parents create the kids account and then when they are 18 request for that account to be migrated to an adult account. This gives clear ownership of the account to the parent whilst allowing their kids to learn how to use the service safely rather than under the radar.

We now see more and more brands building out their offerings to kids such as Netflix and YouTube both of which have specific kids offerings. Snapchat also recently launched Snapkids for users registering with dates of birth that put them under 13 (a service that does not collect any personal information and therefore doesn’t need to comply with COPPA).

Twitter of all services is perhaps the most confusing for parents however, their joining policy is entirely confusing. Technically there is no age limit to join Twitter, however as a parent if you believe your child has provided personal information you should inform Twitter and they will close the account. It highlights the disparity between the different services and the problem parents have in terms of the “just say no” mentality with social media. It’s unclear over all services for many parents what is and isn’t permitted.

I hear from many camps about the dangers of social media and how our children should simply not be on social media, sadly this is missing the point. There is no doubt there has been some tragic incidents in the past where young people have been bullied and in some extreme cases taken their lives. It is for this reason that I would advocate education as the key driver here, why do we teach sex education in schools before the legal age limit? Because we want to ensure that our children are educated to make informed decisions and are aware of the risks and the good aspects of a loving relationship. We should be doing the same with social media, teaching in schools and at home how social media is an extension of society and how it can be used for good and bad, giving our kids the street skills for the modern inter-connected world.

The social media sandbox

For the geeks of this new world, we need to create safe sandboxes for kids to let them use social networks with parental supervision and moderation, then gradually let these safeguards be relaxed until they reach adult-hood. On-boarding our kids on how to use the internet safely, it can’t simply be a case of wait until your 13 and give them the keys to the house and hope for the best. Imagine logging in to Instagram and giving your child a special account where they could only see content from approved sources that you as a parent have approved and you have oversight over comments and pictures being shared, once they hit 13 these restrictions are lifted and the account graduated to full member status at your control.

Until we have that as parents we can instil our own sandboxes by allowing our children to use accounts we create with strict privacy settings (Such as private YouTube, Instagram or Twitter accounts), used on household devices where their use can be carefully monitored and within a safe environment as we teach our children how to be responsible and safe e-citizens.

Simply telling our kids not to use social networks will only make them more enticing as they go underground either at school or on their friends devices. Time for the social media companies (and law-makers) to step up and help empower us parents (and educators) so we can encourage our kids to use social media safely.