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Call centers have long been the solid backbone to a number of great corporations. Customer and technical support divisions of companies have been providing feedback and input to many of the parties involved with the company.
As such, keeping the organization running is essential to its success, and teamwork is the mortar that holds each individual together to form a cohesive unit. The concept of teamwork should be familiar to many, but perhaps the most telling illustration of the essence of teamwork is the French term esprit de corps.
The term literally means the spirit of the group, and implies that every person in the organization should be joined in one goal, one cause, forming a united front. Teamwork will enable the group to work more efficiently, complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses to achieve a common objective.
Tuckman’s Model: Stages of Group Development
Several methods to encourage teamwork and collaboration in the office environment have been devised. However, there are only a few that are more popular and more firmly established than Bruce Tuckman’s stages of group development, which were devised in 1965. The framework was created to ensure team growth in all aspects of work—finding and solving problems, planning ahead, and securing results.
Through Tuckman’s stages of group development, an environment of trust, interdependence, and cooperation will be established at the office. This will allow teams to rely on each other as a well-oiled machine, able to confront the obstacles encountered in work situations.
Tuckman’s stages of development are set in four easy-to-remember steps: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. Each step will be discussed in detail below.
Every group needs to be familiar with its different members before it begins functioning optimally. In the forming stage, the various members of the team remain in the exploration stage, getting to know the abilities of their colleagues. Because of these birthing pains, there will be confusion in terms of direction and leadership. People will have questions of belongingness, as well as issues regarding trust.
During the forming stage, the leader’s role is most essential. They must understand the dynamics between possible conflicts between members, as well as the members who show great potential in future collaboration. In addition, because of the early nature of the group, it will be simple to organize and reorganize the team structure.
Leaders must recognize that while people will seek to make good first impressions and thus will be on their best behavior, they will likely be focused entirely on themselves. Directness and decisiveness are key here, and leaders must establish the group’s goals.
As the group begins to get its sea legs, familiarizing themselves with their place in the team, individuals will begin to “compete” amongst themselves as positions are delineated and authority is established. Particularly dominant personalities may present challenges for the leader.
Conflict will arise in work-related issues as well, such as which specific problems and issues to prioritize. Management concerns like the amount of control the leader should provide (versus individual autonomy and direction), the frequency of communication and regrouping, and the weight of each member as regards team decisions.
Leaders must resolve these issues or the group may regress into hostility and anger, resulting in a general lack of productivity. They should impart that in a team, the individual is deemphasized—i.e., the “there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’” directive. The merits of cooperation, as opposed to competition, should be discussed.
This step is also known as resolution, in which the issues that hampered the team in the storming phase are ironed out. As members become more familiar with the habits and abilities of their teammates, the increased communication and collaboration will result in the group becoming more effective.
Trust begins to gel in this stage, and the ways through which each group member’s different strengths complement those of the others are recognized and appreciated. Feedback is now more centered on positive reinforcement, and this constructiveness strengthens interrelationships within the group. Supervisors should focus on facilitating cooperation, supporting the team by solid, reliable leadership.
The performing stage is the hardest to get to, but also the most satisfying. This is the most productive stage, in which members constantly strive to perform at their optimum capacity, seeking ways to contribute to the team’s well-being. Because of the group’s familiarity with each other, leadership is a collaborative effort and the role of the de facto leader is simply to delegate.
At the end of the Tuckman process, customer service will be at its best. The team is in full sync with the tenets of the organization, and will be able to provide as much support as possible, which makes it an ideal method to use in call centers.
Other modified steps were later added, such as adjourning (in which the team dissolves upon achieving their goals) and transforming (in which they adapt to new projects), but the fundamentals remain the same. Constant communication, a focus on the details, and prioritizing group dynamics are what make the Tuckman process so successful.