Three Ways To Guide Your Team Through Transformation

written by Erica Quam

We're nearing the end of the year when your team is entering a new stage of team development: transformation.

Maybe you've talked to them about the other 4 stages: FORM-STORM-NORM-PERFORM. There's actually a 5th stage that doesn't get talked about much. The TRANSFORM stage is when members of the group move on...for a variety of reasons: people quit or are cut; people graduate or transfer.

The juniors are overwhelmed - with the realization of all that's coming up for them in the year ahead. The sophomores are starting to get comfortable (maybe a little too comfortable...???) and the freshmen have already checked out. They're done...and ready to go home. 

Do you feel this chaos as a coach? You probably do.

Does your team feel it? They definitely do. They may not have the awareness as to why things 'feel off'.

Transformation can be a confusing time for your team. It can be a big deal or a little deal - depending on what happens and how it's handled.  

What can you do?

1. Talk about it.

Teach them (or review) the stages of team development. Acknowledges the change and normalize it for them.

For example, "Sarah has decided not too return to the team next year. I was sad to see her go. How are you all doing?" or "Things feel a little different without our seniors here anymore. Do you guys notice that too? What do you all need?"

The level of awareness and perspective you can offer as a coach may be just what they need. Hearing this is what all teams go through may help them breathe a small sigh of relief.

2. Give them some space.

Everything shifts for your team. Once people leave a group, their role will be filled by someone else. Your team needs time to figure this out. They need a little space to explore and 'try these new roles on', if you will. You can't expect them have it all figured out and do things perfectly.

Give them space (and grace) as they expand into their next role in this new stage.

Some of your athletes will be pushed to speak up more...and this can be scary for them! They may worry what people think of them. They may be anxious of saying or doing the wrong thing. That's a real fear for them! If they've typically been someone who has blended in and gone with the flow...stepping up and standing out can shift their whole paradigm. may have someone who has been waiting their whole career to be the team captain. Their over-enthusiasm may come off way too strong. They just might piss everyone on your team off right out of the gates.

3. Encourage them.

Encourage them through these changes. When they take a risk to speak up and share something, acknowledge that and give them a pat on the back. If there's something they could do differently in their communication style or tone, offer to give them a little coaching on it.

You're the one who is the constant here. Your role hasn't changed. They're going to be looking to you for some direction and guidance to navigate these huge changes. (Even if they never ever admit that...). You're the one who can set the tone and bring all of this uncertainty to a conscious level of awareness.

I hear so many coaches say that they're just not going to choose team captains...because no one is stepping up to be the leader.  You have to be the leader as the coach and help guide them through this process.  Give them permission and the space to step up, screw up, and expand. 

Your role as a coach is to orient them (in this new direction), protect them (by acknowledging and addressing the uncertainty), and lead them back to the norming stage (redefining roles, rules, & expectations).

Share one thing you do as a coach to help your athletes through the transformation stage.