We’re now reaching the halfway point in the series. If we were a group, we might just be entering Tuckman and Jensen’s (1977) Norming Stage. This is where your youth group is beginning to settle, the members are finding their purpose and some growth, learning or action is starting to happen.
According to Peter Barnes (2002:43) the Norming Stage is characterized by the following:
- The group is more comfortable; depending on the group, this can also become complacency
- They are openly exchanging ideas through communication
- Group members may be ‘on eggshells’ to avoid a return to the Storming Stage
- The group may be productive but it’s not always effective
After the rocky road of the Storming Stage, you might be looking forward to the Norming Stage. But be aware that simply because opinions aren’t polarized and the group is able to work together under common leadership and goals, it doesn’t mean they’re achieving all they could be. Barnes suggests the group needs group task focus and interdependence to become an effective team.
Here are some things you can try to move your group from just ‘Norming’ to ‘Performing’:
Give the group a challenge
While you don’t want to send them spiralling back into the conflict of the Storming Stage, you want to help your group avoid complacency. Remind them about their newly formed team roles and conflict resolution skills they learned during the Storming Stage of their group.
Give them a task or take them to an obstacle course that will solidify their team roles, bond them as a group and provide a measurable opportunity for productivity and success.
Praise and correct group communication
We’ve mentioned before that youth need praise – four to one ratios for positive feedback to correction, although some youth need a lot of praise, like eight positives for every correction you make. When your youth are communicating well, praise them. Tell them what they did right when talking to each other.
When your group isn’t communicating well in the Norming Stage, correct it immediately and explain what wasn’t so good about their communication. This will help reinforce good habits for communicating with others in a group.
Remind them of the group agreement
The group needs to remember that it’s a safe space to disagree and that they can do it in a appropriate way. They don’t need to fear the constant disagreements of the Storming Stage because they’re able to express themselves appropriately and are being corrected when they communicate inappropriately. This can be done easily through the use of a group agreement.
Don’t accept less than 100% from your group
Give your group motivation to grow, learn and produce outcomes as they work through tasks and challenges in the Norming Stage of group development. Don’t let them get by with ‘good enough’, but encourage them to do their best work at all times – this will help them accomplish more.
Using the praise and correction mentioned above effectively, along with rationales and explanations, will increase the productivity. The youth group will know what’s acceptable and unacceptable. They’ll be able to clearly understand what’s expected of them and rise to that challenge.
Use session evaluations to measure productivity
Use the session evaluation time to review what went well and areas for improvement. Just remember one thing: what’s 100% of what you can accomplish isn’t necessarily 100% of what everyone else can accomplish.
If the group worked well for the entire youth work session and didn’t complete the task, review if it was achievable in the time allotted (the A of SMART). If they played around and didn’t accomplish much, there needs to be reflection of that during the end of session evaluations so that productivity can be improved.
The Norming Stage of group development can provide much needed cohesion after the tumultuous time of the Storming Stage. But don’t let your group stay there. Help them feel safe, productive and positive, but challenge them so they can continue to move forward into the next phase – the Performing Stage of group development.
Q: What ways do you help your group ‘Norm’ after disagreements? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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