Roger Fairhead Certificate JMT Certified

Stuck in the storm

Same storm different boats
We are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm. Some are on super-yachts. Some have just the one oar.

~ Damian Barr (@Damian_Barr on Twitter, April 21, 2020)

Earlier this year we had our windows replaced at home.  Sue and I live in a house that was built just over 100 years ago, and we still had the original sash windows incorporating some beautiful stained glass windows.  The window frames had seen better days, and we were torn between maintaining the original character of the house and changing to more modern, (and more insulated) uPVC replacement windows. 

We had hesitated over the decision for several years, and then one of the larger windows required some significant maintenance – the timber at the bottom of a large bay window was found to be quite rotten.  Now we had to decide whether to repair this window or to replace them all.  Once the decision was made it took only a few weeks to select the contractor and have the replacement windows fitted.  

It had been on the “to do” list for several years, however, we had found ourselves in a quandary, which option do we take.  However, once the decision had been taken it took only a few short weeks to complete the transformation, and we’ve been delighted with the result.  

You could say that our window project had been in a storm of uncertainty for several years, and it had now emerged through a door of certainty.

Bruce Tuckman came up with a model that describes this process back in 1965.  Known as Tuckman’s Group Development Theory, it has four stages of Form, Storm, Norm, and Perform, and refers to the process of group development.  In this, whoever a new group is put together, then the participants go through these four stages on the way to becoming a high performing team.  

Initially, there is a period where a new team come together and everyone is quite nervous, and usually quite friendly, and they start to tackle tasks together.  People tend to work and behave quite independently.  That’s the Form stage.  Next comes the storm, when people voice different opinions and get to know who is the bossy one, who is the knowledgeable one and who is the funny one. 

During this stage, people fall out quite a lot and jostle for position, until the hierarchy works itself out.  That’s when the team move into the Norm phase and people start to resolve differences and find ways to work together to achieve their common goal.  Finally, with the team roles established everyone gets on with their part of the work and the team start working together like a well-oiled machine.  

Some years ago I worked for a contracting company that produced Control Systems for large automation projects, such as complete Power Station control system refit projects, and greenfield control and automation projects.  We were regularly setting up new project teams for each new project and so our staff went through this group development cycle on a regular basis. 

Most times this was in the formation of a new team for a new project, however, sometimes the project team got stuck in the storm and project costs and timescales would be at risk.  We learned to keep an eye out for this situation, and in some cases, we would introduce some new change to the team so that they could go back through Group Development from the start and get past the Storm, through Norm into Perform, and help us to meet cost, quality and time commitments.  

Many teams get stuck in the storm phase where they can’t get past interpersonal conflict and members of the team are continually boxing with each other (metaphorically of course) particularly if there are no clear goals for the team to achieve.  The team has the luxury ill-defined outcomes or a lack of time pressure, and where they don’t have to get on with the job and find ways to co-exist in order to get the job done.  There are also times when the team appears to have moved past the storm, yet the slightest incident causes the underlying storm to re-emerge.  

I wrote recently about a storm going on for the Apollo 13 crew that was resolved when the Mission Controller told his staff: “Don’t tell me what’s NOT working, tell me what IS working”.   They were then able to start making their way out of the storm, to return safely back to earth.  

Our windows project was allowed to dwell in the storm since we couldn’t decide on our goal – retain the character or improve the insulation.  The common goal of fixing the rotten timber in the bay window caused the project to emerge from the storm, and go right on through to perform.  

The way out of the storm of uncertainty
is to find the door of certainty.

There is a storm going on right now for many businesses in the midst of this pandemic, where uncertainty is causing staff to dwell in the storm for far longer than they need to.  If the team can’t see a way forward with certainty, and the what-if discussion goes round in circles, then the team can find itself languishing in the storm from where others have already emerged.  

The way out of many storms is to find the door of certainty.  Rather as the Apollo 13 Mission Commander told his team “tell me what IS working”, we need to focus on what we can do for our customers, not what we can’t do.  

We need to focus on what we can do,
not what we can’t do.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


I heard that we are in the same boat. But it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat.
Your ship can be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa. For some, quarantine is optimal: a moment of reflection, of re-connection. Easy, in flip flops, with an iced tea.
For all, this is a desperate crisis. For some, it is facing loneliness. For others, peace, rest time, vacation.
Yet for others, Torture: How am I going to pay my bills? What room is my abuser lying in wait?
Some were concerned about a brand of chocolate for Easter.
Others were concerned about bread for the weekend, or if the noodles would last for a few more days.
Some were in their “home office”.
Others are looking through trash to survive.
Some want to go back to work because they are running out of money.
Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.
Some need to break the quarantine to stand in line at the banks and stores. Others to escape.
Others criticise the government for the lines.
Some have experienced the near-death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it, some are not sure their loved ones are going to make it, and some don’t even believe this is a big deal.
Some of us who are well now may end up experiencing it, and some believe they are infallible and will be blown away if or when this hits someone they know.
Some have faith in God and expect miracles during 2020.
Others say the worse is yet to come.
So, friends, we are not in the same boat.
We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different. And each one will emerge, in his own way, from that storm.
Some with a tan from their pool. Others with scars on the soul (for invisible reasons).
It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, more than looking, seeing.
Do not judge the good life of the other, do not condemn the bad life of the other. Don’t be a judge. Let us not judge the one who lacks, as well as the one who exceeds him.
We are on different ships looking to survive. Let everyone navigate their route with respect, empathy, and responsibility.
~ Unknown author

About Roger Fairhead

Roger is a Leadership specialist and uses the PRIZE Winning Leadership model to help leaders improve their effectiveness and that of their teams, through remote and on-site delivery of keynotes, group training events and individual coaching sessions.

He is the author of several books including "PRIZE Winning Leadership" and “Personal Productivity Planner”, a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and a Director of the Global Leadership Network UK with extensive experience in Project Management and Sales.

“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.

Roger also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.