Monday, May 11, 2015

The Chaplain and Bruce Tuckman

The influence a Chaplain can have to make the IDT a stronger functioning team really is significant. There is one caveat to that fact, though. The Chaplain needs to know key facts about group dynamics. Bruce Tuckman is a recognized expert in this field. He came up with a simple process of team formation in his groundbreaking article in 1965 entitled, Developmental Sequence in Small Groups. He suggests this sequence follows the pattern of forming, storming, norming, and performing. In the Forming Stage, team members tend to be more polite and positive as they really don’t know much about the team and want to impress with their good attitude. The Chaplain, in the inspirational message and prayer, can bring the new members into the fold with a welcoming manner that will help them find their way. It isn’t easy breaking into a new team and any encouragement is appreciated. The Storming Stage is a bit different. After about 3-6 months the ‘newbies’ aren’t so new anymore and can push against the established patterns of the team or they can call into question the policies of the hospice or make known their observations of how they did it when they were at such and such a hospice. Those are just a few examples of which there are many. It creates tension within the group and sometimes open conflict. Hospice is a pressure packed environment and not all can survive the pressure and will ultimately leave for other industries. That’s a reality. However, the storming stage makes life very uncomfortable. This is where many teams crash and burn. The Chaplain has a pivotal role in this stage. The Chaplain must maintain his/her head when everyone else’s is flying off or exploding. The Chaplain’s leadership skills in this phase must be sharp. Buying into the negativity is not an option. Putting oil on the troubled waters is the best option. This is where the Chaplain and Team Manager work together to get the team to the next stage. Norming is characterized by reconciliation of expectations, relationships, and each team member’s role. The Chaplain can facilitate this process through very positive and inspirational stories. Coming out of the storming stage can leave some pretty battered and discouraged. A positive outlook and positive message from the Chaplain will bring healing and a new day to the team. What the senior leadership is looking for is the Performing Stage. In today’s hospice environment, performance is key. We are being graded by our patient’s families. The learning curve is nearly straight up or the reimbursements are straight down. Highly functioning teams are what each hospice needs. Performance at a peak level is required. The Chaplain plays a vital role through modeling peak performance, not only in his/her own discipline, but in intelligent and insightful participation in the IDT. The other disciplines are observant of the Chaplain’s words and ways. The Chaplain must make it count. I wish I could say that when the Performing Stage is achieved all will go well. Not so. There will always be turnover on a team. So, the team repeats the stages to some degree or another. Since people make up the team and since people have problems, there may come the day when there are people problems. And, there you go. Hopefully, the Chaplain will remain steady and be a bellwether through it all. Bless you Chaplain Colleagues. Yours is a sacred and demanding work.

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