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The Cycle of Renewal for Teams and Organizations

Last week, in the quest for learning how to better develop our emotional intelligence, we looked at the Adult Cycle of Renewal as presented by Frederic Hudson inThe Adult Year. Not only do adults as individuals repeatedly move through distinct phases in their development, but teams and organizations mirror this cyclical pattern as they grow and change over time. Leaders within teams and organizations can better provide vision, direction and support when they recognize the patterns of growth and development within their organizations.

In the Renewal Cycle of Business Chapters and Transitions, Hudson calls Phase 1 “Fully Aligned”. Here, a team is optimistic, energetic, and fully committed to mutually agreed upon goals. The team members receive significant rewards and experience a sense of fulfillment through the success they achieve in meeting team goals.

Phase 1 is fertile ground for strong passionate, leadership, which enables individual team members to make significant contributions to collaborative goals. The heart of Phase 1 is about meeting the demands of customers through effective product development. Corporations desire a never-ending Phase 1 story; however, a plateau inevitably emerges on every corporate horizon.

Phase 2 which Hudson calls “Out of Sync” is a signal of change. What was working is no longer. People begin to lose direction and energy. They become more reactive than proactive. Often this occurs at the conclusion of a large project. Team members begin to feel at odds with the leadership, vision and values of their team. Team productivity drops as feelings of helplessness surge in response to uncontrollable external forces.

Although it is typical to feel as if there are no good options for moving ahead, the “Out of Sync” Phase is the wake-up call for the need to assume new challenges and responsibilities. There are two choices at this point. The most common scenario is for collective misery to finally give way to developing strategies about how to correct the problems that led to “Out of Sync” (e.g. more market research, reassignment of leadership roles, etc.).

Once the problem areas have been addressed and the team realigns itself with its original mission, it will have completed what Hudson calls the “Mini-Transition”. The team will then attempt to re-emerge “Fully Aligned”. Companies generally favor re-shaping their situation to fit their values and goals because the time and cost are less than the second option, which Hudson calls “Re-Purposing”.

“Re-Purposing”, which is Phase 3, involves a complete break from the former successful Business Chapter. This is an extended period of some months of internal searching as a team begins to define itself with new values and a sense of collective purpose for what it wants to be and whom it wants to serve.

Although experiencing this phase is unavoidable in moving successfully through the Cycle of Renewal and essential to re-energizing and re-committing teams, our organizations have few structures to support reflective “Re-Purposing” activities. This is a key phase for leadership in terms of providing the time, place and means for achieving new team direction and protecting the process from possible detractors within other parts of the organization.

The “Re-Purposing” Phase is followed by what Hudson calls “Exploring New Directions”, Phase 4. Here, teams are enthusiastic learners that actively experiment with novel problem-solving approaches that grow out of their newly defined purpose and vision. Creativity is highly rewarded in this phase. New possibilities are tested and some ideas are abandoned while others prove promising.

After several months the team gradually embarks on a path that appears to meet the criteria of practicality and visionary promise. The team then re-enters Phase 1 “Fully Aligned” to assume a new set of goals. In the current vertiginous business climate, leaders need to keep one finger on the pulse of the team/organization as it travels the Cycle of Renewal and the other as a constant probe for harnessing the power of change.
In next week’s column read how the coaching relationship can provide the place, time and dynamics for mining the emotional intelligence of the Cycle of Renewal.

Editor’s Note: Susan S. Wilner, M.S. is a personal coach and cross-cultural corporate trainer in the metro-Boston area. She can be reached at invisionfuture@aol.com.

March 25, 2002
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