The “STORMING” Stage of Group Mentoring
What is the Storming Stage? As group members get to know one another better and begin to build trust, conflict is inevitable. The positivity that characterized the “forming stage” is often replaced by competition and confrontation, which can lead to hostility and resentment if not managed properly. Much of this negativity stems from group members’ desires to express and conserve their individuality in the new group setting. Members may react emotionally when presented with tasks on which they disagree, and it can be difficult to get everyone to cooperate. Although it may seem as if the group is regressing, it is important to remember that the group is actually moving toward the next stage in which they will enjoy more trust, commitment, and cooperation as a result of successful storming.
What is the mentor’s role? A large part of the mentor role in this stage is to help group members constructively resolve their conflicts. This is the time to teach conflict resolution techniques, communication skills, and discussion etiquette. Engaging in team-building activities and encouraging group members to find their role in the group can provide a framework for building these skills. Although mentors need to be prepared to handle large conflicts that arise, it is important to allow the group some autonomy in resolving their own differences by helping highlight existing strengths of group members. For example, mentors can help identify the youth in their group that have great assertiveness skills and get them to help less assertive members speak up for themselves. Along the same lines, mentors can identify the youth that are good listeners, and get them to help others turn down the volume when there is conflict. Praising members for their contributions will build their confidence, help them feel needed, and foster group cohesion. When group members challenge the mentor’s leadership or skills, the mentor should stay confident and positive, and remember that this is a normal part of Storming.
What is the mentee’s role? In this stage, mentees often experience conflict with one another as they sort out differences between their own personal beliefs and desires and the group’s overall goals. Mentees need to master two critical skills. First, they need to be able to speak up for themselves, in a way that is both assertive and respectful. Second, they need to be good listeners, so that they can reflect on their own feelings. Mentees who tend to turn inward in the face of conflict should challenge themselves to speak up, and those who are typically outspoken may practice listening and reflection skills as all members evaluate the ways in which they belong within the group. Although group members may feel like withdrawing from the group during this period of conflict, it is important for them to practice working through the conflicts and maintaining their group participation. Negotiation and compromise can be utilized to help all members remain engaged during the Storming stage.
How do you know when your group is moving to the next stage? The conflict the group has been experiencing so far is helping them learn to cooperate and accept one another as individuals as well as group members. As they begin to respect and understand one another’s individuality, conflict will begin to give way to teamwork. The group will start to develop a clearer and more cohesive direction and begin to identify individual roles for each member. This is when group cohesion will begin to develop, which can solidify them as a group. These are signs that the Norming Stage of group development is around the corner!
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