“Gettin’ good players is easy. Getting ’em to play together is the hard part.” – Casey Stengel
One would think that the formation of a team would be quite natural, especially in situations where employees have worked at the same company for some time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Working individually on a project and working collectively on a project are worlds apart. Having an awareness and knowledge of team development in your toolbox can greatly enhance your chances of developing an effective team that consistently achieves desirable results.
There are five stages that have been identified as the phases which lead to the structure of a productive team. These phases include forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.
Understanding each phase of team development can help you understand what actions to take as a leader to structure a productive team. According to Bruce Tuckman, developer of the Performing Model of Group Development, “all the phases are necessary and inevitable in order for a team to grow, face up to challenges, tackle problems, find solutions, plan work and deliver results.”
I’ll dive deeper into each stage of team development below.
1. Forming Stage
The first step in team development involves an orientation.
A team becomes acquainted with each other through testing the boundaries of interpersonal and task behaviors.
At the same time, the members are establishing dependency relationships with leaders, fellow team members, and any standards that exist when the group is formed.
2. Storming Stage
In the storming phase, the team starts to address the objective(s) by suggesting ideas.
The storming phase incorporates conflict and interpersonal issues.
Different ideas may compete for consideration, and if the conversation is poorly managed, this phase can be very destructive for the team. Egos emerge and turf wars may occur. In extreme cases, the team can become stuck in this phase.
Team members who manage to stay focused on the task at hand may experience stress, especially because they aren’t fully acclimated with the new environment and they haven’t forged strong relationships with their colleagues yet.
Be sure to step in when necessary to remind all parties of boundaries and protocol.
3. Norming Stage
In the third step of team development members begin agreeing on the rules and values by which to operate. In addition, new roles are adopted.
Individuals in the group accept responsibilities as they are clarified. Soon after, new standards evolve and a level of normalcy is reached. Team members begin feeling comfortable enough to ask each other for help.
4. Performing Stage
At this point, roles within the team become a bit more flexible.
Collectively the team is strategically aware of their purpose. Team members are now competent enough to complete delegated tasks without the supervision of their team leader. Structural issues have been resolved and the working relationships, styles, and processes are clear to the members. Team members now have an increased motivation to achieve the team’s desirable goals.
If new challenges arise teams may need to revert to earlier phases of the Tuckman Model in order to resolve them.
5. Adjourning Stage
At this last stage team members may move off in different directions.
High performing teams feel a level of sadness as they have achieved a level of belonging. Leaders provide an opportunity to debrief about the successes and challenges of the team as well as make time to celebrate accomplishments with them.
I’ve provided a simple view of team development. Keep in mind that teams can revert back to a previous stage for various reasons, one being the addition of a new team member. During this time the leader must adjust their leadership style and strategy.
Each of these stages requires that the team leader successfully guides the team through each stage to ultimately foster a high performing team. A team leader can develop their leadership style and strategy based on the awareness of the stages that their team members are experiencing.
DiSC Individual Behavior Profiles can help leaders discover how to build stronger teams and purposeful leaders.
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