Building high performing teams


Effective teamwork is essential in today’s world, but as you’ll know from the teams you have led or belonged to, you can’t expect a new team to perform exceptionally from the very outset. Team formation takes time, and usually follows some easily recognizable stages, as the team journeys from being a group of strangers to becoming a united team with a common goal. Whether your team is a temporary working group or a newly-formed, permanent team, by understanding these stages you will be able to help it quickly become productive.

As a team leader, your aim is to help your team reach and sustain high performance as soon as possible. To do this, you will need to change your approach at each stage. The steps below will help ensure you are doing the right thing at the right time.

  • Identify which stage of the team development your team is at from the descriptions above
  • Now consider what needs to be done to move towards the Performing stage, and what you can do to help the team do that effectively. The table abow helps you understand your role at each stage, and think about how to move the team forward.
  • Schedule regular reviews of where your teams are, and adjust your behavior and leadership approach to suit the stage your team has reached.

Leadership Activities at Different Group Formation Stage

  • Forming: Direct the team and establish objectives clearly.
  • Storming: Establish process and structure, and work to smooth conflict and build good relationships between team members. Generally provide support, especially to those team members who are less secure. Remain positive and firm in the face of challenges to your leadership or the team’s goal. Perhaps explain the “forming, storming, norming and performing” idea so that people understand why conflicts occurring, and understand that things will get better in the future.
  • Norming: Step back and help the team take responsibility for progress towards the goal. This is a good time to arrange a social, or a team-building event
  • Performing: Delegate as far as you sensibly can. Once the team has achieved high performance, you should aim to have as “light a touch” as possible. You will now be able to start focusing on other goals and areas of work.
  • Adjourning: When breaking up a team, take the time to celebrate its achievements. After all, you may well work with some of your people again, and this will be much easier if people view past experiences positively.
  • Tip 1: Make sure that you leave plenty of time in your schedule to coach team members through the “Forming,” “Storming,” and “Norming” stages.
  • Tip 2: Think about how much progress you should expect towards the goal and by when, and measure success against that. Remember that you’ve got to go through the “Forming,” “Storming,” and “Norming” stages before the team starts “Performing,” and that there may not be much progress during this time. Communicating progress against appropriate targets is important if your team’s members are to feel that what they’re going through is worth while. Without such targets, they can feel that, “Three weeks have gone by and we’ve still not got anywhere.”
  • Tip 3: Not all teams and situations will behave in this way, however many will – use this approach, but don’t try to force situations to fit it. And make sure that people don’t use knowledge of the “storming” stage as a license for boorish behavior.

Key Points
Teams are formed because they can achieve far more than their individual members can on their own, and while being part of a high-performing team can be fun, it can take patience and professionalism to get to that stage. Effective team leaders can accelerate that process and reduce the difficulties that team members experience by understanding what they need to do as their team moves through the stages from forming to storming, norming and, finally, performing.

The Importance of An Acknowledgement


Grateful Leadership enables leaders to tap into the power of personal commitment and dedication by acknowledging people in an authentic, heartfelt manor. Inspire your team and bring out the best in your people by dramatically increasing this level of engagement, productivity, and willingness to take initiative.

Engaged employees work with passion and feel connected and loyal to their organization. This yields higher productivity, sales, and results. Leaders who model true acknowledgment behavior will inspire others to do the same and dramatically increase their teams and their personal levels of contribution, making the Power of Acknowledgment truly transformational.

Expressing appreciation and thanks such that your team member feels acknowledged and highly regarded has plenty of upsides. They are:

  • It’s motivational. Employee surveys have frequently established that “pats on the back” are more motivational than pay rises (Graham and Unruh, 1990).
  • It’s a feedback mechanism
  • Putting “what’s working” on the table increases its recurrence, for sure.
  • It generates discretionary effort
  • It’s amazing how the going-the-extra-mile effort kicks in when the boss gives regular recognition and praise.
  • It’s big-hearted

Every human being on the planet wants to feel valued and respected. It’s big-hearted, kind and considerate to help people meet their needs, isn’t it?

Authentically recognizing that your team member has done well will naturally have them feeling warmer toward you. The increased intimacy increases rapport and trust, characteristics that are clearly important in a leader-team member relationship.

Recognition and validation for what we’ve done, or for who we are, simply put, feels good—even to those who don’t look like they’d lap up this sort of validation.

The best way to acknowledge:
Typically when a person is acknowledged they glow internally. In fact the Graham and Unruh 1990 study revealed that the following four actions were in the top five of 65 possible incentives:

  • A congratulatory note from the manager
  • Verbal congratulations from the manager
  • Public recognition of a job well done
  • A morale-building chat with the manager

Isn’t it interesting that none of these actions are a big asked? And they don’t have a monetary cost either.

Think about each of your team members—and recall the last time you:
…said something positive to them about their work, their behavior or their practices.
…Publically recognized them.
…Sent them a congratulatory email or note.

Was it last week? Last month? In the last quarter? In the last year?

Are you one of the leaders who’s impressive when it comes to acknowledging your team members—or is there room for you to up your effort in this regard?


Considerations for Initial Teambuilding


The functioning of high performance teams requires special attention to the processes by which they operate. This is particularly important in the initial stages of team formation of team building, but should be periodically examined as part of ongoing team development. The following 12 question areas are recommended to help teams explore their resources, styles, and constraints; they are designed to help the team consider important aspects of each stage of development. Clarification of these areas enables a team to more quickly establish trust, increase open expression and feedback, align efforts, and deal constructively with problem areas when they arise. This is a comprehensive version of team building discussion, and questions can be revised as needed.

Stage 1: Forming– acquaintance, assessing resources, and setting a direction
Team-Building Tasks

  • What are our names, backgrounds, resources and skills we bring to this team, and our expectations?
  • What is our understanding of the goals and objectives, which this team was organized to achieve? How can we ensure we are all going in the same direction?
  • What structure, format, and style do we prefer for our meetings? What schedule structure will work for us

Stage 2: Storming– positioning for influence, constructive conflict, and complementarily of styles
Team-Building Tasks

  • What roles do each of us prefer on a team? What are our strong and weak roles? Which do we overdrew utilize?
  • What are our preferred styles of working and relating? How can these differences be used to complement each other, and be sequenced more effectively for problem solving?
  • What stresses each of us? How might our typical styles change under pressure? What can we look for as signs of stress? How can we give useful feedback and support at these times?
  • About what are we most likely to disagree? What are our preferred modes of conflict and conflict resolution? How can we use disagreement constructively?

Stage 3: Norming– developing cohesion & esprit; developing ways to monitor and modify norms
Team-Building Tasks

  • What can we do to enhance the identity and cohesiveness of this group? How can we develop our own team culture?
  • What norms (unspoken rules about what is (un) acceptable) do we bring in from other team experiences? What norms would we like to explicitly include or avoid in this team?
  • How can we ensure a team culture in which we can freely question and update restrictive norms?

Stage 4: Performing– ensuring continued high performance
Team-Building Tasks

  • How can we best monitor and discuss our team processes so we can continue to develop and improve?
  • What team processes should we reflect on during team debriefing (e.g., participation, decision making, norms, etc.)?

Teamwork & Followership


When building your team, what do you consider as key abilities for creating a strong team?

When bosses where asked what they’re looking for in an employee, most of them put “leadership ability” near the top of the list.  With all due respect, this is not the best idea.

Leadership sounds like a wonderful thing for everyone on a team to possess but a team that has more than one leader inevitably gets pulled in multiple directions. Which means you is probably going nowhere.Unless you’re specifically hiring for a management position, you’re better off looking for a job candidate with followership ability.

Good followers can put their own egos aside and do what you want done, whether or not they think it’s the right thing to do.

Good followers put their creativity to work, not in setting grand visions, but instead by finding better and faster ways to do what you want done.

Good followers can be smarter than you and possess skills you lack, but they still trust that you know how they can best apply their brains and talents for the greater good.

Followership is the reason sports teams behave like teams; it’s why armies don’t crumble in combat.

Followership is strongly connected with trust. And that you as a manager leading by example, and coaching your team for performance.

– I’m sure that you and your team will be successful.