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.
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.