Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing: Understanding the Stages of Team Formation
You have heard and maybe even read about companies which enjoy massive success in what they do. They topple the challenges which come their way and always have an edge over the competition.
When you listen to the leaders of these companies, you won’t fail to hear the word “teamwork” mentioned. In other words, for great success to be achieved, people must work together.
Theoretically, that’s great and easy to do. Isn’t it just coming together and pursuing a common goal?
Yeah, right. Until you try it yourself.
Have you considered the fact that teams are made up of people? Do you remember that people are different? Different personalities, different preferences, different approaches to work?
More than that, are you aware that there are people who show up at work but won’t really put in the required effort? Yet teams are made up of such. In case you are not aware of joy riders within organizations, check out the below video. Maybe you might recognize someone you know.
With such situations at hand, how do they do it? Is it just good leadership? Perhaps good luck?
To a good extent, credit goes to the leader. But that doesn’t mean that it is a natural skill in the leaders that brings the desired results. Keep in mind that leadership is a skill anyone can learn.
The trick is in the leader understanding how to form a team. And it is not necessarily about forming the perfect team. That does not exist. As a leader, you are the one who makes your team great.
So, if the trick is in understanding how to form teams, then how do you do it?
Before we got to the how, let’s take a brief look at the why. This will help you understand where the success in team work comes from.
WHY BUILD A TEAM?
If someone asked you this question, you are likely to quickly give the answer that “Teams make work easier.” And you are right. That happens in teams. But did you know that there is more to teams than making work easier?
Many employees can also make work easier. Yet big companies with many employees but with no teamwork never manage to match the success of smaller companies where teamwork is emphasized.
To understand the full extent of the advantages, take a look at the below benefits.
Teams take (calculated) risks
If you are running a business which you started alone and now have employees, you may be able to identify with this. Even if you have never worked anywhere but have tried to do something alone, you definitely have experienced this.
When working as an individual, you will always be very cautious with your actions. It is simply a case of having all your eggs in one basket. You know very well that if you mess things up, you are solely to blame.
Of course, taking responsibility is a good thing to learn and embrace. But your fear of losing often gets in the way of your progressing. Whether out of experience or from what you learned in school, one key entrepreneurial skill is risk taking.
Risk taking is however not an easy thing to do.
But when you have some company, the difficulty significantly reduces.
- The amount of insight available increases – you will realize this when you have more than one person looking at the situation. Obviously, you will have more information and more information almost always leads to better decisions.
- Different experience levels – whether you are a solo entrepreneur or working on a project alone as an employee, you face the challenge of having only your experience to guide you. It is no secret that experience plays a big role in success. In situations which are new to everyone, the experienced person will usually be the first one to see possible options to be considered. Therefore, when working with others, the experience gained from their backgrounds goes a long way in helping achieve the overall goal.
- Help in shouldering the burden of wrong outcomes – nothing feels good as the knowledge that someone will help you shoulder the burden if things go wrong. Of course, no-one wants things to go wrong. But they often do.
Having someone with whom to walk the journey will make you approach hard decisions more easily. It’s not that you will become reckless, but that you will become less fearful.
When you combine these three factors, you realize that the situation looks very different.
Just two people working together will bring considerable benefits to any cause. How much then when there are ten people or more working together?
Handling large teams can get tricky and it’s wise to keep the size of the team manageable. The important thing to note here is the potential benefit of several people working together towards an agreed goal
Honed conflict resolution skills
One of the biggest challenges of working with teams is resolving conflicts. Those who have no idea about team dynamics only talk about the good while understanding little about the inner workings of the team.
However, we are not being negative. It is in the acceptance of challenges that we are made strong. Deciding to work with teams, brings this challenge. But if you consider the potential benefits, you will gladly embrace the challenge.
And here is the catch. The challenge of dealing with conflicts is actually a blessing in disguise. Since you are forming your company for the long term, won’t it pay to make long term investments?
When your team members experience challenges in dealing with one another, as long as you offer good leadership, they will soon come out of the situation. And they will be better. They will know how to handle each other’s emotions, acknowledge strengths and cover for weaknesses.
They will be able to more easily work with each other and the team spirit developed will go beyond any future challenges.
This is the more obvious benefit that’s easy to identify. It is however not just about the distribution of duties and responsibilities. There is more that contributes to the increase in productivity.
When a team comes together, the individuals bring their strengths to the table. This is what they present to the organization or cause they seek to further.
For example, one person could be good at negotiations. What happens if he doesn’t have someone to negotiate with? Someone else may be good at approaching others and making great introductions. But if he is left to seal the deal, he may not deliver on a good price.
What then happens when these two work together? Won’t the result be amazing?
Teams harness the strengths of the individual members and by that, cover for individual weakness. When that happens, you can rarely have anything short of success. As the leader, your responsibility then becomes keeping the good working environment intact. Or better still, improving it.
Teams provide a support network
Human beings are social and there is no way one person will prefer living and working alone for the whole of his life. Though some may live such lives, it is obvious that something will be lacking.
You may not be very social such that you attend all parties—even when uninvited. But you need at least some form of social cover. This is especially necessary for those times when life deals you a blow. This could be sickness or just a situation where things aren’t really working out as expected.
In the work or business environment, you need support too. This comes in the form of people understanding that we are all in need of some help. Be it in growing your career, building your business, caring for your family etc, you need help and so does everyone else.
Every team has the potential to grow from one level of strength to another. And the more this happens, the better the support the members give each other.
When handling large projects for example, it is common for fatigue to kick in. Coupled with the pressures and stresses of other areas of your life, you can easily put an important goal aside. This has the effect of postponing to the point of losing joy in the desire to achieve your goals.
Teams make work fun
Who doesn’t like having fun? It is just part of being human. It is also a way of releasing stress and rejuvenating your body. But can you do that at work?
There are companies known for having set up a fun working environment. That notwithstanding, work still gets done. Different approaches can be taken to make work fun. But teams have a natural way of doing it. This may however not be visible until the team members are well acquainted with each other.
The secret lies in the team members forming friendships. These friendships may last beyond working hours. As they go for lunch together or meet over the weekend for events in which they share interests, the ties will grow stronger.
This is where true friendship develops. Some have even gotten spouses from such teams.
More than that, the prospect of working on a project with your friends guarantees success in a fun way. And if there is fun involved in the success, wouldn’t you want to be a part of it?
With time, you will notice that such teams have very little record of stressful moments. Despite handling large projects and members putting in long working hours, you will rarely have cases of chronic stress.
The benefits of working in teams are many. In some cases, some organizations may report unique benefits depending on their industry.
THE STAGES OF TEAM FORMATION
The above benefits and many others not listed can only be achieved if you have a solid team in place. The question then is, how do you form a solid team?
The answer to this question can take many forms. Although many approaches may be taken in the form of Dos and Don’ts, this article will answer this question from a different angle.
Rules vs. understanding
A careful look at the Dos and Don’ts will tell you that those rules only apply in certain situations. And as much as the situations determine what is to be done or not done, the situations cannot be avoided.
Here we are talking about the situations that come as the team journeys towards becoming solid.
If you have been keen enough in life, you will have realized that rules don’t necessarily affect the outcome of a situation. Instead, it is understanding the situation that determines the outcome. This is because understanding the situation guarantees better solutions.
To explain this, take for instance a situation where a team is going through a major conflict among its members. The cause? Some members are not happy with the way others are working. They are accusing their colleagues of not focusing on the important parts of the project.
Going by the rules, what are you expected not to do?
Do not quickly agree with a one-sided story and bash the accused parties. That could be seen as favoritism and will destroy the morale of some members.
What should you do instead?
Listen to both parties, find out what exactly happened then reconcile the members. Not a bad approach. So, what happens the next time there is another conflict? You will most likely do the same thing. Will you really be moving forward? If so, at what pace?
If you had an understanding of what caused the conflict, you would deal with the issue from the root. This way, you wouldn’t have to deal with it again because the situation won’t resurface.
From reading this article, you will understand that situations and challenges occur because of the development stage which the team is currently in. What you then need to understand are the stages which teams go through before they become the desired solid team you want.
As a team goes through these stages, it is bound to exhibit certain characteristics. Having anticipated them, you will prepare the right solutions. In fact, these solutions can be implemented beforehand. This way, you prevent some situations from coming up.
Is there a better way for you to express wisdom other than this?
After some time studying teams, psychologist Bruce Tuckman came to the conclusion that teams go through stages before they reach high performance. In his conclusion which he published in 1965, forming was the first stage of team formation.
At this stage, people are just coming together and have very little knowledge of one another. Being virtually strangers to one another, they tend to minimize unnecessary contact as they first work on curving their own space.
There can be little to no interaction at this stage. Whatever interaction happens, it is mainly an attempt at getting to know the other person. Or maybe interacting just for official purposes like asking questions about work to be done.
Interactions are at the same time restrained as no-one yet knows how the other person reacts.
When it comes to duties and responsibilities, these are often not clear enough for the team to sufficiently operate. Tasks may still be at the point of being distributed and team members may not be sure who is best for what.
With a lot of uncertainty, you will greatly need to utilize your leadership skills at this stage. It will be upon you to provide directions for almost every task. You may need to personally engage team members and develop them for the tasks assigned to them.
The second stage can quickly set in if the work being done requires constant interaction. And just as the name seems to suggest, this is where storms start brewing. The challenges which bedevil every group on its way to high performance show up.
Individual members start to boldly express differing opinions from those of their colleagues. This can happen in complete disregard of the other person’s feelings. As a result, many conflicts arise and without proper resolution, the team may break.
For a short guide on how to resolve such conflicts, watch the below video.
It is important that in a team, every member gets treated right. No matter what position one holds in the team, respect for other team members is a must. During the conflicts which are very common in this stage, many people drop out of the team.
The storming stage is where the true character of people comes out. Those who cannot accommodate others in their lives due to minor differences find it difficult to work with them. A lot of jostling for positions and higher ranks is also common in this stage.
As the leader, you are still responsible over the team at this stage. In fact, you will remain responsible over the team because it’s part of your duty. In any case, isn’t the leader responsible for the success of the team?
You will have to provide a strong sense of leadership because this stage can bring some dramatic experiences. For example, some members may go to the point of challenging your leadership authority.
Remember that the team is like a young family you are trying to bring up. Do not therefore be overbearing or overly harsh with anyone. Just understand that it is a stage in the development of the team.
This is when things start cooling off and your leadership efforts pay off. Team members have understood that they are meant to work together. They have also been able to resolve their conflicts and now work together well enough.
Through the conflicts which arose earlier, team members learn that different people operate differently and they respect that. Everyone respects the other person and start to readily offer help when needed.
Team members have also started understanding the company goals or objectives of the project. They own the goals and processes and easily work together towards achieving those goals.
Your position of authority is also recognized and respect accorded accordingly. The strengths of the individual members are also recognized and appreciated. This puts the team in a better position than before and they can now achieve more.
As the stage initially said to be the last one, the team has now gone through the necessary stages. This stage is called the performing stage because here, the team performs well. Even without external interference.
There is a smooth flow of the processes involved in working and a sense of general friendship also exists. By this time, tasks and responsibilities are clear and everyone is working hard to bring about the expected results.
Part of the success that comes in the performance stage is a result of the kind of leadership you have exercised. You have definitely set up some structures to support the work being done and these are now being used to maximize productivity.
As the stage where performance and delivery is great, you can delegate your roles and free your time for other jobs like business development.
ADJOURNING (TEAM BREAKUP)
After registering success and a project comes to an end, most teams have to break and the individuals go back to their usual tasks. This is a stage which Bruce added later, in 1977, although by adjourning, there is really nothing to do with team formation.
Another reason for adjournment is internal restructuring of the organization. This can leave some team members feeling lonely and have difficulty moving on. These are the team members who developed very close relations with their colleagues in the team.
Having understood the stages of team formation and what happens in them, it is easier to navigate through and offer proper leadership. This way, you can guarantee that success will be more of the norm rather than an exception.
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