Stages of team development

Teams are constantly evolving and changing.  The traditional storming, forming, norming and performing model stands string, but it doesn’t emphasise that teams can revert to stages quickly.  Changes in team dynamics can be impacted by a new member of the team, a new leader, a restructure, an office move or even a change in the goals and objectives.

Forming

In the initial stages, all members may have a completely different perspective and may make judgements about each other based on their own beliefs or views.  One team member maybe resistant, others maybe wildly optimistic, where as others maybe take a wait and see approach.

Forming can happen very quickly with the right approach.  We help teams, even existing teams that need to change or adapt for the future, to form through the power of conversations.  To move through this stage quickly, leaders need to create a safe space where:

  • Members are able to explain how they are feeling and what they are thinking
  • Share their ideas on how the team could work or be formed
  • Ask questions without fear of ridicule, politics or judgement
  • Offer solutions and ideas
  • Agree goals, behaviours, strategies
  • Share strengths and weaknesses to enable more efficient working practices.

Storming

We have encountered so many teams that are stuck in storming and have thus created the norm, and may even believe that this is what high performance looks and feels like.  Unless the forming stage has been completed openly, when team members start to work together, disagreements, politics, negative conflicts and grudges maybe firmly in place.

Often there are misunderstanding and power games at play, and this is why open communication between team members is crucial.  Naming what is going on, highlighting behaviours or misunderstandings quickly can eliminate them before they become stuck into the team history and define the culture.

One team we worked with had been working together for 6 years.  Early on in the storming phase one member gained power over another in a meeting about a project which was now long gone.  However, we uncovered through open dialogue that everyone knew but didn’t mention (the elephant in the room) that there was distrust and grudges still being held.  As a result the two members were never put together on and projects or tasks, even though it would be best for the team.  The storming had become the norm and was harming performance.

We help teams take it back to basic and start to reform.   Whether we use personality profiling to share strengths, weaknesses and styles, or team development workshops, or team coaching, reforming is the only way to move forward.

Norming

You know when you are in norming phase when your teams kind of flows.  Friendships may have been formed, everyone knows what each other does and what their role is within the team.  They know who to speak to in the morning, and who to avoid, and who to approach about specific problems and who not to.  What you want to achieve is a cohesive, high performing, high trust team as your norm.  For norming in a toxic, dysfunctional team is neither fun or productive.

The aim for norming is to create the I within the WE.  When you are there you know you’ve created a positive normal.

Performing

This is the prize.  This is when everyone knows the team goals and how they individually contribute to them.  They trust their peers and want to perform for them.  Everyone feels competent in their role and are appreciated for who they are and what they contribute.  This is the cohesive team in practice and they deliver results not only for themselves, but for the team.  What’s more, it feels good to be in this team, and you may even be the envy of other teams in the business.  This is the prize.

The How

Unfortunately we often fail to learn how to be in a team and how to do teamwork.  It sometimes feels like going against our natural self interest and self preservation.  It is a strategic choice and requires consistent intention and action.   The five behaviours of a cohesive team programme with help teams to accelerate through the stages and focus on performance and results.  Ultimately it requires authentic leadership and vision, alignment and execution of team behaviours to achieve.