A storming team...

Jan 23, 2024

Building a high-performing team is not a straightforward process. It is not just about finding the right people with the relevant skills, it is so much more.   One of the pieces of the jigsaw that there is a requirement to understand is the stages of group development.  This understanding  can provide valuable insights for you within your role as a manager and leader to navigate challenges and foster effective collaboration. Another of my go to models is  Tuckman's Stages of Group Development, developed by psychologist Bruce Tuckman.  Tuckman, offers a roadmap for team development. The following will give you a great introduction or reminder of each of the stages of the model and simple strategies for facilitating progress.

This stage is that a team will go through will be
Forming (collection of strangers)
Storming (what is my role in all of this? Where do I want to fit in?)
Norming (I understand what I'm doing, and I can breathe a little easier, ease up on the pedal.)
Performing (I really feel part of the team, all singing from the same hymn sheets, it's exciting it's fun and I'm giving it my all.)

The forming stage is the initial phase of team development. During this stage, team members come together, get acquainted, and begin to define their roles and responsibilities. There is a level of feeling a lost, unsure and possibly regret at choosing to join the team.  This is natural.

You will play a crucial role in setting clear expectations, establishing team goals, and facilitating introductions. Encouraging open communication and provide opportunities for team members to share their skills and expertise, this can help build a foundation of trust and collaboration.

Strategies for the forming stage:
• Conduct team-building activities to foster relationships and establish rapport.  This does not have to be 3rd party delivery.  This can be small project or tasks that encourages the team sharing and working together.
• Clearly define team goals and individual roles.   At this stage, this is around clarification of the role titles.  For me, unless you are working in a factory style role where it is conveyor belt delivery, then the role should be evolving with time, disruptions, future trends and requirements.
• Encourage open communication and active listening. 
• Establish team norms and guidelines for effective collaboration.  Crazy thought, could you do this in collaboration with the team?

The storming stage is characterised by conflicts, disagreements, and power struggles within the team. As team members start to voice their opinions and ideas, differences in perspectives and approaches may arise. This is my favourite stage.  You should view this stage as an opportunity for growth and innovation rather than a hindrance. Facilitate open discussions, encourage constructive feedback, and mediate conflicts to help the team overcome challenges and move forward.

Strategies for the storming stage:
• Promote active listening and respectful communication. Positive conflict is a great form of communication, do not shut it down.
• Encourage the team to address conflicts directly and find mutually beneficial solutions. Lead from the back and empower your team to act like adults.
• Provide conflict resolution training and facilitate team discussions.   This is a great opportunity to discuss conflict guidelines and norms.
• Foster a culture of openness, where diverse viewpoints are valued and respected.   Actively create a Psychological safe environment to have this as the norm and where solution and agreements are found.

The norming stage is marked by the establishment of team cohesion and a sense of shared purpose. Team members begin to understand each other's strengths and weaknesses and develop a mutual respect. You can support this stage by reinforcing positive behaviours, acknowledging contributions, and fostering a collaborative environment. Continuing to encourage team members to set shared goals, define team norms, and establish clear communication channels can further enhance team cohesion.

Strategies for the norming stage:
• Celebrate and recognise individual and team accomplishments.   Encourage the team to recognise theirs and others accomplishments.
• Encourage teamwork and collaboration through joint projects or assignments.  
• Establish regular team meetings to discuss progress and address concerns.   This is a must and ties back into creating a Psychological safe environment.
• Empower team members to take ownership of their work and contribute to team decisions.

The performing stage is the pinnacle of team development, where the team achieves a high level of collaboration, productivity, and synergy. Team members have a deep understanding of their roles and responsibilities and work seamlessly together towards common goals. Continue to provide opportunities for skill development, support autonomy, and foster a culture of continuous improvement. Recognise and harness the strengths of team members, you can help sustain the performing stage and drive exceptional results.

Strategies for the performing stage:
• Provide opportunities for professional development and skill enhancement.  Knowing what your teams’ individual goals and career aspirations will play a large part in this.   Do not forget yourself.
• Foster a culture of trust, empowerment, and autonomy.
• Encourage innovation and creativity within the team.  Fostering a ‘learning environment’ where is it ok to take and make calculated risks and errors is a phenomenal way to learn and grow.
• Regularly evaluate and celebrate team achievements.

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