Team Development Stages and Leader’s Role in Them
What is teamwork? What is leadership? It’s not uncommon for people to think or be told that they have a specific set of skills that allow them to be an above-average leader or an above-average team player. These skills are usually developed in early childhood and refined through high school.
Natural talent will only get one so far in the real world, however. One needs determination, research, and to rely on those who have come before him along with his or her natural talent in order to become a truly great leader and turn “workable” teams into extraordinary teams.
Now, we will look at one of the leading authors on the subject of team building: Bruce Tuckman.
Tuckman’s Four Stages of Group Development
Tuckman’s model for group development is known and widely taught among business owners. Tuckman’s model has shown great results across many different businesses and for many different leaders. It’s understood that each stage will generally pass naturally, but understanding the process with a broader perspective will allow each participant to not only get greater results from following the model, but speed the process up in general.
The four stages of group development are as follows:
As mentioned before, these stages usually pass naturally regardless of if each participant knows or not. Knowing each step and what it is supposed to do will allow each member to get the maximum out of the experience and not miss anything that could be a critical part of team building.
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A good team leader will not only know each stage, but what exactly to facilitate for each stage so that they can reach the final stage quickly and with the best results.
Forming is the first step of Tuckman’s model. It’s exactly what it sounds like – forming a team. This usually includes basic introductions, getting a “feel” for your team members and who will work together well, and identify potential early problems.
Forming is important for everyone involved. It requires more preparation from the leader to go smoothly, but non-participation by team members can be catastrophic. The casual nonchalance in this stage should be balanced with a healthy respect for how important it is as it will directly influence how the team will act.
Forming directly involves setting clear expectations for the team, setting clear goals for the team to accomplish, setting clear roles for each member of the team, and explaining exactly how each member should interact with each other (on a professional level).
Generally the forming stage has the team starting on whatever larger project that they have been assigned. It’s critical to vocalize to each member their expectations and their accomplishments at every opportunity during this early stage.
Storming is slightly less obvious of a step. “Storming” can be thought of as “weathering the trying times that will come with the stresses of a project.” The latter doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue – so storming is efficient.
Storming can be one of the most trying times of any team. Storming involves each person getting comfortable with their role in the hierarchy and their interactions with the other team members. Everyone knows the challenges of coordinating a team – no matter how small the size or how miniscule the project, conflict will arise in some form.
As a leader, it’s important to remember that you do not need to solve every conflict as it arises. It’s important for the team as a whole that they learn to deal with some of their issues. Of course, no good leader will let the conflict go on too long, and this is the challenge that the team leader must face – to intervene or to abdicate.
Norming is what happens when the team members begin to settle into their roles. They have accepted their position, they understand what’s expected of them, and can see how their position contributes to the completion of the project.
If the previous step “storming” is completed well and with minimal repercussions from any negative conflicts, the norming step will be a simple settling down of members and finding their groove. If “storming” is not done properly, however, “norming” can involve many team members checking out mentally or finding apathy for a project.
These kinds of apathetic mindsets effectively kill a team as a whole. They should be avoided at all costs, and that’s why the norming step should be carefully monitored for this kind of behavior. Each member should be recognized for their role and appreciated for it regularly to help counteract this.
The performing stage is one that is not gotten with ease, but it can be one of the most rewarding stages to reach. At the performing stage, each team member does their duty, understands their role, can navigate conflict between team members with relative ease, and knows when to ask for support from higher-ups and when it’s not necessary.
When a team reaches the performing stage, the team leader can trust that his or her team is ready for the challenges that they will be working on. This level of trust is shared between team members, and the relationship that has been built between each team member has a direct effect on productivity.
At each step, it should be remembered that at no point should a leader be focusing solely on productivity. He or she is working with people, afterall and is working to build genuine relationships. These relationships cannot be built under false pretenses. A good leader is someone who knows how to build these relationships genuinely and reap the results of productivity as a secondary reward.
Each team will spend most of its time in the “performing” stage, regardless of how long a project is. This is when you will see the results of how a leader has constructed their team.
Whether you identify as a team member or a team leader, understanding each of these roles is critical for creating an effective team. The most effective team member is one that knows he or she needs to work with his or her team members, a good team leader will know all of this like the back of their hand.
Team construction and participation is a complex process. Everyone should try their best, but nobody will get it right on the first try or every time. Each team you are a part of is another chance to learn how you work with others and what kind of person you work best with.
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