It’s every leader’s dream to build a high-performing team.
If you're familiar with my story, you'll know, many years ago, I was handed the keys to build my own team. I was ecstatic because I didn’t inherit poor performers. I was able to hand-select to people i wanted to work with and be surrounded by every day (In fact, one of my most favourite employees is now my husband!)
Creating a dream team is still hard work. It needs coordination and collaboration, which can be tough because of the tricky little variable called “people”. In those early days, everyone is really enthusiastic and high performing. The excitement levels of something new, is high.
But we still went through Tuckman’s four stages. We had to figure out where everyone fitted in, what communication models were the best for us, how we would interact with each other, and who would be responsible for what.
So, it’s a really good idea to keep Tuckman’s model in your mind when you lead a team. According to Tuckman, team development goes through four distinct stages whenever there’s a change in members:
Forming, The First Stage
When a team is new, everything is exciting. Enthusiasm, motivation and effectiveness are high because everyone’s mucking in and on their best behaviour.
Forming the team
This is the forming stage. Since a team is a collection of individuals, forming is all about first meetings and impressions. Members think of their roles and zone of genius within the project. But they operate from a personal vantage point and think “what’s in it for me?”
Leadership during the forming stage
If you have the good fortune of being able to hand-select your team members, you can get people with the skills your team needs. If you’re adding a new team member, look at the skill gaps so you can fill them in.
Other duties of the leader during this stage include:
kick off the team’s direction by clarifying what needs to be done.
conduct strategic planning.
set goals for the business, team and individuals
make sure people get comfortable with each other so they can have deeper connections
let members put goals together by sharing their zones of genius and interests
encourage micro conversations so that people develop deeper emotional connections.
Your goal is to do less hand-holding as members get to know each other. As the team learns how to interact, they start to help each other out. This frees up your time to work on rather than in the business.
Storming, A Difficult but Critical Stage
Storming is a necessary evil that every team needs to go through. So, it’s better to learn how to handle it so you and your team can pass through it as quickly as posisble.
Progress your team through the storm
If you’ve ever worked with a team, you know these signs:
a launch that doesn’t go as planned.
increasingly heavier workloads.
no time off.
distracted and unproductive people.
a big dip or lack of enthusiasm among members.
conflicts that crop up sometimes unintentionally.
blame games and finger-pointing.
subgroups and mini team’s form.
you are unsure of your position and feel like you’ve made a bad decision.
It can feel pretty bad like you’re in a real storm, but stay the course because you can get through it.
As the leader, you need to look at what’s triggering the storms and what you can do to refocus the team and move through this phase. Many leaders in this stage find it hard to know which levers to pull to motivate their team. Here are some tips.
Set up tiny little wins by setting up smaller goals.
Tiny wins build up motivation, commitment and enthusiasm to keep going through the tough times.
Be robust with your communication.
ate. Keep communication channe
ls open and encourage robust communication among members.
Put out spot fires.
As the leader, make sure that you resolve issues as soon as you notice them. In this way, the little fires don’t evolve into uncontrollable situations that escalate and lead to worse issues.
Lay down the foundation for the next stage.
Teams that can’t resolve storms get stuck in this stage. These teams may inch towards norming, but revert to storming if they’re not careful or focused. However, those that find the proper resolutions lay down good foundations for the next stage.
Emphasise positive intent.
To refocus everyone, make sure they work towards the same goal that you set up in the forming stage. Ensure your team remember that challenges and a few bumps are natural and that’s okay.
You can’t skip this stressful storming stage. But you don’t need to carry all of the burdens of the storms. You can discuss things with your members. Talk to them about where you are right now and what needs to happen to get to the next stage.
Norming and Performing, and Their Benefits
After any storm, we all want some calm, normal weather that eventually turns sunny. After the storms of interpersonal issues, teams want to go on to norming and, beyond that, performing.
Based on the term, it’s pretty easy to understand what this stage is all about. It’s a smooth road of understanding and acceptance of the team dynamic.
Members of a team have found their flow and where they fit in. So, they develop new ways of working and solving problems. They learn to complement rather than counteract each other.
As the leader, part of your important tasks include:
make sure each member feels they’re an important part of the team.
observe actions and solutions and identify which work and those that don’t.
check what still causes friction and how to resolve it.
find out if there’s a better way to do something.
work out communication preferences.
centre development around positive, interpersonal emotional intelligence (EQ).
The goal of team development is high performance. The final stage, performing, is where synergy comes in. Everyone accepts group norms.
Members know where they can best serve the team and the business. They are interdependent and make group-minded decisions so they need little managing. This stage is where collaboration works, innovation happens and efficiency gains happen.
The best thing a leader can do is to:
empower members to get everything they need to be more productive and innovative.
create an environment where you and the rest of the team remove blockers.
celebrate your team’s big and little wins and acknowledge how far you’ve come from the forming stage.
Benefits of effective team development
In theory team development is simple: get a group of talented, engaged people together and make them complete a specific goal.
In reality, team development is tricky because of the “people” variable. Thus, it’s important to understand the core concepts of building a team:
establish a clear purpose
revisit your vision throughout the team development process by asking:
why does your team exist?
what are the values that matter to you and your members?
what are the problems you want to solve?
why do you need to solve them?
Proper implementation can mean the following for forward-thinking leadership:
encourages cooperation, teamwork and trust among members.
creates an environment of innovation and psychological safety.
encourages leaders to delegate, which lightens their load and builds responsibility and accountability.
There you have it! Tuckman’s stages are still relevant to this day and you need to understand its mechanics to guide your team from the first to the last.
Until next time, Eat the Frog, Get the Worm, Be the Bird and keep Tuckman’s model in your mind.