4 Stages of Team Development

Here is a transcript of this video blog, "4 Stages of Team Development."

Every time you add somebody new to your team, you are going to start this process over again. So let me give you these four stages and you can process them as we go along.

The first stage of team development is simply forming.

When you’re forming a team, what’s happening in the team is people are beginning to ask questions of themselves like, How do I fit? What’s my role? Do I really want to be a part of this team? Am I going to like this team? Am I going to be accepted in this team? So they are going to be asking those kinds of questions of themselves. You’re not going to hear them, but they’re going to be unspoken questions. They’ll ask things like, Who’s the real leader? Is the leader competent? Because they’re testing it out. And as the leader, when you’re in this forming stage, you want to make sure you share relevant information, you want to make sure you encourage open dialogue, and you get the team to know each other. It’s very important that people start feeling comfortable with each other. So do things to build trust and relationships, maybe things like, each week, ask Tell us about your story. Give us a 3-minute background about what it was like when you grew up. Tell us about yourself. What was your favorite thing about high school? Those may sound trivial, but the truth is, when people are given the opportunity to tell something about their story, they usually tell something that’s kind of interesting, number one, and number two, it causes the rest of the team to draw to them. It creates an emotional connection. And so, in this forming stage, it’s very important as a leader, that we’re doing things to help them get to know each other, to get comfortable with each other, and to be comfortable with us. Provide some structure. They need to know exactly what they’re supposed to do. That’s why policies and procedures, written policies and procedures, are so important. That’s why systems are important. Just try to create an atmosphere and climate of trust. That’s the big issue. Building trust within the team. That’s stage one. Eventually, somebody’s going to test the system.

And you’re going to start moving into stage two, which is storming.

Something’s not going to work the way it’s supposed to. There’s going to be a problem. A customer gets upset. Somebody doesn’t carry their load and that creates a problem for somebody else on the team. That conflict will just naturally happen, because people are different. When you’re in this spot, what do you think the unspoken questions are going to be? It may be questions like, Why do I have to do this? Do I need to do something different because this person’s not doing their job? This is not working, what do I do? They’re asking those kind of questions. Finger pointing may happen here too. And maybe they’re not in the middle of it, but they’re asking, Who’s side am I going to be on? And they’re always going to be looking at us as the leader and going, How are you going to handle this? Or their way is better. So here’s why one of the 10 components of an HR system is a conflict resolution process. You’ll see it on your checklist and it’s one of the things I want you to create. How do team members resolve conflict? Don’t wait until it happens, just tell them, Hey, you’re going to have conflict, we’re going to have conflict. And here are the five steps we’re going to follow so everybody needs to know this.  And you train your team in it before it ever even happens. So when it happens, well, let’s follow the process. Because inevitably they’re going to come to you and say, I need to talk to you. And they’re going to put the problem on you and they’re going to want you to fix the problem. When in reality, they just need to go take care of it. They can take care of it themselves. But they may not know how. So sometimes you may just say, Remember that conflict resolution process we talked about? I want you to follow it. So here’s step one, here’s step two, and so on. So engage the team in problem solving and owning the problems and fixing the problems so that they don’t all fall on you. You’re establishing some norms here for looking at different viewpoints. Can we learn from each other? Can we brainstorm, can we process  together? So there’s a lot of teaching and training that has to go on with your team. Good, strong teams don’t just happen. They’re led to be good, strong teams. And that’s our job as the leader. So if you don’t move through this storming process in a healthy way, you will develop unhealthy ways of dealing with conflict. And what will result in your company will be a culture of gossiping,  backbiting, back stabbing, and mistrust. So it’s very, very important that we have a strategy for dealing with conflict. And we teach our team, this is how we deal with conflict here. Sounds kind of like a family, doesn’t it?

If you do a good job here, well actually, you move to this third stage either way, you go to norming.

You establish norms, and you want them to be the good norms, not the bad norms I just mentioned, so they go, This is how we function here. When you get to this stage, team members are asking different questions. They’re asking questions like, What can we really accomplish? Maybe we could do something really extraordinary!  They start thinking, so to speak, higher thoughts of your company and what you all can do as a team. And they’re asking questions like, How close can our relationships get here? Can we really develop deep trust and deep relationships here? Because they’re starting to think that this is an amazing opportunity I have. And that’s the kind of norm we want to create. But it doesn’t happen without some storming and some education here. Again, if we don’t do a good job here, the norms become the backbiting and the gossiping and all the junky stuff we don’t want and we’ve all seen at times. So your job and my job, as leaders in the norming stage is to talk openly about issues, to encourage members to be a part of managing the team process, to give positive and constructive feedback. It’s very important that we can create a culture where we can talk about what’s working and what’s not working. And delegation needs to be a big part of that.

And then the forth stage of team formation is performing.

And you can see, if they’re starting to ask questions here like What can we really accomplish? What is it going to take to accomplish the vision that Phil shared with us? And they’re starting to think about that and they’re starting to take initiative about that. That’s what creates a high-performing team. This is the process every team goes through. Every team goes through this. And again, I go back to the fact, that when you bring someone new into your team, you’re back up here again.

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