Natural Phases of Team Growth

I recently experienced the “honeymoon phase” and the subsequent “post-honeymoon” phase in a new team and this reminded me of the natural phases a team goes through to become a high-performance unit. Bruce W Tuckman, American educational psychologist, identified the five phases a team goes through as forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.

As a leader it is useful to understand these phases – especially the current phase in which your team is finding itself – so that you can take the appropriate steps to assist the team to move towards the performance phase.

Let’s look at what happens in each phase as well as what the leader’s role in each phase should be.

Forming

The team members get together to form a team. Feelings of excitement about meeting new people and new challenges are usually present. They could also experience feelings of uncertainty and anxiety about what will be expected of them. However, the overarching mood is positive. This can also be called the honeymoon phase. A good team leader will use this positive energy to mobilise the team by clarifying the roles and create opportunities for the team members to get to know each other.

Storming

The team has started to work together and the members are more comfortable in their roles. Next, team members with different viewpoints and working styles are in conflict and have heated debates. This can also called the post-honeymoon phase. This conflict can be explicit or sometimes “undercover”.

See the article How to understand yourself and others interpersonally on how to understand different interpersonal styles.

The role of the leader is to facilitate these conflicts in a way that ensures that the team reaches agreement while the diversity adds richness to the outcome. Making sure that the team has regular meetings will give them a place to voice and discuss differences.

Norming

The team starts to function together, with major personality and positional differences discussed and resolved. This is called the dust-has-settled phase. In this phase, the leader should ensure that the team is mobilised by confirming roles and delivery timelines.

Performing

Team members start to perform in their roles, and there is interdependence among each other. The same diversity that caused the storming is now assisting the team to be creative and productive. The leader can play a major role in acknowledging the team’s performance and in giving recognition where it is due.

Adjourning

This is the end of the reason for the existence of the team. The team will now either be resolved, or team members will regroup into new teams. This is called the mourning phase. Celebrating the successes and reviewing the lessons learnt is a way to acknowledge the team members’ contribution. This will also help to prepare them for their roles in their new team.

In real life, teams go through all of these phases to a greater or lesser extent. It is triggered by changes to the team, for example when a person joins or leaves or when the goals of the team change.

Sharing this process with the team can give them insight into the feelings they might be experiencing during the various phases of team development.

As someone once said: “A single moment of understanding can flood a whole life with meaning.”


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How to Make Better Decisions

Making decisions, especially major business and life decisions, can be stressful. Big decisions often go hand in hand with lengthy debates and lots of worrying.

As none of us knows what the future will hold, it is only possible to make a decision based on what we know at this point in time. So how do we make sure that we have considered everything before we decide?

Well-known physician, author, inventor and consultant Edward de Bono writes in his book Six Thinking Hats that we should explore the different states that the brain uses to think. This technique can be useful to ensure that we explore all known aspects of an opportunity.

Let us see how the different thinking hats can help us decide:

White hat

This hat looks at all the available information, hard facts and figures. Consider the information by asking:

  • What information is available?

  • What is the critical information I need to help me decide?

  • What is the missing information and where can I get it?

Red hat

This hat considers the gut feeling and emotions you might be experiencing. List these feelings and emotions without explaining them. Consider the following questions:

  • What emotions come up when I consider the options?

  • Have my emotions changed over the time?

  • What does my gut tell me?

Green hat

This hat takes a creative slant and explores the possible outcomes of your decision. At this stage this is done without considering limitations. Explore by asking:

  • What are the opportunities and possibilities?

  • How can these opportunities and possibilities unfold?

Yellow hat

This hat takes the positive or optimistic position and enables you to identify the benefits of your options in an analytical way.

  • What are the positive aspects of the options?

  • How will the options benefit me?

Black hat

This hat covers critical thinking where the obstacles, risks, constraints and downsides of the options are considered.

  • What are the negatives?

  • What will I lose?

  • What are the trade-offs?

Blue hat

This hat thinks about the process of thinking, making sure all aspects are covered.

  • What else do I need to consider when making the decision?

You can follow this process on your own or in a group. When you do this in a group, specific people can wear specific hats to help you to obtain objective and creative input.

A word of encouragement from Anthony Robbins, American author and success coach: “Your life changes the moment you make a new, congruent, and committed decision.”


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How to Build Strong Teams in Your Company

People are the biggest asset of any successful business as they represent your company’s brand through their interactions with your clients and business partners.

The people in your company also make decisions on how business resources like money and other people’s time are spent, impacting the profitability of your company.

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke University basketball coach said, “You develop a team to achieve what one person cannot accomplish alone. All of us alone are weaker, by far, than if all of us are together”. These words ring especially true for teams in business and it is critical to your company’s success to get these teams to work together effectively.

Tips for entrepreneurs to build teamwork

Building an effective team starts with selecting right people for the required tasks

Start by understanding the tasks at hand in your company and the knowledge, technical skills, soft skills and experience levels required to do these task in a productive way. Once you have established the competencies and experience needed to achieve your targets, use this as a checklist when recruiting people to work in your company. Also keep in mind who is already working in your company and how the new person could complement or enhance skills in the existing team.

Gaining a common understanding of each team member’s role

Start by getting the group to understand how each person’s role contributes toward the company’s goals. Explore how the teams could work by gaining an understanding of what each team member’s preferable working method is. Also discuss how potential conflict in the team will be resolved. These insights will greatly enhance the team’s output.

Making time for team communication

One idea is to have regular team meetings where each team member gives progress feedback and challenges, offering an opportunity for team members to support and assist one another with. This also offers you as the leader the opportunity to communicate business changes that will impact on the team. These events can give you a good view of the major issues in your company and the morale of your people, helping you to be proactive in preventing possible crises.

Leading by example

Our role as a leader in your business is to create the direction for the team. But more importantly, your behaviour will set the example of the type of culture you want to create. Listening to ideas or feedback, giving honest feedback, being fair and displaying consistent behaviour are aspects of leadership that build high-performance teams.


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