Many of us have had experience with either leading a team or being a part of a team. Before a team reaches their performance potential, team development using begins with 4 stages. Forming, storming, norming and ultimately performing. As a leader or a future leader, everyone should know how not only to identify and understand these stages but also how navigate them.
Stage 1: Forming
During the forming stage, the team is new. This stage is usually initiated by a new project (temporary team) or an organizational restructure which allowed the forming of a new team. (permanent team) This stage can also happen when some team members are swapped out or if there were new additions to an existing team. During the forming stage, the team is coming together and getting to know one another. There may be introductions, formalities, exchanging of contact information and generally pleasantries in the course of getting familiar. In addition to getting to know one another, during the forming stage team members are getting to know their roles on the team and the roles of the other team members.
Leadership during the forming stage
If there is a formal designated leader during the forming stage, you will want to set the precedence as the leader and establish good relationships by meeting each team member individually and getting to know bits about them in addition to bringing the members together and facilitating introductions. If there is no formal leader, during this stage one may/may not start to emerge.
Stage 2: Storming
The storming stage is marked by healthy conflict and disagreements. During this stage team members are usually getting to know each other work styles and personalities and conflicts tend to arise during this time. Delivery of the final product, how to move forward, task timelines and meetings are usual topics of disagreement during the storming phase.
Leadership during the storming stage
If there hasn’t been an emergence of a leader during the forming phase, there will definitely be one during the storming stage. Leadership is critical during this time to keep the balance, keep everyone focused on the task at hand and mediate a lot of these disagreements and keep them at bay.
Stage 3: Norming
The norming phase will ensue usually immediately as the storming phase is subsiding mostly because the team members are establishing team norms. These norms are the rules of engagement for the team and essentially the way forward to get to the end state of the task/project. The start of the norming phase and the end of the storming phase usually will coincide with one another as establishing norms help to calm conflict.
Leadership during the norming stage
The leader plays another critical role during the norming phase to keep conflict down. The leader should buy-in to the norms, support them and lead by example. The team is more likely to uphold the norms that are supported and encouraged by the team leader.
Stage 4: Performing
In the performing stage, the team is finally working as a collective toward the final product. Each team member is aware of his/her roles, the team tasks and goals are playing independent roles toward the project end state. The norms are understood, and the team is functioning at an effective level.
Leadership during the performing stage
In the performing stage, leadership is playing more of a maintenance role and task driven role. The leader should be on alert that the team can revert back to the storming phase at any time but storming and norming remediation isn’t necessary because the team is performing and delivering. Leadership at this stage should have a focus on driving tasks, timelines and keeping everyone performing to see the goal through to the end.
While these stages are not fixed and linear and can happened at any time and any rate. Knowing how to identify what stage you are in and what to expect is useful when working as a part of a team and even more so, to be successfully navigate as a leader of a team.
Pennsylvania State University. (2019). Lesson 9: Team Leadership. Retrieved from PSYCH 485: Leadership in Work Settings: https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/canvas/sp19/21911–17103/content/09_lesson/printlesson.html