Most of us know there are various stages of a team’s evolution. We see it in professional sports all the time. That’s why there are spring training and exhibition games. Not only are the teams learning or relearning the skills of the game, but they are working on team integration.
Like all teams, teams in the corporate world have an evolutionary life cycle. Forming and storming are two of the generally accepted stages in a team’s life cycle. Team leaders need to be aware of these various stages and the expected behaviors of team members during these stages.
Because we are inherently sensitive, teams can often become derailed by someone’s behavior. By understanding that certain behaviors stem from certain stages of team development, we can better focus on the final objective.
Take the forming stage. Team members are feeling each other out, kind of waiting to see how each other behaves. Individual team members are assessing each other and are usually very polite. They are also looking at the designated leader and assessing his or her competence. Let’s face it: team members want to be on a winning team and during this initial stage they’re deciding if their leader and fellow teammates make for a winning combination. Individuals are also assessing—will I be an accepted member of the team?
In the storming stage, the next logical stage of team development, the team dynamics are characterized by tension and competition among team members. The issues generally deal with power, decision-making, and leadership. Conflict cannot be avoided and yet this is the most important stage of a team’s development. Successfully passing through this stage will say a lot about a team’s ability to work together effectively.
Regardless of the stage, team members deal with issues such as control, influence, and autonomy. Teams need to sort out issues (and seek consensus) about team and individual objectives, information systems, task design, authority, and discretion. Since we are dealing with the human condition, we must understand that all behaviors will not necessarily be predictable.
Each team leader should spend time thinking about their team and how it functions. Leaders cannot assume that teams will function as if they are on automatic pilot. They must be proactive and sensitive to team dynamics. In essence, they need to be a good coach or mentor to the individual team members.
Now ask yourself… Am I a Leader?