If your company has embraced a hybrid or remote workplace (like 74% of US companies have), you're probably feeling optimistic. With the ability to hire talent from around the world and enable team collaboration across different time zones, the possibilities are endless. However, there is a potential challenge that can arise: disconnection. Remote employees may feel disconnected from both the company and their colleagues. That's where team development becomes vital.
Whether your team works side by side or miles apart, team development and team building are essential. In 1965 and 1977, Bruce Wayne Tuckman identified and named the five stages of team development. Let's explore these stages in depth and give valuable tips on how to maximize their potential for your team's growth and success.
Stage One: Forming – Building the Foundation
The first stage of team development is when the team forms. This moment is when you get everybody together and ready to start working. The feelings team members might have at this point include excitement, anticipation, anxiety, or even suspicion. What can you do to get the forming stage off on the right foot? Here are a couple of ideas:
- Jump into team building. Team building can be a great way to make those initial connections on the team. Team building activities can actually be fun, and there are many options for hybrid and remote teams too. Team building can foster connections and build close relationships.
- Consider a skill-set review. Everybody should hopefully know what they bring to the table for the team, but it could be helpful to spend a little time showing what each individual has to offer. Essentially, you could start a meeting going over the great skills everyone has. That way everyone knows that their team members are awesome, and they can start building relationships and trusting each other.
- Get into the details of the project. Don’t forget that it’s also powerful to spend time ensuring that everyone understands the goals of the project and how it’ll work. Understanding the purpose of the project is actually a great way to encourage a team to work together.
Stage Two: Storming – Navigating Differences
The next stage might not be the most pleasant for everyone. Unfortunately, teams might come across some kind of conflict. It can be anything from personal frustrations to open arguments. Don’t worry though; it’s not the end! During this stage, you can provide key support to your teams and help them learn to navigate differences:
- Anticipate and acknowledge conflict. Don’t get caught off guard. Anticipate that there could be some kind of conflict (even if it’s not openly expressed), and let your teams know that this is normal and nothing to be ashamed of. It can be helpful to sit down with them and talk about how everyone knows there are frustrations, but that you can work through them, together.
- Teach conflict resolution. It could be helpful to also spend some time teaching conflict resolution skills and providing employees with a space to do that. That way they can learn to work with each other, instead of against each other. Good strategies include open communication (which you can model), empathy, and great listening skills.
- Work together for a solution. It could also be helpful to work as a team to come up with a solution. If the problem is how something on a project is going, talk about what might fix that. If there are personal disagreements, provide a space for them to work that out.
Stage Three: Norming – Establishing Cohesion
The good news is that once a team makes it through the storming phase, it’s uphill from there. The norming phase is where team members begin to develop mutual understanding and cooperation. This is the stage where confidence is high, and there’s a sense of freedom to contribute. How can you help make a norming stage great? Here are a few best practices:
- Compliment the team and individuals. Recognition is one of the best forms of feedback. Failing to recognize the great things a team is doing can mean your team is less motivated to perform. So go out of your way to compliment each member of the team and compliment the team as a whole for their successes. Maybe you praise their conflict resolution, their individual growth, or how far along on the project they’ve gotten. However you choose to do it, let them know they’re doing great!
- Hold regular check-ins. It can be powerful as a leader to check in with the team regularly. These might be quick meetings over video, or they might be part of longer get togethers. You might even send out quick messages to check-in on each individual.
- Share leadership. Now that your team has gotten comfortable with each other, it’s a great time to let them start leading themselves more. Let them run more meetings, check in on each other, and hold each other accountable.
Stage Four: Performing – Achieving Excellence
The performing stage can be a fun moment in team development! This is the time when teams reach peak productivity and achieve excellent results. The key here is to keep that momentum going. Here are a few tips:
- Check in but stay out of the way. Now that your team has really meshed, you don’t need to be as in-charge anymore. You can step out of the way. Still, it can be helpful to check in occasionally to show that you’re still there if they need anything — without veering into micromanaging techniques, which can lead to decreased growth. Just the occasional message can do the trick!
- Encourage everyone to block off distraction-free time. There are distractions everywhere that can make it hard to do work. Encouraging the team to block time off well can help keep that momentum going to reach the finish line of a project.
- Keep the compliments coming. Remember the importance of compliments and recognition? Don’t let up now just because things are going so well. Continue to recognize the team for all their hard work.
Stage Five: Adjourning – Wrapping Up and Reflecting
This stage is interesting, and it’s the one Tuckman added later on. Once a project is done, teams sometimes disband or at least move onto another project. But that is when you can wrap up the project they just completed and reflect on how it went. Team reflection can improve how the team works together in the future. How can you spend this stage? Here are our ideas:
- Celebrate! Celebration is powerful. In fact, it can reinforce lessons learned and strengthen the foundation of the team. Have a party, play a game, eat food, try a fun new activity together. However your team wants to celebrate, you have so many great options.
- Have a meeting to reflect. We mentioned the power of team reflection, so set apart some time for everyone to get together and reflect. Ask how the project went, where the rough spots were, where individuals might apply what they learned, and how this might affect their work moving forward.
- Thank everyone for their contributions. Take some time to thank everyone for what they have done and all their hard work. Maybe that’s a personal chat with them; maybe it’s a small bonus or gift card. Maybe it’s even recognition on a wider company level. However you choose to do it, thank everyone.
Supporting Your Teams by Focusing on Wellbeing
The stages of team development are natural, and following some of these tips can help you drive success.
We’re all about helping you support your teams as they work on projects. Supporting teams, though, means also supporting individuals.
To help your employees improve themselves as individuals, reevaluate your wellness programs and benefits. We’ve found that 90% of companies that measure their wellness program’s return see a positive ROI. Talk to a wellbeing specialist to learn more.
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The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.