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What are the stages of genuine team building?

Team building is somewhat of an over-used term, but the actual process of ‘team building’ is a crucial process. It involves the development of a group of individuals into a cohesive and effective team.

Whether in a corporate setting, the military, a sports team, or any other collaborative endeavour, understanding the stages of team building can greatly enhance the team's productivity, communication, and overall success. This is especially effective if the right tools are used to understand how people best contribute in the stages of team development, and in the day to day working life of the team.

The famous Tuckman model is still regarded as the most elegantly simple way to describe the stages that teams go through as they build and develop. His four well-known stages of Form, Storm, Norm and Perform came first with the fifth stage of Adjourn later added. Some add a sixth of Reforming.

In brief the stages are:

1. Forming:

The first stage of team building is forming. At this point, team members are getting to know one another and are focused on understanding roles, emotional security, responsibilities, and the team’s aims and objectives. This stage is often characterized by politeness and caution as team members are hesitant to express their true opinions or concerns openly or to engage in conflict. Somewhat of a ‘honeymoon’ period for the team. Clear guidance from a leader is essential to provide direction and set expectations.

2. Storming:

As team members start to collaborate and work closely together, differences in personalities, behaviours, work styles, and opinions become more apparent and cracks in working relationships appear. This leads to the storming stage, where the inevitable clashes, conflicts and disagreements arise. These conflicts are a quite healthy and natural part of the team-building process as individuals challenge their positions in the social network, jostle for position, voice their ideas more openly, and may challenge each other's viewpoints more directly. The ‘honeymoon period, is now over. While this stage can be a little uncomfortable for some, it's a great opportunity for the team to address these conflicts constructively and establish healthy communication patterns and strategies for building openness, psychological safety and further team-development. Failure to do this well can see this stage last longer and become more volatile than needed.

3. Norming:

In this stage, team members begin to resolve their conflicts and find common ground more easily. They can start to develop a more genuine sense of camaraderie and shared purpose. Ideally a genuine team culture based on the behaviours actually present has been allowed to develop, as opposed to a contrived and complaint culture. Norms, or unwritten rules, begin to emerge as the team establishes a set of accepted behaviours and standards. Trust among team members increases, and they start to appreciate each other's strengths and weaknesses as part of the team’s organic culture. . Effective leadership during this stage involves encouraging collaboration and facilitating open communication.

4. Performing:

At the performing stage, the team has reached a naturally high level of synergy and effectiveness that is more sub-conscious and natural. Members appear to work seamlessly together, leveraging their individual skills and experiences to achieve collective goals without having to overthink it. The team's focus is on achieving results and delivering high-quality outcomes. Leadership at this stage is often more hands-off, as team members are self-motivated and have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.

5. Adjourning:

Also referred to as the "mourning" or "celebrating" stage, adjourning occurs when the team completes its project or reaches the end of a certain phase. This stage involves reflecting on the team's accomplishments, celebrating successes, and acknowledging individual contributions. It's also a time when members might experience a sense of loss as the close-knit team disbands either partially or entirely. Proper closure is important, and leaders can facilitate this by acknowledging each member's efforts and providing a platform for expressing feelings and reflections.

6. Reforming:

While not always considered a part of the traditional team-building stages, reforming occurs when the team comes together again for a new project or task. This stage might include some aspects of the forming and storming stages, as new dynamics and objectives are introduced. However, if team members have experience working together from previous projects, this stage can be smoother, as there's an existing foundation of trust and familiarity. Some team members who know one another may develop faster at a micro level, so care needs to be taken of too much of a two-speed ‘us and them’ development process unfolding.

Understanding and navigating these stages of team building is essential for good leaders and team members alike.

Each stage brings its own challenges and opportunities for growth. Effective leadership involves recognizing the team's current stage and adapting strategies to facilitate progression. Encouraging open communication, addressing conflicts constructively, fostering a sense of belonging, and celebrating achievements can all contribute to a team's successful journey through these stages.

Using our Sabre team building activities and the renowned Belbin Model for evidence based individual and team reports we can help teams develop more effectively through these stages of team building.

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