Memo to the New Team


To the new team:

Thank you for accepting a seat at the table. I’m writing to you because you’re young and I’m counting on your new team to lift our organization to new heights.

Learning to work on a team is a powerful opportunity for you. Seize it with gusto. However…

There’s nothing natural about working on teams. Independence is normal and easy. “Leave me alone and let me work on my own.”

Working together takes work.

Dysfunctional teams – all teams are dysfunctional at first – frustrate, distract, and de-motivate.

Avoid self-destructive behaviors.

On the other hand, team work is your path to maximum, meaningful impact in career and life.

Prepare yourselves! All new teams go through four stages.

Stage one – forming: Let’s get to know each other.

  1. Impression management.
  2. Conflict avoidance.
  3. Administrative focus. When do we meet? What responsibilities do members perform?
  4. Directive leadership. Newly formed teams require more direction than mature.

Stage two storming: Let’s figure out how to work together.

  1. Openness, tension, and, conflict.
  2. What are we here to do?
  3. What can I do?
  4. What can you do?
  5. What must we do?
  6. When and how do we function as a team?
  7. When do we work independently?
  8. Directive leadership. Teach members the four stages of team development.

Know: Storming is normal and necessary. Don’t skip or short-circuit the process.

Warning: Some teams spiral into permanent ineffectiveness during storming.

  1. Immature members continue impression management. The only time they speak up is in the hall, after the meeting, to complain or criticize.
  2. Members never move from self-interest to team-interest.
  3. Success requires clarity but finding clarity feels confusing.

Stage three and four next time.

Three team-forming tips:

  1. Accept the process.
  2. Express yourself kindly. Courage born in anger or fear is ugly.
  3. Support others aggressively.


*Bruce Tuckman is the originator of forming, storming, norming, and performing.

“Three Pillars of High Performance Teams. 

Next post in this series: “Memo to the New Team 2/22/13.”

What team-forming tips can you suggest for new teams?