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.
- Impression management.
- Conflict avoidance.
- Administrative focus. When do we meet? What responsibilities do members perform?
- Directive leadership. Newly formed teams require more direction than mature.
Stage two storming: Let’s figure out how to work together.
- Openness, tension, and, conflict.
- What are we here to do?
- What can I do?
- What can you do?
- What must we do?
- When and how do we function as a team?
- When do we work independently?
- 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.
- Immature members continue impression management. The only time they speak up is in the hall, after the meeting, to complain or criticize.
- Members never move from self-interest to team-interest.
- Success requires clarity but finding clarity feels confusing.
Stage three and four next time.
Three team-forming tips:
- Accept the process.
- Express yourself kindly. Courage born in anger or fear is ugly.
- 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?
My number one tip is not to avoid Storming. Because it can involve conflict, and requires teams to spend time together working stuff out, sometimes teams try and avoid it, thinking they can jump straight to Norming.
I always try and encourage teams to get on with the Storming phase so they can get it behind them and move on up to higher levels of performance.
Thank you Michael.
Great tip. Sometimes disappointment with the realities of team building disappoint. We falsely believe there’s something wrong with us if we are experiencing tensions. Frankly, there’s something right when we are.
It would appear we are not in Kansas anymore. Seems teamwork is one of the keys to achieving the prime objective!
Great post Dan!
Have a good one.
SP ps favorite Big Lebowski quote for the day…”doesn’t seem you know anything about golf”. The dude to a guy who broke into his house and was holding a bowling ball and asked The Dude what it was. A day without humor is a day not worth living.
You spread joy like butter… thanks Scott!
Courage born in anger or fear is ugly…… Brilliant……
Thank you for bringing up this very important subject. There are some things that simply MUST happen in stages, like change (Kotter, Lewin, Jellison), grief and loss, and team forming.
It is important, as Michael Brown said, to allow the “storming” phase to take place.
It is also important to think of team building as part of a change process. We are leading the team from a current state (not having a team) to having a performing team. We need to:
1) ensure team members are dissatisfied with the status quo
2) paint a compelling picture of where we want to go
3) accept people on the team who believe in the mission
4) allow people to be flexible in the means of achieving the goal, while being firm about values, need to perform, and resource constraints
5) communicate constantly about the reason the team exists and what we have to do, so the focus is outwards towards the mission, rather than inwards towards team rank and relationships
6) encourage individuals in the storming phase to work things out (not hide them) in order to concentrate on the mission
7) be willing to cull people out of the team who don’t contribute to its mission (like pruning non-productive stems from tomato plants)
8) set the example of being mission-focused but people-sensitive
9) celebrate early victories so that the team can cling to even the most minute accomplishments as evidence that they are becoming effective
10) structure each person’s contribution so it is meaningful, even if that doesn’t appear to be the most efficient way of dividing work (this breaks down resistance, fosters engagement, holds people accountable, gives them pride in accomplishment and a sense of belonging)
11) continually model humble, persistent, loving, mission-focused behavior
12) praise good behavior in front of team members and behind their backs
13) reprimand, correct, counsel in private and as soon as possible 14) ask forgiveness when necessary, seek advice, be teachable
15) break down large project into small, manageable steps so progress or lack of it is evident, so that the “devil in the details” doesn’t rear its ugly head and extend the storming phase, and so that sufficient resources are allocated.
16) While leading the team through details, continually emphasize the end goal, the larger mission.
17) Prepare the team for the end game, when freezing and anchoring the things the team has accomplished will be important so that its members can move on to other valuable things. Looking forwards to anchoring change is vital, as it adds a dimension of finality and purpose to the mission, a sense that the direction the team is going will be worth the effort because there is no turning back. It also prepares for the period of turmoil that will follow the grieving process of breaking up the team, by teaching them that this is a normal part of change.
I’m sure I missed some, but these are the first things that came to mind re: team building.
Thanks for a great subject.
Thank you Marc.
Brilliant to bring insights concerning change to this discussion. It’s a whole new channel of thought.
Two more thoughts….and then I’ll stop monopolizing this page…sorry, Dan…
1) Not all organizations form teams. There IS a place for high-performing individuals or small consultancies that don’t quite fit, yet add value. The core requirements for success are shared values and shared mission, not having a well-oiled team.
2) “Team building” exercises are generally, in my experience, a waste of time and money, a sort of costly and ineffective theater. It is much better to focus on mission and build a team to do it, than to try to build a team spirit with artificial means (rock climbing, offsite mtgs., etc.), and then try to motivate it to success.
Thanks again Marc.
Your cup is full today!
RE: individual contributors. Every organization needs ’em. Find a place to use them and realize they may not be best on teams. KaChing
I have been sitting on the City Council for 3 and a half years now. As I look back to when we got 2 new council members and a new mayor last year it seems like we did walk ourselves through that process. The storm may have been a little bit more intense but now we are working well together as a team. Sometimes we don’t all agree but we’re learning to agree to disagree better.
Thank you Garrison. Great illustration and application. Politicians can use these ideas, too. As long as they don’t already know everything… 🙂
I would add that you remember to focus on the positives. When small victories are recognized they will turn into great accomplishments because they will become what team members want to have happen.
Thank you Greggory.
Spoken with true insight. I’m convinced that waiting to celebrate the big stuff means we don’t celebrate enough.
Very true, good point about needing to celebrate small achievements.
Memo to Leadership Freak…Excellent structure
Thanks for the memo, Sue.
Great post Dan
Thanks Marc for putting to paper a lot of my own rules for building and sustaining a team. The timing could now have been more perfect with where my company is now. Too often the initial steps of forming/ storming are in fact “short circuited”. Fast forwarding the beginning stages of the team will always water down their effectiveness in the end.
Thank you Thomas,
Love the expression, “fastforwarding” … it is tempting for sure. But it hobbles deep success.
Scott’s Thought for the Day –
ALL The above is quite Most Excellent.
Pay some attention to the, “My Team, My Team, My Team” aspect of getting teams started since they can and often do become competitive as opposed to collaborative as they get going. If you establish that competitive culture, it will work to motivate them INITIALLY.
But when you start needing InterDepartmental Collaboration and “The Collective” to make things happen, that culture will turn from hard fast road into mud.
Interdepartmental collaboration is not an oxymoron for nothing!
Collaboration is the key to Big Change and global improvements.
(Some other thoughts from a LinkedIn post of 5 minutes ago on strategy implementation that I thought somewhat relevant here:
“Robin Speculand has been researching, publishing and speaking on this issue for 10 years and has published two books. The issue is BIG and the resolutions are straightforward. Think what we used to do with implementing quality improvement and you will get a grasp on the main ideas…
He is about to publish the results of his 2012 survey of executives but here are the tidbits off the top:
90% of strategies fail to deliver even 50% of their objectives
70% of organization, who focused on execution, reported they were “performing better” than their peer group or that they had achieved “breakthrough results.” (Palladium)
Only 5% of employees have a basic understanding of the company strategy.
Only 2% are confident that they will achieve 80-100% of their strategy’s objectives.
70% of leaders spend less than one-day a month reviewing strategy.
MOST STRATEGY INITIATIVES FAIL. That is really bullet one. And the ones that are successful have a complete implementation strategy defined at the top and rolled out throughout the organization. The rollout involves indentifying the many various roadblocks, making the implementation a key objective, changing measurement and feedback systems, eliminating work that is not congruent (like the old way of doing things), and so forth.
A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world and the Square Wheels are really everywhere.
Oh, take 3 years to expect results and completion.
Teamwork is a critical part of so many organizational improvement initiatives. Use teams wisely. Focus on successes and collaborations.
And do all that stuff that Marc said!
Hope that helps.
I agree that “courage born in anger or fear is ugly” is true (and well phrased). I think it’s possible that this isn’t courage at all – it is some kind of reactive and strong dynamic more akin to aggression. As for tips for new teams — I agree that it’s important to pay storming the attention it’s due — which may be hard when fiscal deadlines or other arbitrarily imposed hard stops occur.
empowering new team members is critical. Making sure a new team member is excited about participating and not restricted by an impression that I’m too new to comment or evalute a process. The fresh vision can bring new perspective, as well as opportunities to integrate systems or procedures from previous job experiences.
I have played in this arena for a long time and will just anchor to the concept of “empowerment.” While the intent is good, it is impossible to actually accomplish, since no one can empower someone else. A more useful concept is dis-un-empowerment, since most people choose to be un-empowered and an effective team building leader can work to remove those things that individuals and groups allow to get in their way.
Some roadblocks are real and need the manager or his boss’ power to address. Some roadblocks are cross-functional in nature, like systems issues or other departmental requirements. But MOST seem to be more perceptual or cultural.
If people THINK they are roadblocked, they may find themselves to not understand what the high performers are already doing differently. Best practices are often not shared (intentionally or unintentionally) in many workplaces.
People are thus “choosing” not to act, they are acting “un-empowered,” and a team approach is a great way to move all people and most things forward. Dis-Un-Empowerment.
I looked up dis-unempowerment in the dictionary, it said, see Dr. Scott Simmerman! :0 Great word Scott and spot on about the illusion of empowerment.
perfect view! teamwork is not natural!
Ich kann mir vorstellen diesen Blog regelmäßig in Deutschland vorzustellen! Sehr gut!
Führung Ungewöhnlich geht global! Ein wirklich engagierten Leser
that’s exactly, what I mean 🙂
Regarding the forming/storming sequence, from a recent experience, the duration of those cycles can be significantly brief if:
*permutations of the team have worked together before (maturity?),
*charter is clear,
*there is a high degree of professionalism and focus,
*internal drive/motivation/passion engaged and aligned with charter,
*mutual respect is in place,
*urgency and enthusiasm are queued up,
*leadership can be both directive and let go.
It caught me off guard how quickly we transitioned through to performing. Sure there were some glitches and random rabbit holes that the group went down, but egos were checked at the door. That’s when it gets really fun!
Many executives report that it takes TWO YEARS to see people engaged and implementing change and that the Forming and Storming parts are never-ending. (I can believe that in some organizations!)
In delivering our flagship team building game (The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine), they pretty much have to all get on the same page within the 15 minute planning period. Bunches of decisions to make about risk, path, resources, roles and all that stuff. But they do it and quickly get productive.
Heck, I am a procrastinator like most everyone else. Give me two years and that is how long it will take me! Give me 15 minutes, and, well…
Marc’s post about specifics are key. Having a clear vision and alignment and knowing what is being measured all help generate that team alignment quickly.
Give ’em 15 minutes, I guess. (grin)
Nature (and man) abhors a vacuum! 😉
Short time frames and scarce resources do help to focus, just like being close to drowning makes one only think of getting to shore! It is also tiring and unsustainable for very long.
On a different note, one exception to the “forming, storming, norming, performing” team is to use highly trained individuals who share common goals, common body of knowledge, and common procedures. This happens in plane cockpits, operating rooms, and special forces squads. These are in essence pre-trained teams who can mix and match individuals to perform assigned tasks quite well.
I’m a newly appointed leader for a team. Disfunction is the name of their team game. The weight of solving this issue is on me and I need to find the tools to bring us all together. Thanks for this blog and todays post in particular.
I would suggest to focus more on impression management. New team should be cautious to the member who is more concerned about impression management. Such members infect other members and often remotely connected with the team goal. In fact, they are more concerned about their goals. So, observing and knowing the attitude of member is important.
Team forming exercise is more of a interest, attitude and mentality game. Organizational goal comes later while forming the team. Team member first collaborate, compete and conflict on attitude and mentality. So, it is important to understand the who the member is and what is his mentality than anything else.
Great post, Dan! My favorite point is about “impression management” and how it can get in the way past a certain point. We all want to make good impressions on our new team members, but when it gets in the way of effectively working with others or when we begin to manage others’ impressions of us by tearing down their impressions of others, the practice is incredibly destructive.
My biggest piece of advice for team-builders is to provide a safety net for potential leaders to fall into. Additionally, the leader must always take times out to evaluate individuals from an objective perspective rather than while he/she is directly involved in team management.
Very interesting and helpful. Working in a teamwork is challenging, especially personalities. I very much agree that the storming process is essential in effective teamwork and goal completion.
Going to stir the pot here. I have strangers form a strong team WITHOUT STORMING by taking the time to truly introduce themselves – what brought them to the table, not titles. Conflicts still happen, but the initial understanding and trust building makes it possible to resolve conflicts without bad feelings. I no longer believe it’s necessary to spend time storming.
Jane – Hard to avoid any of the storming since there are so many unknowns around acceptable levels of risk and all those other issues. Knowing names and frames is useful, but the groups still have to develop a sense of “Us” and that is often hard.
Nothing wrong with conflict, since it can also generate better ideas as well as stimulate different ways of looking at the issues and the opportunities. Creative solutions come from the edges, not the middle.
Hey, I LIKE a bit of chaos and confusion and ideation and table thumping and all that once in a while IF the group CAN come to some shared solution and energy.
As I said, Scott, conflicts still happen. I encourage conflict; it’s essential. And decisions are remain hard. What I’m saying is there are ways a great facilitator can effectively develop the “us” up-front, and I’ve learned from such facilitators how to sometimes do that too. So the conflicts focus on ideas and don’t become personal.
Thanks for so succinctly putting into words an explanation for what I’m currently going through with a newly formed team. It’s definitely easier to accept when these frustrations are normal and to-be-expected. I’m finding that, within the team itself, the rate of moving through the process differs for individuals and sub-teams.