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Finding and hiring the right talent your business needs to thrive in this fast-paced technology market has always been a challenge for partners. A large part of that challenge is in finding the right people for the right team. A company thrives on their ability to build strong teams, but as many managers will tell you, it’s not just about the individual personalities and skills of the team members that will drive a team to succeed. It’s infinitely more complex than that.
Dr. Bruce Tuckman, a prominent researcher on the theory of group dynamics, documented this complexity back in 1965. His often-quoted model of group development still holds valuable lessons for today’s growing partner community. What was true about teams back then is still true today. Here is a brief look at Tuckman’s 4 steps of team development and some tips on how you can support your teams through each of these phases of growth.

Step 1: Forming

Tuckman describes this first phase of group development as the point where “groups initially concern themselves with orientation accomplished primarily through testing.” These testing behaviors help individuals define roles, mark boundaries, and understand tasks and their interpersonal relationships. Most team members are positive and polite, some are anxious while others are excited. This is a time when a team is getting oriented and needs to figure out where each member fits into the larger structure of the group.
As a business leader, you can help your team members in this stage by coordinating, picking the team purposefully, facilitating, and encouraging them to get to know each other better. Make introductions, offer team building activities, or just take time to listen to concerns and providing clarity about roles and responsibilities.

Step 2: Storming

The second phase refers to a period of potential conflict and polarization, often based on interpersonal issues and emotional responses relating to tasks and responsibilities. People start to push against the boundaries established in the forming stage. This can be a disruptive time in your team’s development but keep in mind that it’s just a phase and a natural part of a group’s growth.
To keep your team on track, provide support as needed and focus on clearly communicating your goals for the group. Identifying areas of unnecessary conflict can help ease the transition into the next stage, norming.

Step 3: Norming

“Resolved disagreements and personality clashes result in greater intimacy, and a spirit of co-operation emerges.”

-Dr. Bruce Tuckman, author of Developmental Sequence in Small Groups

Once the rocky period of resistance is passed, a feeling of cohesiveness develops within a group. In this stage of normalization, new standards evolve and new roles are adopted. Team members become better able to express their opinions in a collaborative and productive way, and tasks are generally accomplished with minimal struggle. This is a time when individuals are able to get comfortable in their roles and gain confidence in their ability to work together.
Keep in mind that there is often an extended overlap between the storming and norming phases because as new tasks are assigned, a team can drift back into behavior from the storming stage until the dust settles.

Step 4: Performing

Lastly, Tuckman describes the “performing” stage of group development, in which roles become more flexible and functional for the overall good of the team. Group energy is fully channeled into accomplishing the tasks set before them and all structural issues have been resolved in support of overall performance.
This is a time when leaders can feel more comfortable in delegating their work and concentrate on innovation and growing the overall business.

What’s next for your team?

Tuckman’s original model was eventually expanded to include a fifth step, “adjourning”, which addresses the termination of roles, the completion of tasks, and overall reduction of dependency. This stage is also considered to be one of mourning, as the feeling of loss is often felt by participants. But the important thing to remember is that as one team dissolves, it makes room for new group dynamics, new goals, and new opportunities.

It’s important to recognize where in this series of developmental stages your team currently exists, because that knowledge can highlight specific challenges and provide better understanding of issues as they occur. And when you can understand your team better, you can help drive success.

Share your tips for building a cohesive team with the Microsoft Partner Community here.

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