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To read the first piece in this two-part series the importance of teamwork and learn about the first two stages of group development, click here.

 Once you navigate through the forming and storming stages, you finally arrive at a place of acceptance.

The third phase, norming, is when we mutually understand and accept our differences. We recognise the importance of working as a team. This is when team members start to resolve their differences, appreciate each other’s strengths and respect your authority as a leader.

In this phase, there is a consensus among the team. There is clarity in roles and responsibilities. When it comes to making decisions, it is a group agreement because there is general respect for the leaders and the team.

In many cases, the norming phase can also be called the comfort zone. Here, some teams get comfortable and never move to performing. This happens because everyone knows everyone and they don’t have to go the extra mile or go out of their way to stretch themselves. Quite often, you even hear comments like, ‘why change something that isn’t broken?’ In this situation, as a leader, it is important to motivate and empower the team to pursue continuous improvement and growth.

They are at the stage where they are collaborating. They are helping each other. They may even have a social life where they are going out to dinners, events or working on projects together.

All members of the team are heading in the same direction. They have each other’s back. They give each other feedback. As a result, they have developed a stronger commitment to the team goal, and you start to see good progress towards it.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

Then they reach the final phase – performing. In this phase, team members are always looking at ways of stretching their abilities. There is a high level of accountability and responsibility. There is no blame game, no room for excuses and role modelling.

In the performing phase, the teams are more strategic in their approach. They have a shared vision and are able to stand on their own two feet without assistance from their team lead. The team has a high degree of autonomy. They are confident enough to challenge the status quo if they think there is a better way of working through a project.

Here, you can really see team members caring for one another. There is a strong sense of compassion, respect and real heart-to-heart connection. In addition, they are comfortable to speak openly if they require assistance or any form of help for them to achieve their goals.

They feel safe to make mistakes, to be authentic and to speak their mind. This is where they become really good at delegating because for them it’s all about achieving the end in mind … together.

When the team gets to this phase they feel a level of ease, peace and a sense of being at home.

The role of the leader in group development

As a leader, it is essential to understand all four stages of group development. Your team is relying on you to guide them from one phase to another. With your dedication and contribution, any one of your teams can successfully reach the final stage and achieve high performance within the organisation.

At the same time, the concept also applies to leaders themselves. Understanding it will enable you to identify where you sit in these four phases and what you have to do in order to support your team. Moreover, it will give you insight into your leadership style and your own areas of improvement.

When moving through the phases, make time for team and self-evaluation by reflecting on questions like:

  • Am I providing a new team member with the support and guidance they need in the forming stage?
  • Am I actively listening and thoroughly responding to questions a new team member asks to get accommodated with their new environment?
  • Am I giving them enough space to learn and improve?
  • Have I done my part in establishing mutual expectations in terms of my team’s process and desired results?
  • How am I assisting my team in navigating through conflict in the storming stage?
  • What am I doing to promote the mutual acceptance of differences within my team?
  • How can I clear up any confusion that arises during the storming phase?
  • What can I do to prevent my team from staying in their comfort zone without pushing their boundaries?
  • How can I promote compassion and flexibility among team members?
  • Once my team has attained high performance, what can I do to inspire constant improvement?

 Only when we learn to respect our boundaries, accept our differences and move forward by working together will we achieve the teamwork that makes the dream work. And as a leader, it is your duty to facilitate the process with empathy, guidance and empowerment.