Your Winning Team

The four phases of team development – forming, storming, norming and performing are familiar to most of us.

There are some significant leadership issues at each stage of a team’s journey but there is a danger that in our multi-tasking, always-connected world, these are overlooked.


Forming The first step, the team needs to form and what is important here are boundaries and a sense of identity: who is in team and why the team exists. A sense of belonging is crucial. This is not the place for the leader to be too task-focused or anxious about outcomes, although it has been shown that a reasonable amount of structure and a clear set of ground rules are helpful. People don’t arrive in teams as blank canvasses either. They have expectations and pre-conceptions. Working on relationships at this point is important – perhaps even more important than the team’s goal.

Storming This does not imply falling out – despite the dramatic title. It does involve exploration and often challenge though, and this is about the relationship between the leader and the other team members. A seasoned team leader should welcome this. This is no place for a leader to lack confidence and try and suppress dissent. A bit of conflict is healthy and people’s feedback is important. Again, this is not the time to crack the task whip: doing so runs the risk of creating a sub-optimal team in which conflicts are not talked about but issues simmer under the surface.

Norming The team starts to really perform. Some call this an operative phase. A leader needs a bit of flexibility and should be able to allow team members the space to build confidence in their abilities and roles. The focus should shift to outcomes and there needs to be explicit recognition of achievement. There’s also an important distinction between norms and rules. A rigid mindset displayed by the leader can destroy creativity and suppress discretionary effort. This is the point where the leader can make a stand for something personally. Where there is a place to talk about leadership values, this is when it lands best.

Performing The last phase for a leader is about letting go. This is the point where the team is working well. It’s now more about stepping back and letting people get on with the tasks in hand. There still need to be boundaries but it’s possible that the leadership slot could be vacated so that someone else can have a go. A relaxed leadership style is welcomed at this stage and here, more than anywhere, is time to have some fun!

We help leading organisations develop highly performing teams.  If you’d like to know how we can help yours, please get in touch.

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