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New Faces

As staff members come and go it can be tough for new teams to adjust to working together. This is where managers can have a real impact on performance and morale, says Tomorrow’s Care regular columnist, Wendy Smith.

Bruce Tuckman is best known for a short article written in 1965. If you are a manager, you’ve probably heard of his theory. He wrote about Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. Later he added a fifth stage which dealt with how groups beak up: Adjourning.

If you understand how groups develop, you can improve team performance. Though some stages can be challenging, a skilled manager can see what is happening and help progress along. Here, I’m going to discuss how you can lead your team through the stages to help it perform at its best.

Forming When a team first comes together people are cautious. They want to get to know each other but they might be a bit anxious. Generally, they are polite if a bit reserved. They need to sort out how they are going to work together. Everyone wants to be clear on what they are being asked to do. You need to provide a safe environment and set goals for them. Let them have time to get to know each other. However, if they are not moving on, you need to take action. Listen to their points of view and involve them. Support anyone who seems anxious.

Storming Your team will be organised and moving forward. They will feel they no longer need to be careful with each other. They start to debate how they work together. Differences of

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opinion can lead to conflict. People jockey for position and cliques may form. They may even begin to challenge you as team leader.

The team needs to focus on its goals to avoid becoming distracted by relationship issues. Remind them of the benefits of what they are doing. There needs to be lots of communication. If all is going well the team will move quickly through this stage. If they don’t, at least make sure everyone treats each other with respect. Don’t suppress all discussion. That can lead to stagnation and the team could never learn to work well together. Planning social events can help them to see each other in a more rounded way.

Norming By this stage the team will have resolved their conflicts. People will be less defensive and more willing to be flexible. Trust builds and information flows. Commitment and unity are strong. Now it is up to you to facilitate and enable. Congratulate people when they listen to each other and work cooperatively.

The main danger is that people become committed to the team as it is and change is resisted. Encourage them to try out new ideas to develop their confidence. Be a cheerleader! Encourage them to recognize the good work they are doing.

Performing Not all teams are able to reach this stage. But, if they do, they

ensure work is carried out to a high standard and problems are seen as opportunities. As a manager, you monitor progress and celebrate achievements; this helps maintain morale and performance.

The group could revert back to an earlier stage, for example, if someone leaves or one of the existing members doesn’t perform well. If this happens, you need to become more actively engaged again. This could mean more close supervision and encouraging them to have confidence to go back to trying out new ideas and working independently.

Adjourning Often teams come together to complete a task which comes to an end. Members move on to new things. The break-up can be hard for members who have come to enjoy being part of the team. It is important to celebrate achievements. Some group members may need particular support in moving forward. It can be a stressful period.

Encourage honesty and sharing the lessons learned by the group during its lifetime. Keep the members’ trust. A positive outcome for you would be to lead them to acknowledge the task is complete, accepting the best and worst of the process. Then it’s time for everyone to let go and say goodbye. @WWisewolf

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