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Does Team Work Come Naturally to People?

Does Team Work Come Naturally to People?

Most of us work with others either by partnering across functions as we perform our roles, or sometimes workplace teamsparticipating as members of teams. And, we do it without benefit of training. Does teamwork come naturally to us? Or is training essential to build high performance in teams?

Bruce Tuckman, famous for his studies on group dynamics that culminated in the 4-stage model of team development introduced in the 1960s, believed that teams with education on teamwork and team development would far more quickly progress to achieve higher performance than those without training. What do you think?

Tuckman’s four stages of team development include the following:

  • Fteamworkorming – the polite, handshake stage when people initially come together as a group. In this stage we gently test the boundaries for roles and behavior by trial and error. We’re dependent on the team leader for direction and guidance. We’re just getting to know each other.
  • Storming – once we begin to do work together, we experience disruption as conflicts arise. We have emotional reactions to one another’s behaviors, we disagree on who does what, and we have differences as to how things should be done. We are dissatisfied with our fit as team members. Some groups get stuck in Storming and fail to reach their potential or even to achieve the team goals.
  • Norming – this is the stage in which team members work through conflict. Norming requires listening, negotiating and problem-solving skills, and an open mind to find mutually agreeable solutions.
  • Performing – once the group develops momentum through Norming, they can Perform. Performing is a milestone, a point at which a group has become a team. Team members focus on achieving the goal together.

While Tuckman’s four stages appear at first to be linear, we have discovered that they are experienced iteratively. For example when a team member leaves the group or when someone new joins the team, the team needs to repeat forming, storming and norming to get back to performing.

Knowing about these stages is important, but is it enough to ensure high performance? Experience has shown that there are 7 key behaviors for excellent teamwork:

  1. Build relationships. A team member who doesn’t take the time to connect well with others will fail. Invest time getting to know them, listening, eating with them. Learn what matters to them.
  2. Trust and be trusted. Never participate in gossip. Trust must be earned through honesty, integrity, dependability, and genuinely caring about people.
  3. Do your very best every day. Take responsibility for continuously learning and improving your knowledge and skills. Enable people to count on this.
  4. Use your strengths to contribute to the team effort and to help team members.
  5. Affect the team climate by bringing passion, joy and energy to the team. Make your interactions positive by giving genuine praise, encouragement, respectfulness and smiling. This contributes to the mood, morale and performance of those who work with you. Remember that negativity is toxic.
  6. Put the team first; work hard, serve the team, and give credit to the team.
  7. Hold yourself and others accountable, respectfully.

In 1977, Tuckman added a fifth stage: Adjournment. We know well the loss we can experience when a close knit team breaks up due to the end of the project or unexpectedly. Athletic teams lose players each season, military platoons and units suffer casualties and eventually return home. Teams are uniquely different from groups, due to the interdependence members have on one another in order for the team to succeed; team members also build closer bonds and deeper concern for one another’s well-being and success than we find in groups. Losing this is painful. When have you experienced this kind of loss?

As we reflect on these thoughts, new questions arise. One such question is this: How can we as team members and team leaders better enable people to build great teamwork? Please share your knowledge, ideas and experience.

About Rosanna Nadeau, SPHR

Rosanna Nadeau is the Principal/Consultant with Prism Perspectives Group, LLC. Focusing on improving organization performance, PPG delivers results through uncommon tools and consulting approaches, as a partner with leaders from initial consultation through solution implementation and measurement. PPG provides employee and management development programs (see TrainingForImpact.com) and H.R. Management services (see HRBoutique.net). To receive the free monthly newsletter or obtain more information visit www.PrismPerspectivesGroup.com or send email to Rosanna@PrismPerspectivesGroup.com.