When I worked in corporate America, I went through “management” training – basically a set of routine workshops and online courses. Pretty helpful stuff when you’re learning how to impart your marketing wisdom on over 200 hourly employees every day. Surprisingly, those seemingly trite bits of management training are even more helpful now as a small business owner – like the stages of team development.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t go through management training before we become bosses at our businesses. Most of us didn’t go business school and we certainly don’t have human resources certificates. Maybe I can help you with this small nugget. What I want to share with you all today is a piece of corporate management training that is bringing me incredible insight as my team goes through a large transformation.
There are five stages of group development. If you work hard at it, and with a bit of luck, retaining your employees will allow you to stay in the performance end of the cycle. Struggle to keep your employees happy and engaged could mean constant turnover. For a small business, not only is that expensive, but it’s taxing on the team. Here are the five stages of group development and how they affect small businesses:
Stages of Team Development
New team members who are not used to working with one another will hang out in the “forming” stage. During the forming stage, a lot of direction and management from the supervisor is required to complete tasks. There’s more time spent in discussing how to go about doing something. People usually remain polite during this phase.
This stage always occurs when new employees are introduced into the mix. Because this stage requires more time from the small business owner to manage the new employee, train, and set expectations, it can take the focus away from big picture work. To have a small business team constantly in formation – like in the case of fast-growing start-ups – it can be exciting but expect production to suffer.
Ah storming . . . a high level of stress occurs during this period, but it’s an essential part of the team figuring out the roles and rules. This is the stage where your team is questioning why things are done a certain way. During this phase, team members might complain about one another and who’s job is who’s. It can come off chaotic without the right leadership.
In small businesses, teams can get stuck here. And it’s no one’s fault but yours – the leader. In order for teams to progress to the next stage, they have to be empowered to problem solve. If they feel like their hands are tied or they don’t have permission to make things different, then they’ll continue to fumble around in this stage and eventually leave. No one wants to work in an environment like this. This will force you to cycle back and forth between the first two stages and never progress. This means less productivity in your business, less profit, and more headaches.
This is where the fun begins and creativity is at its highest. During the norming stage, team members have a high appreciation for one another’s contributions. They openly ask for feedback from one another in order to deliver a better quality product. If there was a great deal of tension brought on by Storming, these start to go away and interpersonal relationships within a group get stronger.
Change is really hard when your group hits the norming stage. Everyone feels great and doesn’t want the organization, goals or focus of the team to change. A majority of high-performing teams at small businesses live here in the norming stage. Employees that have been with a company for years will have a very difficult time if there’s a shift in the business.
Your job, as a leader, is to help everyone feel like they have ownership. This will help your team move into the next stage of team development.
At this stage, loyalty and trust are at its highest and productivity soars. This is because your team is so self-assured independently and they trust one another completely that change or new projects won’t throw them off their game. Each team member understands the value they contribute, each of them has ownership over their contribution, and they know and trust the others in the group that they can easily navigate through tough situations.
The best part of this phase is the not-so-tough situations because highly productive. You can achieve the highest level of customer satisfaction at this stage. You can save your company large amounts of money through time-savings and by having a team that makes themselves more efficient.
The final stage is the separation or breakup of a group. This can happen when there’s reorganization or when key-team members leave. This interruption to a group dynamic will throw your team back through the development cycles all over again.
Your job, as the bad ass business leader you are, is to recognize that the cycle exists and to facilitate the group’s progression through each stage. Your goal should be to minimize interruptions to your team’s development and to help them reach performance level.