So you’re forming a team? My job is completely new and I’m recruiting into a team now. This is a great opportunity and I relish the challenge!
When I started thinking about team building the first thing I did was to imagine what the team would be like. I see a highly successful team with the right skills, abilities and attitudes. A team with a flat structure; one that aids communication and encourages innovation. But how do I realise this vision?
Straight away I thought of Tuckman‘s model for small group development: Forming, storming, norming and performing. Clearly my focus is on forming. But what does this mean? The advice is quite clear for this first stage of team building.
Forming a Team
Goodwill may exist but trust is likely to be low. There is little agreement on team aims. Roles and responsibilities are unclear and team members behave independently. Consequently, there is high dependence on the team leader for guidance and direction.
Accordingly, the leader should be ready to answer lots of questions about the team’s purpose, aims and relationships with key stakeholders.
What does this mean in practice? Well here’s what I’m doing. As ever, in five steps!
The way in which the team operates is very important to me. How will people behave? What is the culture of the team?To be effective, everyone needs to be clear about the way they work together. The team needs a common identity: to share the same values, goals and objectives.Ground rules provide guidance for specific behaviours and expectations. However, to make sure they are followed they should be prepared and agreed by the team. Therefore, I believe that a team charter should be drawn up when the team is first formed. This will help everyone to focus on the right things from the start.
Roles and Responsibilities
Once the ground rules are agreed the team should begin to define roles and responsibilities. How will the team work together? How are different personality types accommodated?
I am accountable for bringing people with the right skills and experience to the team. However, it won’t be until the team first meets that I get a real insight into how well members will work together. This is the time to match people to roles and identify gaps within the team.
At this early stage, the team can define the various duties and outcomes and agree responsibility for them. What’s more, it is the first chance to identify strengths and weaknesses within the team.
Decision making is an important element of team work. How are decisions made? Who has the last say? What can be done without prior approval? How is conflict resolved?
I believe that participation—employee involvement—leads to a more effective team. And team members need to understand what authority they have in the decision making process.
For instance, in what circumstances do I set constraints and delegate decisions to the team? And, in contrast, when is a directive approach appropriate? Clarity about decision making strengthens the team because people are more likely to be committed to carrying out decisions.
The team plan achieves two things:
- It outlines the team vision, mission and service objectives including performance measures
- It identifies service-led development activities that will be completed during the life of the plan
Preparing a mission statement is a great way to engage the new team and reach consensus about the team’s purpose. It will encourage answers to many questions. For instance, what value will the team provide for the organisation? How will we measure success? What will we do differently?
At this early stage in team development I believe it is necessary to set objectives that are measurable and capable of demonstrating that the team is making good progress. Once again, agreement and commitment is more likely if the team decides on its priorities and then delivers on them.
Forming a team is largely about directing the team to establish clear objectives. This stage is best achieved with a high level of team involvement since it leads to strong, well supported decisions.
With strong foundations the team can begin to move from forming to storming: establishing processes and structure. Delegating specific tasks–from the service plan–empowers team members and prepares them for the reality of delivering a service.
Forming a team never happens by accident.
Have Your Say
What advice would you give to someone forming a team? Please join the discussion.