In my previous article, we started to explore the center of my Leading Hybrid Teams model.
We looked at Bruce Tuckman’s stages of team development — Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing — and how it can be a useful diagnostic framework to overcome issues when integrating a hybrid team.
The following table summarizes the stages of the Tuckman framework.
|General Observations||Uncertainty about roles; looking outside for guidance.||Growing confidence in team; rejection of outside authority.||Concern about being different; wanting to be part of a team.||Concern with getting the job done.|
|Content Issues||The team makes some attempt to define the job to be done.||Members resist the task demands.||There is an open exchange of views about the team’s problems.||Resources are allocated efficiently; processes are in place to ensure that the final objective is achieved.|
|Process Issues||Team members look outside to managers for guidance and direction.||Team denies the task and looks for reasons not to do it.||The team starts to set up procedures to deal with the task.||The team is able to solve problems.|
|Feeling Issues||People feel anxious and are unsure of their roles.||People still feel uncertain and try to express their individuality. Concerns arise about team hierarchy.||People ignore individual differences and are more accepting of one another.||People share a common focus, communicate effectively, and become more efficient and flexible as a result.|
Source: Bruce Tuckman
We took a deep dive into the first two stages of Forming and Storming and in this article we take an in-depth look at the Norming and Performing stages.
This is the stage in which the teams are now getting to know each other well. They know they can ask for support at any time.
There is high trust and an environment of psychological safety. Team members are open to providing and receiving constructive feedback.
Conflict no longer dominates the team as it did in the Storming stage.
Team members have a good appreciation of one another’s differences in the team and the ability to leverage the varying skills and capabilities.
A stronger commitment and good progress toward team goals is developed.
When leading a hybrid team, it is even more important to keep a close eye on team dynamics, behaviors and interactions to ensure that the team does not slip back to earlier stages of development. It’s easier to sense and identify these shifts when leading a co-located team. The distribution of a team means closer attention is needed.
Here are the leader actions I recommend:
- Step back and help team members take responsibility for progress toward their goals.
- Shift from directing to facilitating and enabling.
- Encourage Norming by putting things in writing. Norms are not obvious unless they are documented and agreed upon.
- Undertake behavior and conflict profiling.
- Document team members’ preferences.
- Document team agreements on behavior so that conflict is reinforced as necessary and based on role rather than personality. (See example below.)
- Help team members have productive and candid conversations by reviewing one another’s profiles.
- Talk about the norms so that everyone knows what they are doing and how things work in the team.
- Put in place methods to surface buried conflict.
- Utilize many team-building activities that meet the needs of the team.
- Keep a close eye on team dynamics, behaviors and interactions to avoid slipping back to Storming or Forming stages.
Here’s an example of a team agreement for handling conflict:
- Regard conflict as normal and an opportunity for learning and growth.
- Encourage and surface constructive conflict.
- Listen openly to other points of view.
- Listen with empathy.
- Understand the other person’s interests and desires before forming answers and solutions.
- Acknowledge valid points.
- State our point of view in a nonjudgmental and nonattacking manner.
- Not get personal.
- Repeat back what we have heard to validate our understanding.
- Always seek to find some common ground for agreement.
Surfacing conflict approach
A team member can take on the role of gently unearthing buried conflict through intentional questioning. This may be the leader, one elected team member or a rotating role.
This challenges artificial harmony most directly, encouraging team members to voice and address objections. If done effectively, this drastically reduces the likelihood of teammates’ leaving meetings without feeling a commitment to the conclusion.
This does require a strong base of trust in the team.
The leader or elected team member should regularly remind everyone that healthy conflict is important, necessary and valuable even if it can make some people feel uncomfortable and call for difficult conversations.
This reminds everyone that they are one team and that we engage in constructive conflict to reach the best outcome for everyone.
When teams reach this stage, they have a high level of autonomy. Disagreements and conflicts still occur, but they are resolved with trust and positivity.
Team members support and look after each other. Roles and responsibilities are well-defined and understood.
Structures, processes and ways of working are embedded into business as usual.
The team is able to deal with complexity and ambiguity and remain a high-performing team.
- Delegate as much as you can.
- Keep a close watch to avoid the team slipping back into earlier stages.
- Maintain the team’s focus and morale to keep them in this stage.
- Keep collecting feedback about what is and isn’t working in the hybrid team and take action accordingly.
The Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing model for team development is just as relevant for remote and hybrid teams as it is for co-located teams.
Leaders who are aware of the stages of development and how that will play out in a hybrid environment and what their actions need to be will be much better placed to build a high-performing hybrid team.
In my next article, we will explore the top of the model as we look at setting objectives and measuring performance.
Karen Ferris is an organizational change-management consultant based in Melbourne, Australia. Her opinions are her own.