A Look At the Forming Phase of Tuckman’s Tool of Team Development

We’ve all heard about the value of first impressions. They often set the stage for the life of a relationship.

I think as we look at Tuckman’s Model for Team Development, in which Bruce Tuckman, an educational psychologist outlines the different phases groups go through to grow as a team, it shows the value of first impressions for teams as well.

The model initially consisted of four stages of group formation: forming, storming, norming and performing. Later, a fifth stage was added, called adjourning.

Though Tuckman developed this model in 1965 based on his observations of group behavior in different settings, in today’s environment of mergers, changing roles and careers, mastering this process is more important now than ever.

The first phase, known as the forming phase of team development, is where those first impressions come in. It’s where expectations are set and roles are determined. So it’s important for both team leaders and team members to be very aware of the dynamics during this phase of team development.

What happens during the Forming Phase

This is the time when the team is being formed. This can be a new team, it can be a merger, the addition of a team member or it can be a new task for a team.

During this time everyone is on their best behavior and getting to know each other, welcoming and polite but yet distant.

Some team members are anxious because they don’t yet understand the work ahead and their role in it. Other team members are excited about the project ahead.

How the team leader can maximise team performance during the Forming Phase of Team Development

The members of the team focus on you as the leader, accepting your guidance and authority. This can be a very positive thing because it allows you to be in control of the team dynamic to some degree. But it also puts a lot of responsibility on you as the leader to get the team started on the right foot.

  • The leader should be open with information and ready to answer questions.
  • Realise that each person and each personality style will approach the new team dynamics differently. Boundaries, strengths, and weaknesses will be tested, including those of the leader.
  • Make sure expectations and job descriptions are clearly laid out and define a reward structure.
  • As the leader, you should model the behaviour you would like to see the team exhibit. Be directive and assert your position.
  • Bring the team together on a regular basis to work on joint projects and thus get to know each other better.

There is likely to be some baggage regarding the way people have been treated in the past, which might result in some clinging to the old ways if their experience was positive, or suspicion and apathy if their experience was negative.

The key benefits of a personality assessment for teams

You can have each of your team members take an online Personality Profile for Teams and understand:

  • What motivates them
  • Their communication strengths and things they may need to work on as well as a game plan to communicate with them.
  • The type of team player they are (an executor, theorist, analyser, strategist or manager). This helps you define roles and responsibilities and can help when it’s time to add someone to the team.
  • Their strengths
  • An action plan to help them improve interpersonal skills

For instance, during the Forming Phase, a D Personality Style will need clearly laid out goals and benchmarks to define success.

An I Personality Style will need to feel connected to the group in order to excel.

An S Personality Style will be motivated by understanding who and how this helps others.

A C Personality Style will not thrive unless they fully understand the goal and the process to achieve it.

As the leader, you can assign a high D personality a leadership role while you make sure that your high I personality styles have team events and opportunities to get to know each other. For high S personalities you can show them that they can trust you. And for high C personalities, you can give them your full plan to motivate them.

For more on the personality styles and to get started with the Teams Report, click here.

Personality Assessment for Teams

How individual team members can maximise team performance during the Forming Phase

The best things each individual team member can do during this phase are to:

  • Listen and empathise with other team members. Get to know them and understand their strengths, what motivates them and what may trigger negative responses. While you may not be privy to each team members’ full personality report, you can glean certain things about them by looking at their surroundings and watching how they react to others and to situations. Find out more here.
  • Learn as much as you can about the project and the team’s responsibilities.
  • Keep an open mind.

The next phase of team development is the Storming Phase. This phase can be uncomfortable and can even cause a team to fail. But a team has to go through each phase to achieve maximum performance.

To find out more about Tuckman’s Tool and the 5 Phases of Team Development, download my free whitepaper: Developing and Growing a Team for Optimal Performance.

Team Building White Paper