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The Four Stages of Team Development and the Role of the New Supervisor

The Four Stages of Team Development and the Role of the New SupervisorThe first four stages of the team development model was proposed and developed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965.

Every team – workgroup, project team, department, etc. – goes through the four stages of team development; there are no exceptions.

What’s important for the new supervisor is to understand the four stages and how to manage his team through the stages so that they can work more effectively as a team sooner rather than later, thereby making progress on the assignments and tasks associated achieving the goals of the department and the organization.

In this article, we’ll focus on the role of a new supervisor taking on the responsibilities of managing a new team. For the purposes of our article, we’ll assume the supervisor and each of his staff members – the team – are all new to working together. We’ll discuss the role of the supervisor in each stage, as well as explore each stage in more detail:

Forming: In this stage the team members are testing each other, as well as testing out the supervisor and exploring where they fit in to the group. Team members are worried about how they fit in with the others and how their capabilities and skills compare. They are looking to the supervisor for clarity and direction and roles and responsibilities for the team members and how they will function as a team.

Your role as the supervisor: Be very clear about the team’s goals and alignment of those goals to the department, division or organizational goals. Ensure understanding around roles and responsibilities of each team member and expectations around collaborating to accomplish assignments and tasks. The supervisor must work with the team to establish team norms for working together.

Storming: In the Storming stage, there are struggles for power and to determine how the team will work together – individuals try to take more control and be seen as leaders. In this stage, differences of opinion are common and the team is trying to determine how to work together effectively, what the rules are and how to resolve differences. The team competes for their ideas to be heard and implemented.

Your role as the supervisor:  Help your team to get through this stage by ensuring they listen to each other, understand each other’s point of view and respect their differences. Communicate that the differences among team members is what makes them a good team. They all bring a unique perspective to the group and all will have ideas to share. Facilitate conversations in meetings to keep the team moving in the right direction.

Norming: The individuals are beginning to see how they come together as a team, how to work together effectively and have set rules and group norms to work by. They have learned how to resolve their differences of opinion and are becoming much more comfortable with each other, trusting each other to get the job done. Roles and responsibilities are clear and they understand how they need to interact and collaborate with each other.

Your role as the supervisor: When your team is in the norming stage, you should be less involved in every day decision making and problem solving since the team members are working well together and take on responsibility in these areas. The supervisor of the group needs to continue to ensure the team resolves conflicts quickly and continues to work collaboratively; stepping in as needed to ensure the team keeps moving in the right direction.

Performing: The team is performing consistently at a high level. They are focused on reaching the goals assigned. The individual does not exist, the team members are interdependent. They can solve problems on their own and do not rely on the supervisor for day-to-day oversight of the group. This is a great place for the team to be and is not easy to achieve.

Your role as the supervisor: The supervisor serves as a gateway between their team and the rest of the organization, in particular senior leadership. The supervisor helps to get decisions made when a decision needs to be made at a higher level within the organization.

Your ability as a supervisor to facilitate your team through the stages ensures that you have a high performing team as quickly as possible to meet the objectives outlined for your group. As a supervisor, you must learn to guide your team effectively – providing strong guidance and direction early on and letting the team solve their own problems and resolve differences as they move through the stages.