I often write about the stages of team development (Forming, Storming, Norming, & Performing). We should be aware when we go through each stage, and help guide our project teams through them, as well.
But what about people outside our project?
These people may not be on any formal team. Why would team development be relevant to them?
First, everyone is on a team of some sort. Think about it: A Manager has direct reports. An Individual Contributor supplies information to the team. And if you’re a Remote Worker, you may not bump into anyone in the hallway but you’re still part of the group.
Here are more. What if you all have the same objectives? That’s a team. Presenting together at a conference? Team. You get the picture. If we need to relate to someone else on a regular basis, it’s a team.
They could also be new. New to the company, their position, or department. Something in the status quo of their work-life has changed and it causes a start back at Forming.
You know the signs in yourself and in your project team. Here’s how they show up in others:
- Forming: Lots of basic questions. Oriented towards “getting to know you,” what is happening, expectations, what’s typical, etc.
- Storming: The questions become pokes. More “Why are you doing it that way?” and questioning decisions already made. Re-evaluating, re-vamping, re-doing.
- Norming: They start asking the “good questions” and know where poking won’t be productive.
- Performing: You feel comfortable going to them with questions and for their opinion.
So what? Now that we can spot these individuals, we can help them get to Performing with as little Storming as possible.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Let the questions come. You’ve been in their position. Sometimes you need to ask the question two or three times until it sinks in. And one question leads to another.
- Keep your cool when the pokes become a bit sharp. It doesn’t mean you need to cave. Think about whether you had the same questions. How did you resolve them?
- Take the suggestions seriously. Remember, they have a unique perspective. You may have spent countless hours wrestling with an issue and feel you’ve covered every possible outcome, but it’s all brand new to them.
- Encourage their discovery, however it happens. I was recently in a session with someone who was literally re-doing the work I’d just gone through. But before stopping them and pulling out my own document, I suggested we move forward with their new doc and I’d answer questions as they put the pieces together.
I had to step back and let them take that journey. But my experience helped them get to the finish line faster. And, as we all know, figuring something out yourself helps it “stick,” and gives someone ownership of the solution.
Helping others move through their own Team Development benefits them, certainly. But it also helps you in three ways.
First, you’ve just racked up a ton of good will! Everyone appreciates help when they’re struggling to understand and get up to speed. That time and effort spent will come back to you!
Next, no matter what type of team you’re both on, that individual was selected for a reason. The faster they ramp up, the more efficient you all can be, and the sooner they will start contributing from their unique perspective.
Finally, if you help focus their questions and pokes on you, the less time they’ll spend slowing down other people who may not be as prepared. Not everyone understands Storming—it can be tough when someone questions your decisions and processes!
So for the next two weeks, pay attention to the signs of Team Development outside of your project. Ask yourself if you can lend a hand in bringing them along faster. And then do it. Watch what happens!