We can see the light at the end of the tunnel of a post-Covid world, so we need to get ready for yet another society shift. It may not totally revert back to normal, but a shift is going to happen. People who were allowed to work from home will be requested back into the office which can make them happy or sad. Happy to be able to leave the disturbances at home and take a work break - but they will still have to deal with that pet that is now sulking due to lack of constant attention. Cranky kids that no longer are nourished on demand, and of course back into that dreaded routine of commuting to your work environment. Even those that have sustain a routine during the pandemic will be victims of others that adjust to a new routine which will mean they also will have to adjust.
We in essence will be building a new team. Indeed, they may have remained connected via Zoom calls, but that close physical interactions have evaporated. You just cannot select “mute” when inside an active work environment (although perhaps mentally). People are social animals by nature and we need to congregate to chat, discuss, debate, reflect, brainstorm and just be part of a group or team.
As the discussion is started through the media and hope enters our minds of a blissful summer this is a good time to reflect on the various stages of Team development. As you see them occur you do not over-react in a negative manner and understand it is just a normal evolution. Even if they have worked together in the past the gap in time will create an aura of newness.
The forming stage is the first stage of group development and is a similar experience to your first day on a new job or at a new school. In this phase, most group members are overly polite and are still extremely excited about what their future may hold. Since the group dynamics and team roles aren’t yet established, a team leader will emerge or the team leader designated will often take charge to direct the individual members. During the forming phase it is typical for team members to discuss team goals, ground rules, and individual roles. This could even be adhoc rules not defined by the organization but since this stage of development prioritizes people over the actual work. It’s unlikely the team will be high-performing at this time.
Visually you can equate this to a dance couple meeting for the first dance … it will look clumsy. The partners may be shy about where to place their appendages but the desire to dance will be there - they just may not listen to the music to closely.
The storming phase is like when you reach that point with a new roommate where you begin to notice their small idiosyncrasies that get on your nerves. For teams, the conflict often arises due to clashing working styles between team members. Some people may start to even doubt the team’s goals discussed in the earlier stage and will stop performing their necessary jobs altogether. This has a negative and stressful effect on those who keep up the hard work since the pre-established group processes no longer function smoothly. Some project teams think they can skip this stage, but it’s better to acknowledge conflicts now and work them out rather than avoiding them until they explode.
Back to our dance partners. During this phase will be the discussion or the struggle of who will be the lead and what tempo that will embrace with the music. During this phase is where you see the team attempt to align their individual cadence (pace) to become more synchronize with their partner. They are starting to acknowledge the sound of the music.
This is when the team moves past their previous quarrels and begins to recognize and value their teammates’ strengths. During this stage, team members increasingly respect those who are in leadership roles. Now that everyone has begun to bond and familiarize themselves with the team processes, teammates feel comfortable giving each other constructive feedback as they work toward accomplishing new tasks. Since these new tasks often come with a high degree of difficulty, it is not uncommon for groups to regress back into the storming phase. Even if a group slides back into old behavior, members’ new decision-making skills will make conflicts easier to resolve than they were during the initial storming phase.
At this point our dance couple have become familiar with each other’s dance moves and capabilities and the effect of the music is starting to become visible in their dance routine. The muscle memory has started to develop.
The performing phase is the happiest of all the stages of development. In this stage, your team performance is at an all-time high. This high-performance level means all team members are self-reliant and confident enough in their own problem-solving skills that they can function without oversight from the leaders. Everyone is working like a well-oiled machine, free of conflict and moving in sync toward the same end goal.
Our dance couple are flowing around the dance floor completely in sync not only with each other but also following the rhythm of the music. They gaze into each other’s eyes and just know what move to anticipate next. No words are spoken and the dance looks like poetry in motion.
Other Stuff to Remember
As your team evolves through the stages understand that if a team member is either added or removed even for a short period the team will need to migrate through the development stages. This is why it is a bad option should you have surplus people to just add them to another team - most likely your productivity will decline.
Team Development evolution has no time phase. Some teams evolve quickly (within minutes) others can take much longer (weeks or months) but ALL teams will go through these evolutionary steps.
The power of the Daily De-Brief, a simple activity, is often overlooked. At the end of the day/shift or operation gather the team and reflect on
What went well?
What did not go well?
What should we have done differently?
Regrouping is Onboarding: Measure your Process
Providing a warm onboarding process is not just for the ‘feel-good-vibes.’ It is a very intentional and strategic approach for making sure your employees represent your company values. If your employees have been working from home or a new hire you should take the tactic that they are new to the organization. Like any other strategy your business takes on, the onboarding process needs to be analyzed.
Without proper investigation, you cannot objectively know how your employees feel in their first days of work or if they fully understand your tech platforms, etc. You will also fail to understand the true relationship between your onboarding program and staff values, turnover, engagement, or productivity.
As a prerequisite to the development of a program to manage retention, certain difficult questions must be answered:
Why do employees stay?
What are their values for working and for living?
What are their ages, sexes, marital statuses, and so on?
What are the right and wrong reasons for employees staying in their jobs?
How dissatisfied is dissatisfied?
Ideally, it seems that the goal of managing retention would be to create conditions compatible to the turn-ons-plus—that is, some balance between job satisfaction and environmental reasons. This raises some questions. For example, if employees who do not like their jobs stay because of the “locked-in” features of benefit programs, should managers not consider changing benefit programs to reduce inertia?
Another influence on inertia is the location of a company. For example, a corporation that locates a new factory, offices, or laboratories in towns that are not highly attractive or requires the relocation of many employees has weakened inertia; thus employees are more likely to leave when they become dissatisfied with their work.