Placing people in the same room and calling them a team does not them one. Johnson and Johnson

Last month we looked at an overview of the value of team coaching and the fact that it could be applied at all stages of team development, using Tuckman’s: Forming, storming norming and performing.

To be successful a team needs the following:

  1. A common purpose
  2. Trust and commitment
  3. Clarity of roles, responsibilities, contributions and expectations
  4. Independence between members
  5. Accountability – shared and individual
  6. An appreciation of the value that each member brings
  7. An understanding of team skills in addition to the individuals

This month we are going to start with unpacking how team coaching can fit in at the forming stage.

The Forming stageis mainly applicable to a new team that is being formed for the first time. It is a little bit like the honeymoon period. A group of new people are recruited for a department, or a project and they come together for a purpose or task. However, it is useful to remember that when members leave a team and new members join there is a Reforming stage and new members should be effectively taken through an induction that includes aspects covered in the initial Forming stage.

Different personalities show up at this stage. There are the extroverts who rush in and are keen to get to know everyone and to get going and the more introverted members who want to hang back and see what is going on, and test the safety of the waters. Usually there is a sense of ‘playing nicely’ and being reasonably compliant so this should be optimised by clear direction and introducing a coaching approach.

In this stage the team members are getting to know each other, testing the situation. They will be focused on the task or objectives in order to understand their purpose. They will want to know what tools, systems and processes are available and how they should use them. An effective induction programme can save a lot of time, money and anxiety in getting members up to speed.

A coaching approach would bring the team members together to form some sort of Team Agreement or Charter to establish how they will work together. I usually cover:

  • What are their expectations of themselves as a team member?
  • What are their expectations of the other team members?
  • What do they need to feel comfortable in the team?

This allows for the individuals to express their needs in a positive way and starts the process of building trust, which Patrick Lencioni describes as the essential building block if you want to avoid the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.

Then comes the establishment of the team values. The organisation may have a set of values and it is important that the team values are aligned to those. It is useful if the team can establish their own set of values that speak directly to the way that they want to be together. I usually start with the individual values exercise, then bring the team into small groups of two or three to share and identify common values that they can buy in to, then into the bigger group if there are a larger number. In this way everyone gets a sense of why the groups think these values are important. Then a voting process to establish the five or six key values that they can all buy in to. Although their value may not be chosen, they feel part of the final selection process. Then the final stage of the values is the definitions of what each value means. Often, we assume that words like respect and integrity which often come up mean the same to all of us. If the team is to be effective in calling each other to live the values there need to be clear and consistent definitions.

Team members should be encouraged to recognise each other for demonstrating those values. This starts a positive culture of recognition and openness.

While still in the honeymoon phase it is useful to look ahead. Work with the team on identifying how are they going to be (behaviours) when things are not going so well? You can set up a process for how the team will sort out their differences and conflicts before the conflict occurs. It is very difficult to set up a process when you are in the middle of the conflict. 

We can look at this in more detail in the Storming phase of the teams next month.

In summary: The Forming stage is about clarity and relationship.  The team needs to know its purpose, the individuals need to know their roles and responsibilities so that tasks can be completed efficiently and effectively. Tasks are completed by people and so effective working relationships are essential. They also make for a much more pleasant working environment! Unpacking these vital aspects of teamwork using a coaching approach invites engagement and collaboration. 


Tuckman, Bruce, 1965 Developmental Sequence in Small GroupsLencioni, Patrick, 2002 The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

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