5 Stages & Strategies Towards High Remote Team Performance

Clare Anderson
21st August 2020

You can’t expect a new team to perform well when it first comes together. And this is particularly important to think about when your team is remote - or a hybrid of remote and on-site. In our opinion, when you hire a remote team (or any team actually),  team members often go through recognizable stages as they change from being strangers to a united group with common goals. Forming an effective team takes time - so how do you manage this? What is a quick tool to understand the stages of team development and help your people become more effective more quickly?

 

Dr Bruce Tuckman published his 'Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing' model in 1965. He later added a fifth stage, Adjourning, in the 1970s. Why is Tuckman’s model still relevant and useful - and how can it help you? The theory is an elegant and helpful explanation of the path that most teams follow on their way to high performance. Using Tuckman’s model will help your team to reach the performing stage as soon as possible. It explains that as the team develops maturity and ability, relationships are built - and the team leader needs to change their leadership style accordingly. In short, start with a directing style, move through coaching and then participating and finish with delegation - at which point the team should be almost detached from the team leader. This allows a new leader to take over and the original team leader to move on to developing a new team using this model.

The first thing you need to do is identify the stage of development that your team is at. Then you can use strategies that move your team through to the next stage in the team formation process. So what exactly are these five stages of team development - and what is the strategy you should use during each?

  • FORMING - most team members are positive and polite. Some are anxious, others haven’t fully understood what work the team will do. Others are excited about the tasks ahead. This stage can last for some time as people try to get to know their new colleagues.

YOUR ROLE: you play a dominant role at this stage as team members’ roles and responsibilities are not yet clear. Direct the team and establish clear objectives for both the whole team and individual team members.

 

  • STORMING - people start to push against boundaries created in the forming stage. Conflict can arise between team members’ different working styles, causing unforeseen problems, frustration and stress. Team members may challenge your authority and/or jockey for position as their roles are clarified. People may feel overwhelmed by their workload or be uncomfortable with your approach. Some may question the worth of the team’s goal and/or resist taking on tasks. WARNING - this is the stage where many teams fail! 

YOUR ROLE: establish clear processes and structures. Build trust and good relationships between team members. Resolve conflicts swiftly. Provide support - particularly to those who need it most. Remain positive and firm. 

 

  • NORMING - people start to resolve their differences, appreciate their colleagues’ strengths and respect your authority as a leader. Team members may start to socialise together (even if online), ask each other for help and provide constructive feedback. A stronger commitment and good progress towards the team goal is developed. NOTE: there may be a prolonged overlap between storming and norming as people lapse back into storming behaviour when new tasks come up. 

YOUR ROLE: step back and help team members take responsibility for progress towards goals. Now would be a good time to arrange (online) team-building events.

 

  • PERFORMING - the structures and processes you have set up mean hard work leads, without friction, to goal achievement. You can delegate a lot of your work and concentrate on developing team members. NOTE: this stage feels easy and team joiners or leavers won’t disrupt performance. 

YOUR ROLE: Delegate tasks and projects as much as you can. Now that the team is achieving well, you should aim for as light a touch as possible and start focusing on other goals and areas of work.

 

  • ADJOURNING - project teams may exist only for a fixed period and even permanent teams can be disbanded through organisational restructuring. This can cause difficulty for team members who like routine or who have developed close working relationships with their colleagues, particularly if their future now looks uncertain.  

YOUR ROLE: take the time to celebrate the team’s achievements. You may work with some of your people again and this will be much easier if they view their past experience with you positively.

 

So, to recap, make sure you change your approach at each stage of your team’s development to help them perform well, as quickly as possible. Schedule regular interviews of where your team is at and adjust your behaviour and leadership style accordingly. It will help to explain this model so that people understand why problems are occurring and know that things will get better in the future. Focusing on this strategy will ensure you quickly have a high-performing remote team.

 

If you’re interested in working with an offshore outsourcer who will help you work closely through these five stages of remote team development, download our eBook, '30 Essential Questions to Ask a Provider Before You Outsource’. It will ensure you're informed and have the right questions to ask when considering the next step.

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