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Team Building Tips

Any NBA fan will know that just this week, the Milwaukee Bucks took home their first NBA championship trophy in 50 years! Watching the Bucks ascent into champions had me thinking about the alchemy of what makes a great team. We’ve all seen great examples of sports teams throughout the years (the 95’ Chicago Bulls, the 16’ Golden State Warriors, the 98’ Yankees…the list goes on) that have become almost legendary but teamwork extends far beyond the athletic field and into the daily routines of our lives. While there are no set formulaic patterns to building a phenomenal team there are a few tips that can transform any mediocre team into a better one.

As a college student on the cusp of graduating I have taken plenty of classes, one of which just happened to be focused on Group Development Theory (the things we do for a college degree), which is essentially all about overcoming obstacles to form better teams. Group Development Theory, which was first proposed by Dr. Bruce Tuckman in 1965, states that there are 4 basic phases of team building: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. Dr. Tuckman’s goal was to help team leaders and managers better project how a team would perform together based on the beginning states. Using Dr. Tuckman’s theory and a few other tips, here are 4 ways to build a better team:

  • Forming: The initial stages of building a team can be awkward! There are no set roles, many ideas, and contrasting opinions all juxtaposed with the newness of being a collective unit. While this phase seems insignificant compared to the rest, this phase is where you set the tone for your group. Set goals together, go on team-building activities, allow for plenty of time for conversations NOT focused on the topic at hand- this is essential for allowing your team to adjust to one another.

  • Storming: This phase is often synonymous with frustration. It could mean frustration with others in the group, the difficulty of the task, or dissatisfaction with the particular roles in the group. While not very fun this group often yields good results. Conflict can be used to identify weak areas within the team and allow you to reinforce them. Use this time to address these contention points and establish how the team will get through them. Emphasize the importance of the team goal, whatever it may be, and focus on helping the group shift into a we mindset versus an I mindset.

  • Norming: Now that you’ve braved the storm, it’s time to norm. This phase is generally where collaboration improves and those with opposing viewpoints start to complement each other rather than compete with each other. This phase allows for continuous improvement as the team begins to work more cohesively and “iron out the kinks”. Member roles are being established as well as learning everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. Norming should be accompanied by trust and support-building activities- allow time for your team to become friends during this stage.

  • Performing: The team is firing on all cylinders (or so to speak), the norms have been accepted and the synergy is there. When your team has achieved this stage it usually means they are interdependent and morale is high.

  • Building a team can be difficult but in the end, the costs are worth the return.

Teams are often more efficient and effective than anyone working on their own. The most important part of team building comes from accepting differences and open communication. Using these two tools your team will be able to overcome any obstacle. In the end, your team may not be as legendary as any sports team but at the very least you’ll have accomplished your set tasks.

*This post was inspired by articles from Leah Ryder and Tony Alessandra. To read their respective articles click on their name.

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