Have you ever been on a project team where team members all got along, they all had the right skills, and everyone worked hard and pulled together to get the project done?

Those are just some of the characteristics of a high-performing team. Although such teams can sometimes form by themselves, even in spite of a manager who gets in the way, it’s more likely that a manager is the one who facilitates team members through a process that leads to the team becoming as effective and efficient as possible.

For some managers, this journey is extremely difficult. They may be very organized, technically strong, and masters of organizational politics, but they may not be very good people managers and not very effective at building a team. In some respects, it’s also hard for a manager to guide a team toward high-performance if he or she was never part of a high-performing team. If you don’t have a vision of a high-performance team based on experience, it may be very difficult to guide a team of people there.

A high-performing team takes some work Teams that have not worked together before usually go through four stages of team development, as defined in the Tuckman model. They are:

  • Forming. The team is meeting and getting to know each other. They can’t rely on others totally because they’re not sure what everyone’s skills, strengths, and weaknesses are.
  • Storming. The team struggles through understanding roles and responsibilities. Usually personality conflicts start to arise. Team members feel good enough to complain, but not always confident or knowledgeable enough to propose solutions. Team members know each other well enough that they can start to argue. Generally, the team is in flux and people are not exactly sure what they are supposed to be doing. Some immature teams never make it past this stage.
  • Norming. The team starts getting used to each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Team members start to compensate for one another and a feeling of camaraderie starts to take shape. Team members accept each other as people and enjoy being around each other. The team may begin realizing that as a whole, they are stronger than they were as just a group of individual contributors.
  • Performing. This is the last stage of a high-performance team. At this stage, the team strives toward common objectives – written or unwritten. They rely on each other. When trouble arises, they ask how they can help. The team members can generally work without a lot of management supervision. The team’s overall productivity is especially high and is recognized as such by others outside the team.

Knowing the Tuckman model can help you as you work on your teams. It helps to know why conflict may be occurring. You may not get there with every team, but you’ll know enough to strive toward the goal of a high-performing team.