To launch a company is means to gather a lot of people around you. They will have different aspirations, different goals, and ideas about effective work. How to turn a group of strangers into a perfect and effective team where everyone feels in the right place? It’s difficult but possible. I want to share some ideas we are using at Ralabs to make ourselves feel more comfortable in our working places. Want a perfect team for your project? Contact Ralabs Before starting a new project, I paid attention to Bruce Tuckman's model of team development. Back in 1965, he divided the team building process into four stages: forming, storming, norming, and performing, and added later one more stage - adjourning. Have been working with various teams for several years, I saw how his theory works in real life. In different groups of people, these stages require a different amount of time. Still, there are few rules on what you should pay attention to during each of the stages to keep your team healthy and productive.

1. Forming

During the first stage, you have just a group of people who don’t know each other, don’t know you and what to expect from your collaboration. Some of the employees are excited about new challenges, some are nervous not knowing how it will go. Everyone is mostly polite and patient. The best you can do for the team on this stage is to bring in the right people. That is why you need the rule “Hire slow, fire fast”. Your team members need a friendly environment, feeling of safety at the working place. Hiring fast, you can bring in a person with a negative influence on the rest of the team. You can think you are wasting your time weighing up to many pros and cons, but in the long perspective, it will lead to the better results. The rule “Hire slow, fire fast” is necessary for every company that wants to be healthy. During the forming stage, you have all the leaders position in your hands. Your goal is to form roles and responsibilities and clarify your vision of every issue. Check yourself, if you explained everything needed: - Expectations. Your team should know where the company is going, why people were gathered here, the company’s vision, and values. Do employees realize their importance in the achievement of a common goal? - Commitment. Make sure that every person on the team really wants to be here. How do they understand their role in the team? Do they see themselves in the same team in a few years? - Competence. All the team, not just you, should understand that everyone in it has the necessary skills and capability to perform their duties. It will help to build work spirit and trust between members. - Status. During the first stage, it is necessary to decide how to measure working results and contributions of every person. Also, you will need a convenient method of communication with your team. - Control. All members should clearly understand their boundaries and have enough freedom and empowerment. Make sure you discussed limitation (time or money, for example) before getting started.

2. Storming

That is the most difficult period for every company, but with the right approach, it will help to improve your team qualities. The biggest problems may appear in the case you didn’t work enough on the previous stage and didn’t explain properly expectations and responsibilities to the team. Without a clear understanding of roles and goals, people can feel overwhelmed and frustrated. On this stage, your employees have been working shoulder to shoulder for a period of time and start to discover each other drawbacks. Someone eats too loud, someone likes inappropriate jokes or listen to the same song twenty times per day. Someone works fast, someone needs some time to concentrate. The team can disagree about task processing or even question the authorities of the leaders. It is useful to learn how to smooth hot coals, or relationships will end quickly. During the period of a storm, the most important thing for a leader is to explain that conflicts are absolutely normal. Trying to avoid fights, you risk to grow them until the problems blow up. The A, B, C-players technique will help you to manage employees during this storm. Now you know everyone a little more and understand who is able to lead your team and who weight it down. A-players exceed your expectations. They always want more achievements, they like to risk and ready to work long hours. Their drive is infectious. A-players can improve your company’s productivity dramatically, but they will easily live for new opportunities elsewhere. So, keep an eye on them. Are they really motivated and have enough goals to achieve? Usually, just 10% of your team are A-players, and 80% belongs to the B-category. B-players are competent and trustful. They are less ambitious, but in the long term, they will make the biggest impact on the company. It is a huge mistake for a leader to underestimate this category of workers. Paying your attention only to A-players, your risk to lose B-workers and undermine the stability of your company. According to Harvard Business Review, it is a time to make a serious accent on B-players in any business. The last group, C-players, do not satisfy your expectations at all. They systematically fail to meet a deadline, tend to blame others for their unfinished tasks. There different reasons why B-players can fall down to C-category: lack of competence, lack of motivation, poor people skills. Sometimes it is acceptable to give an employee a less-demanding role or find out, what can motivate this person and change status on B-player. But sometimes it is just an incompatible personality, so do not forget about the rule “Hire slow, fire fast”. You not supposed to fire people based on knee-jerk reactions. But you definitely should weigh up all the fors and againsts and make the right decision. The longer wrong people are working in your company, the biggest negative impact they have on the entire team.

3. Norming

After every storm, there is a rainbow. Step by step, all relationships and processes in the team stabilize. People start to value their colleagues’ strengths and respect you as a leader. And, which is more important, they start to trust each other. Now team members often ask one another for help and give constructive feedback. But be careful: with new tasks, it is always a new danger to return to the storming. On this stage, a lot of processes depend on your type of management. There are just two ways to communicate with your employees, to keep them focused: motivation or manipulation. As a leader, you should understand the main difference between them. Motivated people work hard to improve their life or career position. But those who are manipulated tend to hold on to the current situation and change nothing. The strategy of manipulation can work on short distances, but in the end, it will bring low employee morale and staff burnout. If you ask me, motivation is always should be in your priority. Motivated employees work with a better result, motivation grows a loyalty to your company and keeps people longer with you. Motivation is when you as a leader want to grow together with your employees. Norming is a perfect time to clarify some issues and improve teamwork. Check this: 1. Communication. It would be good to clear up tasks and priorities. Is it easy for employees to give you their feedback? Is it easy for them to communicate with each other? Do you react properly to conflicts? 2. Consequences. Make sure employees feel responsible for team achievements. Do you have a system of rewards for a team and individual work? Can people see their influence on the company’s success? 3. Creativity. Your company will stick without fresh ideas. So, show employees your appreciation of their creative thinking. Don’t forget to encourage people to get new knowledge, to take a part in trainings and self-education programs. Do your employees have access to good books and films? Discussing new writings or watching thought-provoking movies can be a good idea for team building.

4. Performing

Now your team is working like a clock. All previous stages gave their result, it is easy to be part of the team. Every person on their place, and works on full speed on goal achievement. Now the team is confident, and it can work easily without supervision. So, you can delegate a big part of your work and concentrate on strategic development. Every leader dreams about this stage, but it important to realize, that you can’t come here without all previous stages, without conflicts, misunderstandings, and, unfortunately, firings. Many teams do not survive to see this stage because they couldn’t pass through the storm. Still, Ralabs’ example shows it is possible and worth fighting for.

5. Adjourning

This stage is optional, not every team should be disbanded. Especially, if this team has passed so many stages of development. For IT companies, it is much more profitable to keep the team and find another project for them. Appreciate your team and your own efforts that were invested in it to grow your enterprise and succeed in business. For reading: 1. “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You”, John C. Maxwell2. “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable”, Patrick Lencioni3. “A Team of Leaders: Empowering Every Member to Take Ownership, Demonstrate Initiative, and Deliver Results”, Paul Gustavson, Stewart Liff4. “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't”, Simon Sinek5. “The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age”, Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, Chris Yeh