The question that individuals ask during the norming stage of group development is, “What do the others expect me to do?” It matters because the knowledge of questions that team members ask themselves at different stages of team development helps a leader to manage them effectively.
To perform various tasks, people often group together to achieve better and faster results. On their way to forming a group, individuals go through five stages of team development, as formulated by Bruce Tuckman: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. At each of the stages, people ask questions that help them to understand the goals of the group better and to align their actions and behaviors with those goals.
When individuals meet for the first time and find out their task, the forming stage of group development begins. During this phase, people are usually uninformed of the mission and unfamiliar with each other. Therefore, they try to build interpersonal relationships and tend to conform to the initially established rules. They also have high expectations of the oncoming work and avoid conflicts. This stage is characterized by such questions as “Why are we here?” and “How can I contribute?”
When people get familiar with each other and find out the team goals, they start to express their opinions, disagree with the leader, and split into subgroups. Conflicts often occur, and, for this reason, this stage is called storming. However, some groups manage to avoid this phase if they show tolerance to each other. At this stage, individuals question themselves, “Why are we doing it in this way?” and “What is the point?”
During the norming stage, conflicts are resolved, and people make efforts to accomplish the team goal. Communication among teammates becomes more meaningful, and trust among them is enhanced. The group becomes cohesive, and its members treat each other with tolerance and know their personal roles in the team. The question that individuals ask during the norming stage of group development is, “What do the others expect me to do?”
The next phase of group development is the performing stage, which is the peak of group productivity. It is characterized by the team members’ high motivation, competence, established roles, and the ability to work without supervision. At this phase, individuals are not as self-focused as at the forming stage; instead, they direct their efforts toward the improvement of the group results. The performing stage is characterized by the question, “What more can we do?”
The final stage of group formation, which was formulated later than the previous four, is the adjourning stage. It takes place when the task is completed, and the group members have nothing to do together anymore. The roles of teammates are terminated, and the group is dissolved. Individuals experience sadness, the feeling of loss, and sometimes stress, especially if the breakup was unplanned. The question of this phase is, “What will I do now?”
The knowledge of these stages matters because they help leaders to understand what their subordinates experience as group members and how they can foster the further development of their teams. The role of a team leader is to define the current stage of the team formation and answer the questions that typically arise at this phase. To help a group at the forming stage, a leader should provide clear directions and explain goals to avoid exaggerated expectations. During the storming phase, it is necessary to listen to team members’ opinions and help them to manage conflicts.
At the norming stage, a leader should allow teammates to work autonomously and only to interfere when the circumstances require it. While managing a group at the performing phase, a leader should reward the contribution of team members and provide them with support and advice. The adjourning group needs some consolation, so it is a good idea to celebrate the accomplishments and to thank all the contributors to the team goal.