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6.6.08 Issue #326 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
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Growing Your Team

Just like humans go through stages of development, teams go through phases of growth. Effective dental leaders know how to move their employees through these stages with a minimum of fuss and stress.

Stages of Team Development
The Forming–Storming–Norming–Performing model of team development was first proposed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965. His theory has been studied for more than 40 years and is still the preeminent team model today. He maintained that these four group stages are all necessary and inevitable in order for the team to grow.

FORMING is the “getting-to-know-you” stage. Individuals come together for the first time. Team members are usually on their best behavior but very focused on self. Individuals try to understand their own roles, the roles of the other team members and their purpose in the group. This is entirely natural and to be expected. People are unsure, suspicious and nervous.

Leadership Goal: Clearly define expectations.
Give the team time to get comfortable with one another. Be sure that employees understand processes and procedures. Take time to bring new members up to speed with all the rules, roles and goals. Encourage mature team members to model appropriate behavior even at this early phase. Take a supportive but directive approach in this stage of team development.

STORMING occurs when the members within the team start to “jockey” for position. Control struggles take place. Members of the team realize that they have different ideas and they compete for power. In some cases, storming can be resolved quickly. In others, the team never leaves this stage.

Leadership Goal: Be supportive and direct in guiding decisions and behavior.
This phase can become destructive to the team and will lower motivation if allowed to get out of control. Therefore, accessibility and responsiveness of the leader is high until the team learns to guide itself.

Disagreements can be either very obvious or subtle. Control often becomes the primary issue although team members may focus on minutiae as an evasive tactic. The team needs direction at this stage and perhaps people need to hear things that they don’t want to hear. Get things out in the open. As the leader, demonstrate tolerance for everyone. Actively listen to team members and manage the conflict. Encourage ideas and explain decisions. Help the team recover from destructive conflict. Formal agreement on the practice vision, values and code of conduct enables teams to heal. With a common system of beliefs, behaviors and processes, your team can rise above conflict and establish more constructive actions.

NORMING happens when the team adheres to the rules it agreed to follow. Team members adjust their behavior to each other as they develop work habits that make teamwork seem more natural and fluid.

Leadership Goal: Act as a team member and help develop agreement and buy-in.
Norming is characterized by acceptance. Leadership during this phase needs to be more participative than in the two earlier stages. The “norming” team really wants to accomplish its mission. Therefore, remind them of their tasks, be more diligent in adhering to the road maps and provide consistent encouragement.

PERFORMING is the stage in which the team starts to produce through effective and efficient working practices. A performing team is just that: a highly effective, problem-solving unit that can reach solutions quickly and can even head off issues before they become problems.

Leadership Goal: Facilitate communication of the team’s success and reward success accordingly.
Leadership at this stage requires a non-directive role. Take a step back and let the team become self-directing. Concentrate on strategy to plan the next step for the practice. To help your team advance to this stage of development, focus the team on shared accountability. Bonus systems that are based on overall practice productivity generally work best to maintain an esprit de corps.

Some teams will go through the four stages rapidly and move from forming to performing in a relatively short space of time. The outcome depends on the composition of the team, the capabilities of the individuals, the tasks at hand and, of course, the leadership you demonstrate. The advantages of growing your team are worth the investment of your time and energy. Instead of constantly urging your people along and having to solve all the problems yourself, you'll be the leader of a high-performing team. They’ll be more productive. You’ll have more freedom to do the things you really love to do. And you’ll be more profitable in the process.

Dr. Haller helps teams move smoothly through the forming-storming-norming-performing phases of development. Dr. Haller is available for team building and dental leadership coaching. She can be reached at

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