Team Work; Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning. Part 1 – Managing the Forming Stage

In a recent post at this link, I introduced the Tuckman theory of how groups/teams develop.

Most groups go through a formation process like that described by Dr Tuckman.

Understanding the model can help you to lead, manage and facilitate teams and work groups more effectively.

Some group leaders find the stages uncomfortable – they can be challenging to handle. Some stages seem slow and a waste of precious work time. But going through them means that a more cohesive and efficient working group is formed – a group that allows everyone to contribute their best!

A skilled manager can observe the stages happening and help the process along.  That means you get the best outcome for all in the least time.

In this short series of posts, I’m going to discuss how you can lead your group through the stages to achieve a good result.

Stage 1 – Forming.

When they first come together in a group, people are cautious.  Usually, they want to get to know each other and to get on with the task.  But, they might be a bit anxious.  They are usually tentative and tend to check each other out. Generally they are polite and somewhat reserved.

The group wants to work out how they should behave.  At this stage, they are not likely to challenge each other or you, as their leader. They want to understand properly why they are there – what is the task and what is this really about?  The group wants to know what they are being asked to do and how they expected to do it.

No one feel very comfortable – are there any hidden agendas?

They are looking for the “ground rules”.

This stage can feel frustrating for the leader because things can feel as if they are moving very slowly.

Leading the group through Stage 1 – Forming

So what can you do?  Well, you need to provide a safe environment in which the group can operate and you need to set some goals for them to achieve.

But let then have some time to get to know each other! Allow people an opportunity to share their hopes and their anxieties.  (You might recognise now why trained facilitators put so much store by ice-breakers).

If you pace the group carefully, they will move through this stage and not get stuck.  Encourage them all to contribute.

What if they get stuck in Stage 1 – Forming

If they get stuck then you will need to become more directive.

  • Involve them in setting the goals
  • Let them air their reservations.
  • Get those ground rules out in the open air
  • Get people to agree the ground rules.
  • Support anyone who shows reticence so that their confidence develops.

Then stand by because you need to go through Stage 2 Storming before the real work begins and Stage 2 can be turbulent.

Wendy Mason is a career coach.  She helps people reach their goals and aspirations, without sacrificing their home and personal life.  Before working as a coach, Wendy had a long career in both the public and private sectors in general management and consultancy as well as spells in HR.  She now divides her time between coaching and writing. You can contact Wendy at and find out more at

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