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Zooming, Storming, Norming and Performing – Teams and Video Conferencing

How Video-conferencing is impacting the way that teams perform and making us miss crucial problems

It’s said that teams and groups follow four (or sometimes five) stages of development as they learn how to work together:

  1. A ‘Forming’ stage – where people don’t quite know how the team behaves together, what’s expected of them and what’s acceptable (or not). During this stage, people test the water, trying to find out how they should behave with each other;
  2. A ‘Storming’ stage – where people begin to resist or act against the constraints that team membership places on them. During this stage, you can expect conflicts to arise and for people to compete for informal leadership and their place in the hierarchy;
  3. A ‘Norming’ stage – where people develop close relationships and the team coheres around a shared identity. During this stage, the ideas around what constitutes acceptable behaviour become fixed;
  4. A ‘Performing’ stage – where people basically can now turn their energy away from issues around team formation and behavioural norms and start getting stuff done.
  5. (For those teams – like project groups and task-forces that are temporary in nature, there’s a fifth stage – Adjourning, where performance drops again as everybody prepares to disband).

Evidence for whether or not teams do actually follow this four-stage model for performance is mixed, but it is a useful thought-starter for what to do at times when performance is low, or when leaders are wondering about changing team memberships.


I’ve noticed in my coaching with teams how the impact of Zoom video conferencing is felt at each stage:

At the Forming stage, the impact of Zoom is most felt in that people are now also having to test out video-conferencing related behaviours, rather than purely work-related behaviours. (Have a google for “what to wear when video conferencing” to see what I mean. In case it helps, Vogue suggested recently that dressing professionally raises our opinion of ourselves, so I’ve put my work shoes on to write this). Leaders will want to make sure that their video conferencing etiquette includes a rounded assessment of the behaviours that will make the team (and the meeting ) effective, as well as the usual “what background are you using?” stuff.

Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve noticed is a tendency for Zooming to hide the ‘Storming’ part of team of team formation. It seems all too easy for work conflicts to not be addressed in a Zoom meeting. Even if it’s uncomfortable, leaders need to turn the spotlight onto individuals occasionally. Ask about what barriers there are to effective working together. Ask directly where different priorities and agendas are conflicting. Challenge people – “Why aren’t you two resolving this together?” And most importantly, don’t let people use technical glitches, diary clashes and the lack of immediate body-language feedback to hide away from or duck any unresolved ‘Storming’. It will happen sometime; best to manage it when you get a chance.

Another important thing to look for, particularly at the ‘Norming’ and ‘Performing’ stages is the kind of group-think that means people will overlook or just not see obvious problems (for example in customer service or in the overall performance of the division or in how individuals are coping). There’s something about the strangeness of not seeing each other face-to-face that means we might also be blindly accepting all kinds of other strangeness or out of-the-ordinary problems without noticing them or feeling the urgency to address them. Leaders should ask themselves and their teams: “Whilst it’s all so weird, what are we not noticing, that needs our attention?”

Let me know if you’ve noticed any of this too please – or what you’re finding out about teamwork now that we’re not meeting face-to-face?

Please leave a comment below if they’re still open at the time of reading, or tweet me @nickrobcoach

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