By Michael Gunther

Our team recently added a new team member and some interesting transformations began to happen.  First − I must share that we have a solid group of professionals that have worked together more synchronically then I have ever experienced. The trust and connectedness between all of our team members has truly created a collaborative work environment. So, I found it intriguing how our team began to have all sorts of dysfunction and emotions when a new team member was added to the mix. Frustration levels began to rise as balls were being dropped and communication was becoming challenging.

After speaking to individual team members, we realized that we are facing the natural process of developing teams: the four stage process of forming, storming, norming and performing with team development. These stages are typical in teams who are on their way to becoming high performing. In fact, a team could be at the performing stage but with added new team members, challenges or opportunities could shift the entire team back to the previous stage of the process.

I realized we were in the midst of this process, in fact, we were smack in the middle of the storming stage. I debated whether to address individuals separately or as a team to discuss the issues that were preventing us from working effectively as a group. In the end, I decided we needed to have a collaborative conversation as a team.

To be honest, I was a little uncomfortable getting the conversation started but it soon took a life of its own. We all discussed that we have noticed a shift, that some things were not working well and that we all wanted to get the bond and harmony we had experienced as a group back. We also realized that we were not being very inclusive with this new team member.

The authentic, impactful and purposeful collaboration we experienced in our conversation gave us new insights on how we are operating, individual concerns of leadership and areas for all of the team members to grow.  With our journey beginning again through the storming stage, we are all getting out of our comfort zones and stretching ourselves to new levels of collaborative leadership and as a team.

In the past, I am not sure we would have approached this situation in the same way. It would have been individual conversations and an individual, not a team’s issue. It would have taken longer to resolve without total team commitment to the problems and solutions. It is not always easy to have those tough, but necessary, conversations. However, by treating individuals as adults, responsible for their actions, allowed our team to not take things personally and to have the opportunity to shift our approaches and attitudes.

Bottom Line

Building authentic, impactful and purposeful collaboration is not always easy. But like most things that take effort and persistence, the drive to create a solid collaborative team continues to pay dividends beyond what any of us individually could achieve.

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