Now that we know the stages of Team Formation, how can we minimize the drama? Here are some tips.
Theatrical communities can be pretty small. Participants pop up together in one show after another. This makes for a lot of familiarity, but it would be a mistake to assume that familiarity eliminates the need for Forming. To minimize the problems that come at this stage it’s important that everyone go through the process of Introducing themselves to each other. Where do you come from, what do you do, and most importantly, what do you want to see this effort accomplish? Why are you involved?
We all have implicit expectations of how others will behave and what is acceptable or unacceptable. This is the time to speak up and share those expectations. Nobody can be expected to deliver what they don’t know they’re responsible for. Getting these expectations out into the open early in the process will minimize trouble caused by people not realizing something was expected of them.
Storming can take on so many different forms that I can’t cover them all here. To minimize the volatile situations that will occur at this phase, establish acceptable “rules of engagement” for when and where group members should address their grievances. Who will be the arbiter of disagreements? Make sure that everybody in the group knows these guidelines and operates within them. A disgruntled member who figuratively “hides out in the weeds” and tries to persuade others without directly addressing the person or situation he/she is unhappy about should not be tolerated. Gently, but firmly, bring the problem out into the open as soon as possible and get it resolved. Make sure everyone understands that once a decision is reached the matter is closed. Sniping and back-biting doesn’t help Team Formation.
If everyone has expressed their expectations of the group during the Forming phase, this one should come along fairly easily. You can assist its evolution by keeping everyone to the standards of behavior agreed upon by the group and by having consequences for failure. If a problem arises, address the behavior that’s unacceptable without involving the personality of the individual.
For example, instead of: “C’mon Larry! This is the third time this week that you’ve gotten here late! You’re ruining the whole show. I don’t know why anyone casts you. You’re always a problem!”
Try: “It’s hard to rehearse around your scenes, Larry. Your late arrivals are impacting the whole show. Is there anything that you can do to make sure you arrive at rehearsal on time? Is there some way we can help?”
The key to Norming, as with all of these stages, is constructive communications!
To help your Team Perform better, keep focused on the results of the project. Set incremental goals to measure the team’s progress. Incremental goals might be actors learning their lines and rehearsing “off-book,” or it might be the arrival and final approval of each character’s costumes. Celebrate the achievement of incremental goals in some way and acknowledge those who make that progress possible. Everyone needs to know they’re appreciated. Above all, be inclusive!
I can’t emphasize this enough. When we feel excluded we lose all motivation to participate, and that harms the project and creates resentment within the team. If someone isn’t delivering on their responsibilities, the situation needs to be investigated and resolved. Avoidance isn’t helpful and neither is shame and blame. So, go directly to the person and ask what’s keeping them from meeting their commitments to the team. With that information you can find ways to help them keep progressing toward the goal. If the problems can’t be resolved it may become necessary for that person to leave the team – but that’s a drastic step.
As with Performing, it’s important to acknowledge the end of the project with celebrations and rituals. This will signal the team members that the project is ending and provide them with closure. The actual celebrations and rituals will be different for every team and every project, but acknowledging everyone’s efforts and achievements is at the heart of it.
I know of a group that celebrates the end of each president’s term in office with an elaborate “demotion.” The closing night cast party is a ritual that signals the end of a show’s run and the disbanding of the cast and crew. Even something as simple as sending “Thank You” notes to show the group’s appreciation of team members can be part of the Adjourning process.
No matter which phase your team is in, understanding the stages of Team Formation will help you manage the personalities and problems that arise. Using the information I’ve provided here you can minimize the off-stage dramas so that everyone can focus on putting drama where it belongs — on the stage!
I’d love to know about your experiences with teams. Leave me a comment and share them with me.