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Master The First Stage Of Team Building

For a team to cohere, to get through its challenges and to achieve its objectives involves its passage through four basic stages of team building.

The first stage, COURTSHIP, is in some ways the least productive and yet most important stage.

During this early period team members tend to focus more on the social aspects of their work-experience, often to the detriment of their job performance.

Because everyone is just beginning to get to know one another the personal desire for acceptance and for avoiding conflict and controversy is at its peak.

Significant issues are often denied or glossed over to satisfy the individual's over-riding, instinctual drive for approval. A fear of “making waves” may take precedence over taking a more efficient course of action.

Social concerns are likely to mentally distract workers from their jobs during the Courtship stage.

Effective team leaders can offset this by routinely reminding the team of its goals and engaging team members in strategic planning sessions that distract them from social matters. Team Building Tips: Master The First Stage Of Team Building

However, team leaders need to be prepared for a lower level of productivity as team members get absorbed in the process of familiarizing themselves with one another and forming bonds.

Leadership needs to be a little extra tolerant and patient during this phase, to give the natural cohesion process time to work itself out.

The level of a team's productivity equates with the strength of its cohesiveness. 

So, during the Courtship phase of team building, a sort of grace period during which productivity expectations are lowered gives team members a chance to complete the social blending and bonding process that will enable them to take on bigger challenges later. 

During the COURTSHIP stage, assign the team smaller projects that are easily handled with a minimum of pressure.

Team Building Tips: Master The First Stage Of Team BuildingAssigning a high-pressure challenge too early on in the team building process inhibits the development of team work, causing workers to feel isolated and insecure that others will “drop the baton”. This establishes a pattern of poor communication, collaboration, cooperation and coordination that can ultimately dissolve the team or continue to snag it in unproductive quagmires.

An ideal grace period might last as long as 90 days, during which time the team receives challenges that gradually intensify. 

During this period leadership should provide a forum for team members to raise issues and make suggestions, without expecting much openness at the beginning.

The main task of the Courtship phase of team building, then, is giving team members time and experiences to develop their team work relationships with fellow team mates, to allow a sense of secure familiarity (even family) among team mates to evolve.

The Courtship stage cannot be rushed or avoided without undermining the basic strength of the team.

The phases of team building also come into play when a new team member is introduced into the fold, and when a merger brings two teams together.

You can expect every new team player to go through the Courtship phase.

When a newcomer is brought onto a team, there is also a tendency for existing or veteran team members to be distracted from their work, just as the new team mate will be distracted from his or her work, because of the natural insecurity aroused by having to cohere with a “stranger”.Team Building Tips: Master The First Stage Of Team Building

When combining two separate teams into one, as in a merger or acquisition, the individual team members that will be coordinating across previously separate “team lines” must pass through a Courtship stage of team building as well.

Team leadership can ease and hasten the Courtship stage by clearly communicating and routinely reiterating the new set of goals for the combined team effort, but the early stages of arriving at those goals can be expected to proceed more slowly and less efficiently, and involve more interpersonal social distraction.

Team Building Tips: Master The First Stage Of Team BuildingIf leadership demonstrates the understanding, patience and tolerance needed for the two teams to work through their "Courtship challenges", a larger and stronger team will be forged, prepared to tackle larger challenges and accomplish bigger goals.

Going through a merger or acquisition?
Bringing new team members into the fold?
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