• Susan Fisher

VIRTUAL TEAM happiness

Updated: Apr 12




You've gone virtual and even though you have worked with a team for years somehow things are really not the same. How do you get back not only team effectiveness, but also team happiness ?


In years of working with people managing virtual teams, I've seen how you can help everyone through by using the Norming Storming Forming Performing team behaviour model developed by Tuckman.



Here is the description of the stages and what you can do to help things along.


STAGE 1: FORMING


In the first stage of becoming a virtual team you can expect to feel randomness, ad hoc decision-making and what feels like chaos.


Within days a good leader will put simple processes into place - when you meet, how you'll be in touch with co-workers & customers, what technology you will use and when.


  • Be prepared to answer lots of questions about the the future of the business and job security/ the team's priorities and changes in focus.

  • Expect that processes will often be ignored particularly e.g writing up conversations in Salesforce.


All of this is unlikely to stop the STORMING phase though.


Stage 2: storming


Even thought the team may have worked together for years, suddenly going virtual is destabilising. There are still uncertainties about the team and the business. Decisions seem to take longer, the feeling of camaraderie is missing somehow and people may be disagreeing with each other more often. There may be factions forming and power struggles taking place beneath the surface. Often the only sign of this is dull online meetings but you should be aware that it may be something else,


  • Communicate twice as much as you usually do with both the team and individual team members.

  • Be aware of relationship and emotional issues and talk about the challenges in becoming a virtual team in online meetings. ( Share this model ? )

  • Coach your people individually through this.



Stage 3: norming


If you have done the right things you will find that agreement and consensus is starting to form among the team. The changes in roles and responsibilities are understood. You'll find that the important decisions can be made without too much friction. The team discusses and gives useful feedback on the new processes and working style.


Announce that you are interested in feedback and stay open to it.

See your role as facilitating the journey you are on as a virtual team.


Stage 4: performing


Your team knows clearly why it is doing what it is doing, including the changed priorities as a result of the crisis. Team members look after each other. Disagreements will occur as they often do but they are resolved within the team positively. You'll find the necessary changes to processes and structure are made by the team. There may even be a feeling of achievement that you are managing to deliver despite everything.


Keep doing what your are doing. It isn't easy but it is one more skill to be proud of.





Susan Fisher

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