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Solving the People Puzzle Part 1

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

John C. Maxwell

Business Thought Leader

I started a new job years ago as a sales director and the VP sat me down the first day to “brief” me.

It was not brief at all.

The 4 hours were spent providing me with operational details that would be necessary, but I didn’t think they were primary.

“What about the people?”  I asked.

“They are a mess!” he answered.

I then said something that could have gotten me fired on my first day,

“Then the process you just outlined won’t matter until we address the people”.

Are you building a team, or did you inherit one? Building teams is tough work.  It requires you understand two things:

The People and the Process.

I always focus on the people first.  If the people are strong and the process is weak, you can make it.  If the process is strong and the people are weak, you will have challenges.  How do you bring the two together to have a strong team and process?

You start with the people.

If teams are already strong and performing, you are lucky.  If there are skill deficits, morale issues, cliques and “old guard” mentalities, you will have your work cut out for you.  The process of building a strong team is outlined perfectly by psychologist Bruce Tuckman with his 4 stages of becoming a team:

Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing

You cannot expect a new team to perform well when it first comes together.  The dynamics of human behavior – from fear, self-preservation and “don’t change my good thing” mentality, requires unifying people to a common vision and mission…that takes time.

Let’s take a look at the 4 stages.


In this stage, most team members are positive but apprehensive – no one really wants to speak up, not knowing if it is safe.  As people are just coming together (or brought back together), no one really understands what other people do and they have not been given the “unifying vision” yet.

As the leader, you must provide an environment of safety for people to speak and express. You also must convey the team/company’s mission and vision in a way that is relevant and starts the process of unifying the team. It will not happen overnight, but it provides a foundation.


When the euphoria of Forming wears off, there is natural resistance to the implementation of new processes.  Indiviuals don’t trust each other, they may point fingers and conflict occurs.  If you do not push through this toughest stage, your team will fail or become dysfunctional.

People will naturally protect their position and differing work styles can cause frustration. If the team does not understand or hasn’t accepted the vision, some may question the worth of the team’s goal, and individuals may resist taking on tasks.


Gradually, the team moves into the Norming stage. This is when people start to resolve their differences, trust their teammates, and respect your leadership.  As levels of success occurs, individuals develop a stronger commitment to the team’s goal.


When success comes and the team faces challenges as a cohesive unit, you have reached the goal of Performing.  The processes are well-defined and people know what they are doing and know their value to the team.  They trust, they communicate, and as the leader you can focus on things that will improve the team.

It is rewarding to be a part of the team at this stage, and the individuals that join or leave won’t disrupt performance, because a leader is masterful at…

Solving the People Puzzle!

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Brandon L Clay

Storyteller Strategist Coach

I am a storyteller and have been using simple stories to help people see bigger possibilities for their lives. They are based on my real life experiences and I believe they will be relevant for your life, too.

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