by Gwyn Williams and Bruce Milroy

Stage 3: Norming (or early adulthood)

In the norming phase, interpersonal relations are characterised by cohesion and high creativity. The in-fighting subsides and individuals and cliques begin to recognise the merits of working together. Harmony becomes the norm. Since a new spirit of cooperation is evident, every member begins to feel secure in expressing their own view-point and these are discussed openly with the whole group. The most significant improvement is that people start to listen to each other.

Group members are engaged in active acknowledgment of all members’ contributions, community building and maintenance, and the solving of group issues. Members are willing to change their preconceived ideas or opinions on the basis of facts presented by other members, and they actively ask questions of one another. Leadership is shared and cliques dissolve. When members begin to know – and identify with – one another, the level of trust in their personal relations contributes to the development of group cohesion.

It is during this stage of development (assuming the group gets this far) that people begin to experience a sense of group belonging and a feeling of relief as a result of resolving interpersonal conflicts.

The major task function of stage three is the data flow between group members: they now share feelings and ideas, solicit and give feedback to one another, and explore actions related to the task. Creativity is high. If this stage of data flow and cohesion is attained by the group members, their interactions are characterised by openness and sharing of information, on both a personal and task level. They feel good about being part of an effective group.

The major drawback of the norming stage is that members may begin to fear the inevitable future break-up of the group, so they may resist change of any sort.

Top tip

Encourage the norming process by congratulating the team when they listen and work cooperatively. Now is the time to put in place detailed plans, expected standards of work and methods of frequent communication. Encourage the team to collaborate and work together on creating processes and structures that will help them achieve the task.


 Characteristics  Needs  Leadership behaviours
  • Increased clarity and commitment on roles, goals, structure
  • Increased commitment to values, norms
  • Increased task accomplishment
  • Growing trust, harmony, mutual respect
  • Willingness to share leadership, responsibility and control
  • Understanding and valuing differences
  • Tendency to avoid conflict
  • More sharing of control and leadership
  • Continued focus on trust and relationships
  • Increased focus on performance and productivity as relationships improve
  • Further encouragement to recognise and value different perspectives and to utilise this to solve problems more effectively
  • Continued skill development
  • Beginning to step back, be less directive and encourage individuals to assume leadership, as appropriate
  • Developing full engagement and participation
  • Encouraging interdependence
  • Assessing team effectiveness and function
  • Recognising and valuing differences
  • Developing team structure and boundaries
  • Rewarding successful achievement of goals and effort / performance