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Steps in effective agile team building – Part 2

Rik Pennartz
January 30, 2020


In this early stage of a team, the most important aspect is trust building. Without trust, there will be no flow. People need to get to know each other. Organize ways in which people get familiar with each other on a deeper level, in a safe way. Learn about each other’s hobbies, interest, private lives (as much as they want to tell at this point), personal goals, strengths and weaknesses. This is an ongoing process that progresses in small steps.

This stage is all about building a team culture and creating psychological safety.

  • The word “culture” comes from the Latin “to care.” In a successful team people genuinely care about each other.
  • Psychological safety means: I can speak up, I can try out new things and I know that my opinion, strengths, and weaknesses are taken seriously.

According to William Schutz, who developed the FIRO (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation) in 1958, this stage is also called “inclusion.” People have a desire to connect and associate with other people and they might ask themselves: “How do I fit into this team?”

To help answer this question:

  • Agree on your team goals, long term and short term, and agree on an initial way of working.
  • Create a backlog of activities and prioritize them.
  • Demonstrate effective behavior and compliment others for doing so.
  • Hold frequent retrospectives and make sure learnings are prioritized and implemented.
  • As a leader or coach, make sure to show that you really care for the team and that you complement them a lot on the good things you notice. (And if you don’t really care for the team, find another job). Make sure team sessions are professionally facilitated.
  • During this process the leader shows example behavior, for example by demonstrating hard work and by showing vulnerability.


In this stage there will be plenty of discussion, and that is perfectly fine. Have work meetings and discuss work-related items, such as the way forward, and practical agreements. Learn about each other’s diverse viewpoints. Explain that conflicts are fine. Learn to deal with them; learn to respect each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and viewpoints. Enable good decision making. Learn to give and take. Again, make sure these sessions are professionally facilitated.

Schutz calls this stage “control.” Team members may test how much control the leader has, and how much the group has. They may test boundaries to find out what is or is not permissible in the group. Some irritation may appear, and the team members should have a healthy discussion about this.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

The leader needs to repeat the vision, objectives, and key messages over and over again. Why are we doing this? What is most important to us? Visualize these messages and visualize successes. Compliment the teams a lot (but only if it is sincere) and teach the team members to compliment each other. Compliment them specially on positive, helpful behavior.

In my next post, I will focus on the final three steps of team building: norming, performing and adjourning. In the meanwhile, I’d love to hear your comments. Contact me at: