Four Phases to Help Establish a Successful Real Estate Team

Real estate professionals interested in forming a team will likely take into account that the team, properly developed, will become one of the main assets they have. It’s a concept likely embraced by leaders in every industry.

Each team member brings specific strengths, regardless of the team’s size. A good leader likely recognizes these strengths – and also weaknesses – and puts team members in the best position to succeed, creating a team structure that helps them maximize their potential while also helping the team reach its ceiling.

In 1965, Dr. Bruce Tuckman, who studied group dynamics and educational psychology, published a theory1 entitled, “Tuckman’s stages of group development.”

The theory listed four phases in building a team: forming, storming, norming and performing. He added a fifth phase, adjourning, in 1977.

Even though this theory is more than 50 years old, there is wisdom real estate team leads can gain, including the importance of supporting the development of their teams to help them thrive.

Here’s a look at each phase of Dr. Tuckman’s theory and how it might translate into building a successful real estate team:

1. Forming

The first phase of a team, as the name suggests, is when it forms. The team lead and members get to know each other, both personally and professionally. They learn each other’s backgrounds, define roles and draft a plan.

As the leader, this is also the phase where the team lead can highlight and emphasize the team’s goals and objectives.

2. Storming

Conflict can arise in this stage, according to the theory. It’s a necessary process in growth, and isn’t something to avoid.

Perhaps one team member is upset they’re not getting more listings. Maybe another is upset about repeatedly doing the same task (i.e. lead generation, marketing or hosting open houses), or not getting higher-priced listings.

The positive of this phase is that through conflict, Tuckman’s theory indicates that the team can build trust, with team members feeling more comfortable voicing differing opinions. Sometimes bumps in the road and healthy debate can bring a group closer together. Other times, one or more team members might leave.

The team lead’s job is to maintain a growth mindset, and help the team resolve its differences while coaching members to come together to arrive at a solution.

To help advance through this stage, Tuckman lists some ways to create team cohesiveness including going to lunch or dinner together, spending an hour doing ice-breaker/get-to-know-you activities, or having a half-day or full-day workshop to brainstorm new ways to drive success together.

3. Norming

This is the phase when team members really begin working toward a goal and having a team mindset. Members do what it takes to make the team function effectively, accept roles and even take a backseat in certain situations, if it’s best for the team.

Sharing opinions becomes more common, while listening to and understanding differences of opinion is more valued. Simply put: in this stage, working as a team begins to feel natural.

When observing Tuckman’s theory in real life, it’s common to see team members taking steps to resolve conflicts and make decisions themselves. Team leads might be left out of the day-to-day decision-making and problem solving as team members begin to take on more responsibility within the group.

Problems and chaos can still happen, of course. As the leader, it’s important not to ignore signals. Sometimes hopping in provides a coaching opportunity. But, in this phase, a successful team is likely getting better at working together.

4. Performing

It goes without saying that reaching this phase may signal huge progress.

Teams that are performing are likely characterized by high output, effective group dynamics, smooth interactions and the ability to make decisions without direct supervision.

Still, it’s important for the team leader to continue actively participating with the team. This not only allows them to be present and know what’s going on, but also helps establish their role as a leader who is interested, invested and accessible.

5. Adjourning

As mentioned, this phase was added a dozen or so years after the forming-storming-norming-performing theory was first put forth, and isn’t necessarily the desired end result, but it could mean team members feel empowered to consider branching out and forming their own teams. If this happens, consider it a sign of a job well done, with the team leader having likely provided a healthy growth environment.

Three closing thoughts on what team leaders can do to help build successful, growing teams:

  • Be present
  • Offer encouragement
  • Train and equip

If you’re looking for tools that can help your real estate team succeed, consider the broad mix of ShowingTime+ products and services that equip you to create an efficient environment that enables team members to focus on high-payoff tasks that enhance the business.


1 Tuckman’s stages of group development


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