Welcome back loyal leaders, Capt. Fletch here, zooming in for another edition of the Leadership Toolbox! Last time we explored stage 3 of team development: norming. During that phase, teams explore trust and learn to hold each other accountable. Afterward, we find ourselves at the much-anticipated stage 4: performing. By “performing” I do not mean the riveting theater performances my good friend Brock Yordy was part of in college, rather our team finally begins to function as a well-oiled machine.

Once a team establishes trust, accountability and culture during stage 3, they are ready to test themselves against a real task. Up to this point, your team may have only trained and prepared for a job or objective. Once members prove the team can function cohesively, you as the leader must determine the mission they are ready for — when and what type. Team composition can make this difficult. Are they all new people with a seasoned leader? Are they a team of field-forged veterans? Perhaps they are college students looking to break into the industry. Whatever the case, use your knowledge of the team to as a guide to the team’s readiness. A task of the wrong magnitude or complexity can damage even a well-performing team.

For instance, once the well drilling team at RED HORSE had re-established, I had many ideas for testing their mettle. Our drilling rig had the capability for air-hammer drilling, but no one had extensively trained in or utilized the capability. I found this puzzling. The geological formations we typically encountered in theater responded better to air drilling or a combination of air and mud capabilities, rather than strictly mud. As team leader, I knew my team’s readiness to try this capability, but saw a need for supplemental training.

I brought in Yordy, a fellow The Driller writer, to help train us on the methodology of air drilling. We brought in Mike Epley, who provided us with a hammer bit to get us going. We mobilized the rig to make our first attempt at drilling a construction water well to support our quarry. After several days of training and fine-tuning, we hit water for the first time in that area in recent memory. Ultimately, we had to abandon that particular borehole, but it signified progress. The team had begun performing, whereas before they were mainly idle.

This was a significant risk on my part. Aside from the dangers of air drilling, had we failed miserably the team could have easily regressed into the storming stage. This example highlights the importance networking. Well-connected teams perform well. Good teams are unafraid to ask for help and admit their shortfalls. I love the willingness I see in drilling and construction for people and companies to help one another succeed. I consider it one of our industry’s greatest strengths, this self-awareness that if we succeed as a whole, ultimately, we all succeed. It shows confidence in our abilities to complete work efficiently and satisfactorily.

Performance also has a data driven-side. How do we measure good performance versus bad performance? Team development, especially in drilling and construction, relies on setting key performance indicators. (This topic could take an entire column by itself, so I will save that discussion for another day.) As leaders, our role to understand what data is important. Use it to set the baselines to measure performance as our team progresses through assigned work. Once a team reaches the performance stage, in theory they could live within stages 4 and 5 — performing, and ending or terminating. The team may add or subtract members, and revisit stages as they evolve and work through new and different projects, but they are equipped to understand how to progress through stages and challenges as they operate.

If you have followed this article series, you know these stages are living and fluid. A team can easily slip back and forth between stages depending on any number of factors. As leaders, the more attention and emphasis we can place on the importance of these stages of team development, the stronger our teams will become. We prepare our people to flex and adapt to the ever-changing conditions of drilling and construction work. Leading a team to the performance stage and watching them accomplish work efficiently and to the satisfaction of our customers is one of the greatest accomplishments a team leader can hope to achieve. Every stage builds on the last and each serves an equally important part in the overall development of a team. Understand your team’s readiness, find help when you need it, and then develop systems to monitor and control performance. These tools ultimately determine how well your team performs.

Next time, we enter the final stage: termination or ending. Until then, Capt. Fletch over and out!