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Party Cohesion in DND|How to Help

This is taken from here, originally written by David Priestly at Venture Team Building. It lends itself well for struggling leaders and Dungeon Masters alike if dealing with a problem player or parties that are meshing well. Remember that we’re all on equal footing in Dungeons and Dragons. Feel free to replace “Team Leader” with “Dungeon Master,” but players and DMs alike help guide and control the path a party takes both in and out of game.


The Team Leader Role

The responsibility of the team leader is to provide direction, identify working strategies and processes and delegate responsibility and accountability within the team. The leader must have a clear understanding of the project and project scope and be prepared to answer lots of questions about the team’s purpose, objectives and external expectations.

The most valuable part a team leader can play is to recognize which stage of development the team is performing at and provide the appropriate support to ensure improved team development and eventual project success. Once established, use strategies that will move your team through to the next stage in the team formation process. By following this simple process, you will quickly have a high-performing team.

Helping a Forming Team

The forming stage of development is best done as a project introductory workshop. At this stage, the project or task should be clearly communicated without overwhelming team members. You should keep it simple for the first meeting and just lay the foundations. You should also allocate enough time for everyone to get to know each other by using appropriate ice breaker activities and team challenges.

After, clearly communicate expectations, roles and responsibilities – a good way of doing this is by asking team members what they feel they can contribute to the project and having them picking their own responsibilities.

Helping a Storming Team

The leader needs to focus the team on its short-term targets and end goals to help them avoid becoming distracted by relationship and emotional issues. Storming can be reduced by clarifying work goals and individual role and objectives. When people know what individual success means, they become more focused.

Explain the “forming, storming, norming, and performing” model, so team members understand why problems occur, and the likely improvement in the future.

Leaders should aim to move into more of a coaching role, which is less likely to create resentment and aids the development of self-reliance within the team. You should also look to coach team members in conflict resolution skills when necessary. This will hopefully accelerate the team into the norming phase.

Try some of the following if you feel your team development isn’t progressing:

Normalise conflict: Explain that this is a natural phase of the group formation process and discuss Tuckman’s, ‘Forming, storming, norming, performing’ model.

Be inclusive: Make all members feel included and create an open forum for team discussion, inviting all views and opinions. Comment how a variety of ideas and opinions help foster creativity and innovation.

Make sure everyone is heard: Monitor and facilitate any heated discussions and help team members understand each other.

Support all group members: This is especially important for those who feel a little insecure. Talk to all members of your team and even have 1-on-1 informal chats about development and allow them to share their concerns and opinions with you.

Remain positive: For the success of any task, you need buy-in. The team leader will be directing the project and will need to motivate and inspire others by sharing their outlook and vision.

Don’t rush Team Development: Slow and steady wins the race and working through the storming stage can take several meetings. Remain positive at all times.

Helping a Norming Team

Facilitation is best used when managing a norming team. By using facilitating, you provide an opportunity for team members to work autonomously and take on more responsibility, making their own decisions. When you do this, it important to only interfere if the situation absolutely requires it.

The leader should ensure that the purpose of the task or project remains clear and challenge the team should they become complacent, to try and accelerate them into the performing phase.

Try to use questions to get team members to think about the task strategically and form their own ideas on best solutions.  Refrain where possible from telling others how to do something as this doesn’t get the best long-term results and you will end up regressing to the storming stage. Allow independence and see what the team produce (they might surprise you).

Helping a Performing Team

Team Leaders should delegate and oversee a performing team, they should resist the urge to instruct or assist when not required. Their focus should transition from people management to more work related tasks. They must continue provide ongoing support and motivation and to be invaluable as a source of advice when needed.

The leader should recognise the contribution of the team and give credit when providing reports to others. If anyone is left feeling that their contribution is not being recognised, the resentment may be carried through to the next project and storming will be more difficult to overcome.

Helping a Adjourning Team

Team leaders and members should be sensitive to handling these endings respectfully and empathetically. The best method of closing of a project group is to set aside time to allow for a proper debrief and a celebration of their success.

This is an opportunity to thank the project team and recognise both team and individual achievements. Allow an opportunity to reflect on performance and discuss any improvements for future project management activities. After this, report any discoveries and achievements to key stakeholders outside of the team.

Remember, as a team leader you may have to work with this group of individuals again and it will be much easier if people view your working relationship and past experiences positively.


Let’s Hear From YOU!

Share with us YOUR horror stories or fond memories of first time impressions and group formation. What techniques have you used or you recommend to facilitate faster growth. What’s worked well, what’s made things worse?

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DM Patrick

DM Patrick is a 20-year-hardened veteran of the awesome world and hobby that is table-top gaming. His primary passions include DMing for new players and bringing people into the hobby. He considers himself a "RPG Game connoisseur" and a master of none due to the fact that he's tried so many (both table-top and video games). He's been a full-time DM now for nearly 5 years and intends to remain the "Forever DM" for as long as he can survive because he's so passionate about what he does. By day, DM Patrick removes his DM screen and is known to the world as Patrick Flynn. He's a 35-year-old former Navy Submarine veteran from Ocala, Florida. If you want to know more about Patrick, roll investigation.

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