This is where the people who will form the group meet and begin to establish their assessment of what is likely to happen, and how they each might fit in. ‘Will I fit in?’ ‘What are we going to do?’ ‘Can I cope?’ ‘Will I look silly, foolish or incompetent?’ At these times, many will look to the leader to establish appropriate rules, assist with introductions, and help members feel safe while encouraging initiative. From the leader’s position, this is possibly the most important time. If negotiated successfully and confidently, together with thorough planning (which means little goes wrong on the trip), there will be few other difficult leadership actions required. At this stage, a high profile and encouraging style is generally appropriate, but with a firm eye to ensure any inappropriate behaviour is identified and outlawed before it has a chance to become a problem.
The next two stages, called norming and storming, frequently occur in the same time frame. Arguably they are both facets of the group working through the rules which will govern their behaviour and the pecking order within the group.