The Stages of Team Development

When we work as part of a team, we naturally take on different roles – this can depend on our own personality and preferences, and it can also depend on the dynamics within the team. Teams also go through different phases of development as they progress.

In this blog we will explore the stages of team development and explore Bruce W Tuckman’s theory on this, the roles we might adopt, and how you can make the most of each phase. 

The stages of Team Development

Bruce W Tuckman’s work on team development talks us through the following stages of development:


This is when the team are coming together and are new to each other. We are likely to see polite relationships in place, perhaps more formal and with less depth. Imagine that you are watching people on their best behaviour, where they don’t yet fully know each other. 

Watch-outs: As the leader, you will want to encourage the team to be their real selves, where they are able, to be honest. Creating an environment of psychological safety where everyone feels they can be themselves will help. Team building exercises can help at this stage of development as we want to encourage deeper relationships to happen so that the team can start to function effectively.  The leader will want to increase communication about the strategy and future direction as the team needs a clear focus and purpose. 

In summary, do not forget to: engage; listen and be curious; provide direction; and be open about who you are personally and professionally 


This phase of team development is where there may be conflicts arising, resistance may occur, competition appears, and conflicts arise.

Watch-outs: The team may become more vocal about what their views are, and unless this is managed effectively, there may be disagreements, and negative team dynamics may start to emerge, such as blame, aggression or passiveness. In this phase, the leader’s role is to surface rather than ignore the team dynamics. Encourage discussion about the differing opinions and role model how to disagree respectfully. This type of discussion ensures the team feels safe in conflict rather than reverting to negative behaviours. 

In summary, express your own opinions respectfully i.e role modelling good communication; encourage and listen to differing viewpoints; treat passiveness with engagement – ask quieter members to share their views one to one and encourage the team to play to their strengths to inspire strong performance


The team understand the direction and are starting to perform well. They are in flow as a group. Team members support one another. 

Watch-outs: This phase involves tweaking and adjusting the team’s identity to ensure it moves into the performing phase. This phase involves establishing ways of working that becomes the team’s norm. It is about consolidating the good work the team has done to create a sense of identity. 

In summary, coaching becomes more prominent for the leader during this phase as the team are more established; Iron out any behaviours or ways of working that aren’t useful and; harness the team’s identity that they have created through establishing ways of working


Motivation is high and the team are motoring. Trust has been built. Individuals support one another across the team. The team is performing against its goals. 

Watch-outs: During this stage, we want to harness the positive performance of the team and the energy it creates whilst ensuring that challenge is still in place to drive the team forward. It can be easy to slip into a “cosy” environment during the performing stage, and we want to avoid this. It ensures that creativity, moving the team forward, and stretching growth is still a priority. 

In summary, continue to pro-actively discuss ways of working; encourage the team to coach one another and honest feedback becomes part of the culture of the team.

Team Roles

At any stage of team development we notice people adopt certain roles in the team. There may be the one key person who everyone else looks to first for their opinion. Whilst a strong voice in a team can be useful, it can also dominate others or enable people to become passive as they don’t feel listened to. There may also be a duo of people where this happens, and two people become the driving force of the team. This can be divisive as others do not feel heard. There may be people in the team feeling isolated but don’t want to say. Or cliques may start to form where others feel less included. One way to improve the dynamics of a team is to surface the roles in the team through discussion. This can bring greater awareness to the team about what is happening and why.

Team Coaching

Team coaching is a powerful way of encouraging the team’s development. The ICF describe team coaching as:

“Team Coaching empowers team members to work towards continued high performance and ongoing development, requiring innovation, flexibility, adaptability and goal alignment – all traits that coaching supports”  

Having a team coach alongside the team’s development can support the unconscious behaviours that are happening in a team. It isn’t easy to be part of the team and at the same time see clearly what is going on. This is where a team coach can support.

In Summary

Team development is a process that we can proactively manage. Understanding where your team is in its development as well as the roles people are adopting, is so useful as we can then understand the positive and negative dynamics that are happening. Team coaching is a powerful process that supports the leader and the team itself to move towards performing at its best.

If you would like to know more about how team coaching can support you, then get in touch. I’d love to hear your thoughts on team development.  

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