Exploring The Stages Of Team Development

We are all part of a wide variety of different teams. At work we often have our “home” team, but we are also often members of many other teams as well. If you expand this beyond work, we are also part of our “family” team, “friendship” teams and many others such as sports teams or other groups. I have had the fortunate opportunity to coach teams in business at many stages of development. In this blog, I will share some of the key components to consider when oiling the wheels of an effective team.

Stages of team development

A team will move through different stages of development. Tuckman summarises the phases of team development as forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. The team may return to forming each time a new member joins, and often teams forget to do the work on the team at this stage, as the other team members have settled. In addition, the storming phase may keep appearing depending on the team’s pressures and their ability to manage conflict, for example. Getting some support to understand the different stages can help the team accelerate through the phases quickly. 

Spending time working “on” the team as well as “in” the team

Teams are there for a purpose: to hit targets, meet the needs of customer groups and often generate revenue or increase the organisation’s effectiveness. It can become easy for this work to take over, and therefore, we forget that being in a team needs some work (and time), too. Allocating time regularly for the team to reflect, review, and grow is an important part of the team’s success. 

Why are we here?

Truly understanding the team’s purpose and identity regularly is an important part of the team’s ability to thrive. As the team develops and new people join, the purpose may shift and therefore, regularly discussing it can be useful so that people can connect to the purpose and direction in everything they do. This needs to be meaningful in its communication. All too often, lengthy slide packs are shared about the organisation’s purpose. However, people also need simple, clear, shorter messages to hook into, to engage. 

What the team stands for

Clearly defining and understanding the intention and ethos of the team is really important so that everyone can create healthy boundaries from which to work with. Some questions we might ask ourselves and look to define are:

  • Can you answer what the teams’ values are?
  • How can customers expect to be treated when they engage with the team?
  • What does each person in the team bring?
  • How do we maximise everyone’s strengths as a wider component of the team?

Are there any other questions that you have found useful to ask of your team?

Team structure

I notice that great teams have routine and structure. Think about your family setup, I imagine that there is an informal rhythm to who does what when, and what to expect when you walk through the door. At work, great teams have a structure and routine for their meetings, how they make decisions, how they communicate and when. In addition, understanding everyone’s role in the team is crucial.

Attributes of a successful team

From my coaching conversations I observe some key elements which are key to supporting successful team development, they may include:

Openness and Curiosity: If you have ever been in a team where you give your idea and people say, “We’ve tried that, it didn’t work”, you will know how it feels when your ideas are pushed aside. Having a curious and open approach to new ideas, approaches, feedback, and ways of working increases the team’s effectiveness because new ideas are welcomed. Of course, not all ideas are taken forward, but having a culture of curiosity means creativity follows. 

Transparency and Psychological Safety: Being honest about how you feel without fear of judgment is a super attribute in a team. Building psychological safety means that everyone’s opinions are valued and there is a trusting, safe space to work within. In my experience, psychological safety can be built over time by actively working on it. 

Positive Regard:This is about being respectful to everyone in the team so that whilst we may not agree, it doesn’t get personal. Feedback becomes about the work, not a judgment about the person. 

Conflict: Conflict is often the biggest area I work on in team coaching. Being able to disagree and move through it often requires an outsider, i.e. a team coach, to encourage the team to work through the conflict constructively. 

Feedback: Once we have positive regard, curiosity, and psychological safety in place, giving feedback regularly to one another and about the team becomes much easier. Rather than feedback being a formal process, teams become used to providing observations and perspectives about themselves and each other in a way that is supportive and useful. 

In summary

As you reflect on the different teams you are part of, I wonder what roles you notice you typically have. We often bring particular strengths to any team we are part of, and at an individual level, knowing this can help us bring that to the teInam. If you would like support building your please team get in touch to see how team coaching sessions be able to support you.  

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