What is Team Development and How Can I Grow a Great Team?

September 23, 2022

Besides its incredible humor and renowned impact on mustache culture, Ted Lasso, the four-time Emmy award-winning Apple TV+ series, is one of the most heartwarming stories of a team overcoming immense challenges.

Throughout the series, we watch a mustachioed Jason Sudeikis navigate inflated egos, cultural diversity, and profound mental health struggles while helping a soccer team rediscover a strong bond with one another. It's a textbook example of why having a great team with excellent communication can mean the difference from simply having talent.

Running a small business is a team sport.

Yet, most business owners think creating a team is simply buying back time or finding a warm body to complete a simple task.

A deeply formed team can mean the difference between success and failure for your small business. When you understand how teams are formed, the stages each team goes through in their development, and how to create an impact with your team at all stages, your business will thrive like never before.

Five Stages of Team Development

In the 1960s, a psychological researcher named Bruce Tuckman developed and released a theory on group dynamics. Tuckman's stages of group development have been leveraged in business management for decades and has enormous implications for small businesses.

Tuckman discovered that there were five significant stages in a group's development:

  1. Forming
  2. Storming
  3. Norming
  4. Performing
  5. Adjourning (Ending)

Each stage has its struggles and actionable insights that can help facilitate a smooth transition to the next stage. Overall, the key to forming an incredible team is simple: communication. The more that you communicate to your team about their goals, display ways in which they're directly moving towards them, and celebrate their accomplishments, you'll find that your team grows in morale immensely.

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Stage 1: Forming

The best place to start any journey is at the beginning. Forming is the start of any new team; it's the point at which the team initially comes together and begins to embark on a new venture.

This is an exciting time to be a part of a team!

Everything is fresh; there are highly positive sentiments surrounding this phase and a yearning for direction. Since the team is brand new, they need to clearly understand the structure, goals, and guidance they're operating with. This is where trust is established and the leader's expectations are communicated clearly.

Stage 2: Storming

Every journey comes with a conflict. During the storming phase, difficulty or tension arises among the team members. In the forming stage, each team member created their own set of expectations for what their experience may be like. When reality doesn't fit those expectations, it can cause frustration or anger.

When we work on any team, we quickly begin to learn more about our teammates. Conflict can naturally arise between team members as different work styles converge.

Listening and empathy towards the team's sentiments are essential when leading through a storming phase. These tensions can often be hints to resolving operational inefficiencies or creating better internal processes. It's important to redefine the team's goals, roles, and tasks to focus on what can be controlled.

Stage 3: Norming

Finally, our journey begins to feel a bit less impossible. Reality sets in as tensions and conflicts resolve and previously unmet expectations level. The team starts to understand what they can control, how they can improve and work towards their shared goal, and ultimately find success with one another's help.

This is an incredible mindset shift for teams: that they can accomplish what they set out to do in the first place.

This is where the fun starts. A natural camaraderie forms as the team begins to shift and accommodate another's strengths in place of others' quirks and weaknesses. Friendships deepen and work naturally becomes like second nature. Productivity begins to increase, and processes become smoother.

Stage 4: Performing

We've gotten the hang of things. Our journey no longer feels new, uncertain, or impossible. Instead, teams begin to display more confidence and tackle challenges with ease.

A high-performing team is a force to be reckoned with.

Goals get conquered, progress feels tangible, and the team knows they're doing a great job. In this stage, team members can begin to dive deeper into their roles and responsibilities or help to improve inefficiencies in the existing processes. Friendships are deep, and a sense of community is present.

Stage 5: Adjourning (Ending)

All journeys come to an end. Whether it's the completion of a project or the transition of a teammate, it's time to move on. When teams dissolve, it can be a bittersweet experience. A shared goal has been conquered, but things are changing. It's important to reflect on your shared experiences as a team to process everything that happened. Through reflection, new insights can be learned and carried onto new journeys.

Teams are constantly ebbing and flowing. Your business relies on the ability to put together an incredible team for it to succeed. With a deep understanding of where your team is along their developmental journey, you'll be able to identify how to step in and offer guidance. Together, you can accomplish incredible things.

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Jeremy Millar
Written by:
Jeremy Millar

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