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The Four Stages of Team Development

January 7, 2018

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Today, we’ll look at the four stages of team development and incorporate the four team player styles that were presented earlier. (Reading team player styles is helpful to understanding this post.)

1. Forming
: This occurs when people are first brought together to form a team. They begin to get to know one another and set out to establish the appropriate rules and behaviours that will govern the team. The members look to the team leader for direction. Interactions among the members are somewhat formal and polite during this phase.

During forming, the Doer wants to know where he fits in and his specific role. He can be helpful by being a catalyst to action and getting the team to move ahead. The Visionary helps by encouraging the members to share their visions and to set goals. The Feeler wants to be accepted by the others and to help people to get to know one another. Moreover, she wants the team to understand its diversity. The Boat Rocker wants openness and the team to have a clear purpose and direction.

2. Storming: 
The members are getting comfortable with one another. They start disagreeing and challenging each other. If this stage is missed, the team won’t be as strong because it hasn’t yet learned how to deal with conflict.

The Doer is getting impatient because he wants results. He can help the team by urging it to move ahead. The Visionary worries that the team is getting distracted from its goals. She can assist by promoting the common good and being open to ideas. The Feeler functions best during this stage. He wants to help his teammates be productive by using effective listening skills. And the Boat Rocker thrives here because it involves high energy. She can help by showing the proper way to challenge people and when to put an issue to rest.

3. Norming: 
The members know each other and have developed rules of conduct. They want the team to be successful. Trust is being established, and the members are having fun.

The Doer in this stage is excited because the team is getting down to real work. He plays a key role here. He can help the leader set standards (e.g., quality) and promote accountability and the effective use of resources. The Visionary wants to be reassured that the team is moving towards its goal. She may be concerned with camaraderie. The Feeler is happy that the team has reached this stage, but wonders if all the baggage has been discarded. He encourages the team to do some reflection. And the Boat Rocker becomes concerned that members are getting complacent and not challenging one another.

4. Performing: 
In this final stage, the team has a clear, common purpose and direction. The members appreciate their diversity and are building on it. Synergy is taking hold.

The Doer is worried about the team not being aware of external changes. He can be a catalyst to setting new standards. The Visionary becomes bored and wants the team to seek out new challenges. She can help by encouraging the generation of new ideas. The Feeler is happy with the team’s progress and wants to celebrate. However, he’s concerned with the potential for regression. He can help by encouraging the team to celebrate and to air problems. The Boat Rocker thinks that the members are not challenging each other enough. She can help the leader by raising external changes that may affect the team.

What’s important to remember is that a team will typically move back and forth between certain stages as it develops. This is normal and should be expected.

Here are two questions for you to think about: what stage is your team at, and what role are YOU playing in helping it move forward?

A boat doesn’t go forward if each one is rowing their own way.
— Swahili Proverb


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