Stages of Team Development

I was poking around the Global Leadership Development and HR team’s TeamLeaderTraining resources recently and came across the article, Stages of Team Development.

I found it intriguing because it recognizes that difficulties and awkwardness with a team are just a normal part of the team’s development.

We are a good month into the campus year. We have worked hard to meet new students and involve them in our movements. It’s normal to be tired at this stage. Add to that, most of us, likely, are on new teams, or we have some new team members. We’ve gotten to know them by now and are starting to see some, ummm, things that grate us a bit.

So, is this normal? Yes!

Read on. I have reproduced the entire document, Stages of Team Development, to give you hope that you can work through some of these frustrations.

Stages of Team Development

Teams “grow up”. They mature.  As a team leader, you are in a position of helping your team move through the NORMAL phases in that growing-up process. Years ago, Bruce Tuckman identified four stages of team development that are helpful for any new team leader to understand:

Forming—“I love you all, and I’m so privileged to get to work with each and every one of you. God knew exactly what He was doing putting me on this awesome team. Now… where do you live?”  

In Forming:

  • There has been a major change in the team—maybe a new leader or several new members have joined.
  • The purpose isn’t clear
  • People don’t know what is expected of them
  • The team doesn’t know each other, so they tend to be polite
  • They look to the leaders for direction
  • It is like dealing with a likeable 3 year old child who loves everyone.

Storming—“You are all idiots, and you’re driving me nuts.  If I could just get rid of a few team members, I could get somewhere.  All we do is fight; no one knows where we’re going.  We go on and on at our staff meetings because we can’t agree on anything.  I don’t think these leaders have any idea where we’re going…but I’m sure not telling them.”

In Storming:

  • Team members have gotten over holding back their opinions and now disagree more readily
  • Team members express questions, concerns, frustrations
  • Ideas get shot down.  This can happen in such a way that the team member can feel shot down personally.
  • Alliances among team members can divide the team.
  • People question the direction and the processes
  • People become focused on the conflict rather than the task at hand
  • It is like dealing with a 15 year old adolescent—a bit rebellious and obstinate.

Some teams can give up here if no one LEADS them THROUGH conflict.  Some may feel that if we talk about the conflict, it will destroy the team.  In fact, if you never learn how to deal with your differences, people will act like they agree when they don’t—passive aggressive, or you’ll produce a team of clones who are afraid to think for themselves since they have to agree with you as the leader.

Because of personality, culture, experiences and/or upbringing, leaders feel differently about conflict. Some abhor conflict and avoid it at all costs, but it is part of healthy team growth.  Team leaders must learn to embrace conflict or they will destroy their team, and certainly will not build a movement of healthy people.

One team leader regretfully said, “The words ring in my ears from people with whom I chose to not enter a conflict—‘Why didn’t you tell me this before?’”.  He learned the hard way that conflict does not disappear, and it is neither loving nor kind to a team member to ignore issues.

Norming—“OK, I’m starting to understand where I fit on this team and how my gifts, passions and strengths can be maximized to help move us forward.”

In Norming:

  • You have now learned how to deal with each individual member and their differences.  This information is invaluable.
  • You have helped the team establish guidelines/norms as to how to deal with conflict, and make decisions, how to treat each other, how to work, how to do meetings.
  • Trust is increasing
  • Members can disagree with a thought without getting their feelings hurt.
  • Your team is entering adulthood.

Performing—“We know where we are going, we know what we’re doing this week to get there.  I am glad I’m on this team even though these people are very different than me.  It works because we complement each other’s gifting. When someone on this team offends me, I feel free to talk to them about it right away.”

In Performing:

  • The team begins to experience multiplied fruitfulness
  • They agree on goals, roles, norms, how to be a team.
  • They are innovative and can solve problems together
  • They assess how they are functioning and learn to be more effective.
  • Members take the initiative toward goals without waiting for the team leader to tell them what to do.
  • Team members are careful not to slip back into bad habits.
  • The team is reaching maturity.

You may not start in the forming stage; you may go right to storming. Also realize that different people on the team could be at different places in the process.  As a team leader, look for the dominant theme of the team to figure out what stage you are in and what steps to take to keep moving forward.


References:  accessed on April 3, 2014.

I thought you might find this encouraging. Whether you are new on a team, or you have new team members, or you are building a team of volunteers, faculty or students, it’s worth pressing through the hard stuff because of how the Lord will use your team to accomplish more than you ever could on your own.


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