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The Stages of Team Development

With teamwork and collaboration becoming more and more necessary in the workplace, developing a cohesive team of employees that can efficiently work together is almost essential for any successful business in today’s market. We’ve all seen or have been part of a stellar team that seems like they can tackle any obstacle, but how exactly does a company create such an all-star team? It doesn’t happen overnight, and takes a lot of work and collaboration. The process boils down into five essential steps:


This step is exactly what it sounds like, the forming of your team to accomplish a shared purpose. The purpose itself isn’t wholly important, and can be anything from a large work project, to winning a sporting event. Your team’s initial success is heavily dependent on three factors.

The first factor is how familiar your team members are with each other and their individual work styles. Some members may be more familiar with one another than others from prior experiences, and others may be completely new to the environment. Building familiarity can be done through a variety of methods, including team building exercises as well as simply lending an ear to your team members. If you are looking for a way to push your team to learn how to collaborate in ways that force them to think outside the norm or come up with creative solutions to problems, or just a way to observe how they work when left to their own devices, consider an off-site team building exercise to an escape room.

The second factor, prior team experiences, is something you have little control over, but it will affect their reception to being a part o the team. Individuals who have has negative team experiences in the past, such as being burdened with entire projects on their own that should have been handled by their fellow teammates, may be less inclined to collaborate or assist others due to those experiences. This is where lending an ear to your team members and hearing out their concerns comes in, and lets you correct or remove any road blocks preventing trust between your teammates due to past experiences or their own personal paradigms.
The last factor, the clarity of the assignment, is essential to your team’s success. While sometimes an objective being somewhat vague allows for creativity and lateral problem solving, when it comes to work tasks or company projects, having a set guideline for how a project should be done is essential. Having conflicting instructions or tasks that are completely unclear on their desired execution will only frustrate your team members and cause a lack of faith in their upper management.


This is where the most disagreement occurs in the team building process. Clashing ideas, personalities, and the fact that your team members are still getting to know one another means there will be constant disagreements on how to perform certain goals or accomplish tasks. This is where lending an ear, using team building exercises, and helping teammates discover their individual strengths and how those strengths can be applied to compliment the rest of the team’s efforts is essential.


This is where social norm of the group and general rules for working within the group are formed, consciously or unconsciously. The group becomes more functional in working together, which enables progress on the team’s goals. This is the stage where you let the team handle things more independently, requiring them to check in regularly or at critical points in the project but not providing as much direct involvement with team building exercises unless when necessary. Still be available to lend an open ear to team members, as some may only feel comfortable voicing concerns in private away from the rest of the group.


This is the stage where your team begins functioning like a well oiled machine. Now fully comfortable with the workflow and work styles of the other members, they are able to play off each other’s strengths to work effectively and make real progress on the task at hand. Be sure to offer continued support when necessary, and require routine check ins about productivity and status updates on the project overall. Also make sure the team is effectively communicating with any other departments or teams in the workplace who’s assistance may be needed to feasibly complete the project at hand.


With the project completed, it’s time for the team members to move on to other individual projects. Be sure to gather the team to commemorate the end of the project, be it with a debriefing, discussion of the process and how to improve for next time, or simply just to celebrate a job well done. The important part of this process is to clearly mark and end to the team or project. For continuing teams like media management teams, a department team, customer service team, etc, this ending step is not applicable, as the team isn’t disbanding. This step can be applied to an especially difficult or work intensive project as a morale booster or to help celebrate the achievement though.