The Definitive Stages of Effective Team Development

Human nature is such that we are predisposed to believe that when a rift develops or miscommunication occurs, it is the other person who made the misstep or miscommunicated. Proceeding with that assumption is why minor incidents can quickly escalate into long-standing feuds, if not managed with focused attention and great care.

We Must Learn to Work Well With Others

Human nature is such that we are predisposed to believe that when a rift develops or miscommunication occurs, it is the other person who made the misstep or miscommunicated. Proceeding with that assumption is why minor incidents can quickly escalate into long-standing feuds, if not managed with focused attention and great care.

Regardless of whether you are collaborating with one individual, working as part of a small project team, or involved with large groups of people, true collaboration requires you to be able to interact, cooperate and manage conflicts in a safe and respectful way that ensures tasks get completed and goals are met.

Psychologist Bruce Tuckman, theorized that all teams cycle through 5 stages of development from the time that they first meet through to a project’s end. He underscored that each stage plays a critical part in building high-functioning teams.

Five Stages Of Team Development


This stage requires gathering all of the participants in order for them to meet the team. The focus in on getting to know team members and how each person will contribute to the success of the project. The focus is on team-building, rather than on the details of the work that needs to be done. Energy is typically high and everyone is on their best behavior.

It’s important to note that if additional members are added to the team at a later date or a new leader takes the helm, the group is likely to cycle back to stages 1 through 3 but more quickly, until the new members are integrated.


The complexity of the project has become apparent and personality clashes may develop as individuals take ownership of their part in the project. Differences of opinion and challenges to authority are not uncommon. At this stage it is important to voice the fact that disagreements are normal, because avoiding discussing conflict usually creates a larger problem at a later date.


Members are starting to drop their guard, feel a sense of safety within the group, and are immersing themselves into their work. Everyone is contributing and working as a collective. An appreciation for each others talents and expertise is taking hold.


In the performing stage, a common vision is in play and contributors are working hard to meet the goals that have been set. Most participants are energized by benchmark successes and confident in their contributions. Most everyone is collaborating successfully, although some team members may have encountered conflicts that they have been unable to overcome, making it challenging (or impossible) to work with individuals on the team.


Some members may not have a reason to continue working on future projects, while others may already be discussing the next project in queue. For individuals who have developed strong links with the team but are exiting, a period of mourning may set in. Recognizing that future collaborations may not happen, can be disappointing.

Dealing With Differences
Working effectively with others in the workplace involves understanding and working within the group’s culture, rules and values; joint planning and decision-making; negotiating and compromising; expressing one’s opinions and ideas and respecting those of others, including people of differing backgrounds; and being flexible in terms of roles including knowing when to take a leadership role and knowing when to seek a team approach.

HRSDC (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada)

Building collaborative teams takes work and requires an elevated level of individual self-management. Take a moment to consider how you can become a better team member by asking yourself the following questions:

Roles & Contributions
  • Do I have clear understanding of what I, and each member of the team, is meant to be contributing to reach our end goal? 
  • Are my, and the other team member’s, individual responsibilities and tasks tied to a well-defined action plan that includes realistic deadlines? 
  • Are we reconfirming our roles and expectations, as the project progresses? 
  • Am I, and each of the team members, doing all that we can to support each others successes?

Many teams have moved to remote work in 2020. Signs are that this will likely continue as a reality in 2021. Collaborating as a group either by video or by telephone adds another layer of complexity to interpersonal dynamics. If ever there was a time to practice “active listening” it is now.

Active listening requires that you focus completely on the person who is speaking in order to fully understand their message, comprehend the information that is being shared, and respond thoughtfully to what has just been said. Instead of thinking about a response or mentally rehearsing what to say once the speaker is done, an active listener carefully considers the words the speaker is using to understand the message that is being conveyed.

  • Do I stop multitasking when someone is talking, in order to fully absorb and retain the information or point that is being shared?
  • Do I respect and seek to understand all perspectives that are presented?
  • Do I acknowledge when someone has a great idea or important contribution, making them feel valued and more invested in the team’s success?
  • Do I make an effort to share my thoughts clearly and fully, rather than assume that I am understood?
  • Do I take responsibility for clearing up misunderstandings quickly?
  • Have I informed team members about any unique communication needs that I have?

Such as:

  • “I have a habit of pausing between sentences when I speak in order to collect and formulate my ideas”
  • “I can lose my train of thought when interrupted in mid-sentence and appreciate it when people hold questions until I’ve shared what I need to say”
  • “I need to write down points in order to better respond to what I’m hearing, but that sometimes slows my response time when on a call”
Doing Your Part

As far back as kindergarten, we were taught to “play nicely with others”. As a leader in your field, it remains your responsibility to play a productive part in supporting your team by “working well with others”.

Nurturing healthy team dynamics supports enthusiasm for idea generation, something that people don’t experience in the same way when working alone. The synergy of multiple minds working on finding solutions together, inspires creative thinking and better solutions.

Now then, how well do you work with others?

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