Team dynamics

The ability to work in a team is an essential skill. It's also one of the top core competencies that employers look for. Learn how to make teams work and improve things when they don't.

Stages of team development

There are some necessary steps or stages that each team will experience, and teams may revisit stages.

  1. Forming

    • Teams go through an initial phase of forming, and every time a new member is  introduced to the team, there will be an element of returning to this stage

    • Members are getting to know eachother and it is important to build trust

    • The vision and goals of the team are not necessarily shared or known by all

    • Members are not all clear about their role – considering ‘what am I here for?’

    • This is where buy-in and commitment needs to happen

    • There is a high-dependence on a leader for direction

  2. Storming

    • Members are starting to define and understand their roles, but there may be some conflict as members figure out how they are to work together – as individuals and as a team

    • Different ideas compete for consideration

    • Now that team members feel comfortable with each other, they may confront each other’s ideas and perspectives 

    • The conflict at this stage can be positive to work through the issues and ensure that team members have the same understanding of roles and goals, and to ensure that good ideas and problem solving occurs - especially if trust and buy in is built in forming stage to allow for 

  3. Norming

    • Members share the responsibility for the tasks and success of the teams goals

    • Members agree about roles and processes for problem solving

  4. Performing (not all teams reach this stage)

    • Members are motivated and are able to work independently and interdependently

    • Work is collaborative and members take initiative

    • Trust and openness is high

    • Work is done for the team goals and not the individual

    • The sum is greater than the parts

5 Dysfunctions of teams

Each one of these builds upon the next and is prerequisite for the following. It is important to think about the role of forming and storming – how important it is to build trust and shared vision, and shared norms at the beginning. Consider the role of positive conflict versus destructive conflict.

  1. Absence of trust – members may:

    • Conceal their weaknesses and mistakes from one another 

    • Hesitate to ask for help or feedback, or to offer help outside their area or role

    • Jump to conclusions or make assumptions about the intentions and aptitudes of others without seeking clarification

  2. Fear of conflict – without trust, team members will not be open to conflict, which in turn:

    • Will have artificial harmony instead of constructive dialogue and sharing of ideas

    • Conflict and dissension will happen in cliques and back-channels

    • Members will ignore controversial topics that would be critical to team success and growth

  3. Lack of commitment – as a result of lack of trust and sharing of opinions:

    • There will not be a shared vision of direction and priorities

    • A lack of or delay in action, or non-productivity may result

    • Discussions and decisions will be revisited

  4. Avoidance of accountability

    • Encourage mediocrity / low standards

    • Deadlines and responsibilities are missed

    • Leader must hold the sole burden of discipline – no group norms, or individual member responsibility to the team

    • Members may resent others for different standards of performance

  5. Inattention to results

    • Loses achievement-oriented team members

    • Does not accomplish potential and often does not meet goals

    • Encourages team members to focus on their own goals – sometimes to the detriment of other team members or the team’s goals

Conflict

Not all conflict is bad – different opinions and ideas can lead to greater end product and good problem-solving. Most unproductive conflict is often about miscommunication and misunderstanding, and can be resolved easier when there is trust and open dialogue.

Consider this statement:

We judge ourselves based on our intentions and we judge others based on their actions.

We all have a tendency to make assumptions, but with awareness we can make a choice.

  • A judgment response is automatic, and reactive
  • A learning response is intentional and aware

How you choose to deal with conflict will affect the outcome:

Come from a place of curiosity – check understanding and assumptions about behaviour behind the action

Consider the difference between the need to BE RIGHT, versus GET IT RIGHT

Meeting evaluation checklist

Here's a step-by-step sequence of what facilitating a successful team meeting would look like:

  • Planning

    • Members were notified in advance

    • There was a pre-arranged agenda

    • The meeting room was also pre-arranged

  • Organization

    • Meeting started on time

    • Guests were introduced and welcomed

    • The purposes of the meeting were made clear

    • There was a clear transition from the previous meeting

    • One person had the floor at a time

    • Discussion was relevant

    • Assignments were made clear

    • Facilitator summarized the main points of discussion

    • Plans for the next meeting were announced

  • Participation

    • All members participated in discussion and decision making

    • Diverse points of view were considered on all topics

    • Strengths of all group members were recognized and utilized

  • Value of the meeting

    • Progress was made toward goals

    • Something was learned

  • Attitude of the meeting

    • Attendance was good

    • Everyone was present on time

    • Members wanted to be at the meeting, and enjoyed spending time together

    • Members helped one another when needed

Book an advising appointment

Skills to do a job