To develop a world-class team, we need to empower our leaders to coach them better – and understand the psychology of how people work together. 

As people progress in their careers, they are very likely to have increased responsibility for the performance of others.

With career progression comes an expectation that people will, almost automatically, be effective team builders and yet very few receive any kind of formal training in human dynamics or psychology.

They are simply not trained in the development of individuals and teams. We just expect them to be able to do it. That’s why so many teams fail to realise their full potential.

All relationships are so complex that leading a team of people can seem like an impossible task. If you are able to foster positive relationships and collaboration within a team, the impact on the organisation can be huge.

The seven stages of team development

To get a team to a point of high performance, it’s critical to understand the different stages of team development and the types of relationships that are prevalent at each stage. In total there are seven stages of team development:    

  1. A collection of talented individuals – at this stage the people in the team do not share a purpose and do not really have relationships with each other; there is no real team at this stage. 
  2. Battling experts – here the team does develop a common purpose, but that’s as far as it goes. They have a reason to decide things collectively, but they fight for hierarchical control of the agenda. It’s a constant battle achieving no real progress.
  3. Dependent experts – this is the first stage of genuine team functionality. The team has a strong leader bringing cohesion to the group and issues are perpetually escalated to the leader. The relationship here is often a parent-child one; the leader is a parent adjudicating the squabbles of the children. No one aside from the leader takes the team perspective and this can result in massive pressure on the leader.
  4. Independent achievers – this stage is characterised by proactive team development and collaboration, independent of a leader’s influence. There is a huge step change in philosophy as members think more about their role and accountabilities within the team, whilst also collectively achieving business goals that are beyond their own remit.
  5. Interdependent pluralists – stage five is the first stage of development at which you start to feel the excitement and energy of the team. People proactively look forward to the next team event as they are inspired and energised by each other. Team members start to become interdependent and cognizant of how individual actions help and hinder others.    
  6. Integrated pluralists – here the team goes beyond interdependencies and begins to see ways to work in a much more integrated fashion. For example everyone genuinely aligns behind a decision that is made, as they have ensured the decision incorporates true integration of diverse perspectives. At this stage you have an extremely high performing team.
  7. Executive fellowship – an executive fellowship is world class. A world-class team has gone beyond high performance. The team starts to function with an exceptional level of trust and interpersonal understanding. Decision-making is very fast, partly because team members are able anticipate their colleagues’ contributions; such is the level of intimacy at this stage. Furthermore individuals are more focused on the team’s purpose, rather than their own agenda.

To move your team to a higher stage of development, it is advisable to have a coach who understands these different levels of development.

This coaching is not be the same as facilitating a team event, which just increases effectiveness within a stage rather than progressing to the next developmental stage.

Left to their own devices very few teams develop through the levels. If they have a good leader, they are usually able to become independent achievers, but the potential sitting beyond stage four is truly revolutionary. 

Interested in learning more about this topic? Read The reality of performance: no team is an island.