As teams form and work together, they go through natural stages in their growth as a group. Part of our role as educators, facilitators, or leaders, is to provide team members with experiences and activities that will help them to move through each of these stages successfully.
The way in which we structure team work greatly affects the chances of success. If we structure team work carefully, we can lessen the chance of groups getting stuck or ending in conflict, and we can increase the chance of higher levels of cohesiveness, collaboration and productivity.
This is the initial stage of team development, when the group first forms, and when members are unsure as to what or how things might take place. Team members are often wondering about what the group experience will be like, who will be there, how will they fit in, how will they be treated. For some it’s a time of excitement, for others it’s a time of apprehension or anxiety … for many, it’s a mixture of both.
In this stage, team members are sharing expectations of behaviour … how members should act in the group. Who is responsible for what? How will we treat each other? Is this a competitive environment, or a cooperative one? How will we make decisions? How will we solve problems?
Coping with Conflict
Once a team has begun working together, it is quite common for personal conflicts to occur … differing opinions in all aspects of the task. It is important to remember that conflict within a team is a normal stage of group development, and therefore we need to help members learn positive ways to resolve conflict. The way in which the leader of the group reacts and responds to the conflict is essential to how the group will proceed. It is important not to get “stuck” at this stage.
During this stage, the team identity emerges. The team becomes cohesive and effective in dealing with the task and the emotional needs of its members. Team members are able to support each other in a positive way, and still get the task done. Specific roles have emerged in order to facilitate the team. Not all groups reach this stage of development. Providing activities to help teams through the earlier stages of team development will increase the chance of a team being productive.
celebration and closure
This is the final stage, in which all teams must come to an end. In this stage, members must deal with the issues of separating, leaving this group experience behind them, and moving on to new group experiences. If a particular group has remained a collection of individuals, the conclusion may be seen with relief of indifference. But if the team has worked effectively together and formed some bonds, then leaving the group situation may be upsetting. Closure activities designed to help the team through this stage will help finalize a task, reinforce learning that took place, allow members to reflect on their role within the team, celebrate successes, and set goals for further growth and development.
Framework adapted from Thrive Program.