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leadership experience
leadership skills
sense of purpose
respiratory care
team building
code of conduct
Team Building: The Phases To Expect With The Evolution Of A Team
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Teams can often address challenges that are too large or complex for an individual. But teams, themselves, can be a challenge as they evolve and mature from the infancy of formation to a unit that overcomes obstacles. I have over twenty years of senior leadership experience in health care and I have come to realize that team building has four phases of development. Below is a narrative that discusses the phases of team evolution.

I was again in Natalie’s office. She is my director of respiratory care, and she had been having some issues with staffing ratios based on patient volumes with varying diagnosis. Together we had been unable to get it, so the week before, I suggested she assemble a team.

"So how is your team doing," I asked after our usual introductions and small talk.

She sort of scrunched up her face and said, "Well I don't feel like we have really accomplished anything."

"That is pretty common when a team is first formed," I said.

"Really," she answered, the lines on her forehead subsided a bit.

"Yes, Natalie," I said reassuringly. "Your group is in its infancy. This is pretty typical at the first of what I have come to see as four stages."

"Do tell," she said hopefully.

"In the first stage, you have a group of individuals. They are not a team yet, but they are getting the idea. They are going to test your leadership."

She nodded.

"This is when you really need to be there to provide structure. You should provide them with a set of goals and objectives and develop a real sense of purpose for the team."

"I did give them a code of conduct that I wanted all the team members and myself to abide by," she said weakly.

"Perfect, this is the time when you need to really use your leadership skills, and set the tone for the team, in addition to the goals, objectives, and sense of purpose."

She nodded again.

"Your team is going to gradually take ownership of this thing, but right now, they are likely developing a sense of pride for themselves as a team, and with that comes feelings of excitement, a bit of optimism, and certainly we would expect them to be a bit anxious, maybe even fearful."

"I'll say," Natalie agreed.

I continued, "This is a true time to develop your leadership style as you try to instill a sense of trust and develop team interaction. I should suggest that you lead by example here. It is essential that you display the characteristics that you want each member to simulate."

"I can do that," Natalie said. She looked at her desk, as if searching for a mislaid object.

"Do you have a question for me?" I asked.

"Yeah," she said looking up. "How can I expect the group to change? I mean if its an infant now, what stages is it going to go through?"

This is one of those questions that I only answer if asked. If not asked I will continue to meet with my report regularly and coach them through the phases. I prefer this form of leadership development, but Natalie was an extraordinary person and leader and I knew she would know how to assimilate the information.

"Well," I continued, "Stage two is when thing get tough."

"Oh, great," she responded.

"No, I am not kidding. In stage two the excitement gives way to anger and frustration. Each member relies on their own history of experiences and resists supporting the team formation."

Natalie swallowed.

"Your role as leader continues to be vital during the second stage," I said. "You need to be instrumental in building relationships and making sure that people participate. And they need to participate according to your code of conduct that you have rolled out."

"This is not going to be easy," Natalie said.

"No. No, its not. Your interpersonal skills of active listening, conflict resolution, and general flexibility are tested during this phase."

"I can be flexible," Natalie said raising an eyebrow.

"I know you can," I assured her. "And that is good, because your role is going change frequently during the second phase of your team's evolution. You have to walk a fine line in an attempt to not upset the team balance or lose anyone’s trust." I searched her face for any more questions.

"Is that it for phase two?" She asked leaning her head forward.

"Pretty much," I said. "Are you sure you want to hear the rest?"


"Okay. Phase two of the life of a group is when the group really begins to gel. They quite fighting as individuals, and begin to function as a team. This phase is more about relationships than tasks and that's fine. The tasks will come. Your role needs to change again."

"If figures," she said. "What do I do now?"

"As leader, your role is going rely more on communication, providing feedback, and affirming the work that gets done."

"I can do that," she said."

"I know," I affirmed. "You are not in your role by accident."

She smiled.

"Make sure that you are networking with all the members and being a bit entrepreneurial. It is okay to pepper your role with a bit of humor," I said.

"I am hilarious," Natalie said.

That statement was hilarious, but I did not laugh. "The team now is feeling involved and supported. The good news is that this phase is associated with a friendly atmosphere, and most of the time the members work to avoid conflict."

"Phew," she said wiping imaginary sweat from her forehead. "Is that it?"

"For phase three," I said. "Do you want to hear about the last stage of team development?"

"I have come this far. Sure, hit me with it."

"Phase four is when the team really begins to function as a unit. They are diagnosing and solving problems and making changes. They recognize each other's strengths and weaknesses, and even appreciate them."

"Sounds good," Natalie said.

"It is good," I agreed. "The good news is that the team starts to act on its own, and does not rely on you."

"That is good," she repeated.

"Yes. You now get to do your best work as a coach or mentor The team focuses on the decision-making and problem solving."

Natalie was nodding in appreciation.

"That is pretty much the life of a team," I said. "It is put together, fights to find its way, grows up and acts like an adult, and then begins to function."

"How long is it all going to take?" she asked.

"That depends on the group," I said.

"It figures."

"Yeah, I know the old 'it depends' line, but it is true. Depending on the personalities of the individuals in the group, its size, and of course, its leader," I said waving an upturned hand at her.

"Oh, so by the end of the week," she joked.

"Yes, at the latest." I continued her joke. I took a breath, "But seriously, it happens when the group is ready for it. That is okay, because this was a problem that you and I worked on to no avail. It is a problem that only a good team, and the ideas that come from it can solve. I can be patient as long as I know that the group is working and developing as planned."

"Good," Natalie said. "It is nice to have the support."

"And the group will appreciate your support," I deflected the compliment.

"Okay," Natalie said. "Let's see what this group can do."

"Sounds great." I said.

I met with Natalie regularly as she led her team. Each phase took about a week to get through, and it was worth it. The team that she put together, the team that formed, stormed, got normal, and performed produced a successful plan for reducing employee hours while satisfying all the patient treatment demands. An outcome that was not going to happen on the backs of individuals like Natalie and me. That is the beauty of a well put together team. Just expect it to have all the phases of development as I have described.

Thanks for reading.

Street Talk

Do you know of any other phases of team deveopment? Are my ideas sound?

  about 1 decade ago
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