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Team Building Skills

Developing Teams

There are typically four stages involved in developing a team: Forming (meeting and organizing), Storming (clarifying the project), Norming (determining roles and responsibilities), and Performing (undertaking the task).


At this stage, members of the group are getting to know each other and discovering the tasks they have before them. Often in a new group, obvious leaders will emerge. People will "check out" the other members of the group to decide on their level of commitment. In this stage there is often some anxiety and confusion.

Two important things must happen during this stage:

  1. Team members must feel welcome and included. They must feel that their ideas will be respected.
  2. There should be a consensus about the goal the group will achieve.

A team will also go through a forming phase any time a new member is added to an already formed team. As the new people enter the team they ask questions about how they fit into the team, what they will learn, how they will contribute, the benefits, and finally the expectations from others. Members of the group will ask themselves if they can trust the new person, how the person will change the group's dynamics, how the person will contribute, and if he/she can work with the new person.

A facilitator or manager can help get the "reforming" team through this phase by telling the new employee about the group members and the task, introducing the new member to the group, explaining the contributions the new member can make, making bridges with common skills between members, communicating clearly, being available to answer questions, and encouraging the team members to welcome the new employee.


By this stage, all members will have "bought in" to the group and the task. Now there may be some power games and jockeying for position as to who will perform what leadership roles within the group. There could be frustration among team members, and some may feel that the group is so scattered that they cannot complete the task.

This phase may be over quickly, or it may take months or years. Having a good manager of facilitator should help most groups move past any conflict. A facilitator should emphasize good communication skills and encourage the group to move on to complete their goals.

Sometimes in groups the need for consensus is so high that storming does not occur and poor decisions are not challenged. This type of agreement to unquestionably "go along with the rest of the team" is called Groupthink. The team can revert to the storming stage any time there is conflict. Teams must not dwell on their differences, but rather look at each individual's strengths. The team leader or facilitator cannot ignore conflict once it surfaces. The team must resolve conflict, or it will fester and explode. It is important to focus on the task and continue to move forward.


After getting past the storming phase, group members should now move on to understanding their relationships and responsibilities. They should determine some ground rules, such as how meetings are conducted and when they are held, how members will treat and communicate with each other, and how the work will be accomplished. The facilitator or leader will take a smaller role at this stage dealing with "personnel" issues because members will be more comfortable in their roles. The leader will want to make sure that meetings are held so that members can share experiences and attitudes, provide input and comments, and receive feedback on their accomplishments.


At this stage, the work is being done, and the team is able to diagnose and solve problems as they occur. The group may become very creative at this stage. Confidence may grow and there should be a high level of trust. Leadership could come from any member, and members should share responsibility.

It takes a lot of work to achieve a team, but the high level of productivity that can result is well worth the effort.


This stage is going back to the first step. After accomplishing its goals, most teams disperse and come back together in different forms. Some groups reform with new personnel or redefined tasks as stated above.

Team Identity

One of the things team building focuses on is creating a team identity. The idea behind that is that if individual members feel that they are part of a larger entity, they will do whatever it takes to reach their team's goals. All managers want successful teams, and a team with a strong identity usually means a successful team.

Creating a team identity is similar to the "in groups" and "out groups" of sociology. The members of the team identify more with the members inside the team than with those members outside the team. This team identification allows for the members to interact and cooperate more.

Some team building exercises have teams design flags or icons that represent the team's identity. While this is a fun exercise, the practicality of having team logos in the office is not as practical. Managers do not want their work environments to resemble football stadiums or basketball courts with vying teams. In small organizations, employees may be part of multiple teams, and they may have strong identities within the various groups.

Building Trust

Building trust within a new team is incredibly important. Without trust, team members will not be motivated to complete their tasks. Team members want to know early in the team building process:

What will be expected of me?

What can I expect from the other team members?

This is all about trust. Building trust takes more than the group deciding that they can all be trusted. Each person on the team needs to know and understand the group's goals and how each member of the team will contribute to those goals. Team members also need to know a little about each of their teammates. While it is important that group members get to know each other, it is also important that they do not divulge too much too soon.

Effective teams operate within an atmosphere of trust, and that leaves all the "office gossip" outside the team. As team members get to know each other, they will begin to genuinely care about each other. In order for trust to develop and grow, team members must feel comfortable and confident that they can share information.

Think about trust and the images and behaviors that come to mind during:

A time you felt trusted.

A time your trust was compromised.

Most people trust others when they:

Who do you trust?

Who trusts you?

Thinking about the people you trust will help you discover what helps you trust others. This may help you develop trust in other relationships. You could also ask those who trust you why they do and work to develop other reasons for people to trust you.

The team leader plays a key role in developing trust. The leader must create a positive environment and model the expected behavior. It is also the leader's responsibility to reinforce positive behaviors and correct negative behaviors. The leader may also be responsible for teaching appropriate ways to share information and what information is to be shared (or not shared) outside the team.

Ultimately trust is the center of communication and the core of team work. Use this simple evaluation to see if you are a trusted leader.

Working Together as a Team

What makes the team function is the individual team members. There are many roles necessary to enable a team to reach its goals. Individual team members must build harmony and coordinate tasks. To accomplish that may require these specific roles:

These roles are good to identify, but that does not mean that each person assumes only one role on a team or one role at a time. Some members may lean more towards one particular role, but another team member may take on a role as the need arises.

As the team leader, there are three primary roles: leader, manager, or facilitator. These differ in that:

A good leader will assume these roles as needed. There is no clear cut rule about which role to use in which situation, but good leaders try to cover all three simultaneously.

Next section:  The Individual

Team Building Skills
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Velda Arnaud, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Lead, Educate, Serve Society

Last updated 10/4/14 (va)
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