The 3 Stages of Team Development

As an Officer, it is your job to pull each member of your unit into the team because you may someday ask that person for an extraordinary effort.  Everyone in the team must be able to trust and count on the man to their left, right, front and rear.  Your subordinates must feel strongly that they are part of the team, that their contribution is essential to success and know that as leaders we will train and listen to them.  Using the following 3 Stages of Team Development, you will have a guide that will help you pull a team together, move it in the right direction and keep moving until you reach your goals.

Stage 1: Formation: Teams do not come together by accident.  Leaders build and guide them through thick and thin.  To build this team you must constantly observe, counsel, develop, listen and most importantly lead.  Teams work best when they bring new members on board quickly and make them feel part of the team.  The two critical aspects of this approach are reception and orientation.  As a leader, you should talk with each new Soldier, not only to convey general information but also to project confidence and reassurance and to offer assistance to those who need it.  New Soldiers need to understand clearly where they fit into the organizational structure and what their roles and responsibilities are.

I personally believe that the surest way to guarantee unit cohesion is to build it during training.  A new Soldier’s first impressions will condition how they feel about the team for a long time.  You have to make sure that you provide a good experience for those joining the team and remember that how a person perceives how a unit operates can have long-lasting effects-both good and bad- on that Soldier and the team.

Stage 2: Enrichment: New teams and new Soldiers gradually move questioning everything to trusting themselves, their peers and you…their leader.  As a leader, you must earn that trust by listening, following up on what you hear, establish clear lines of authority and setting standards as well as individual and unit goals.  Again, training molds a group of Soldiers into a team.  Training together is essential during this phase because the team will build collective proficiency-the knowledge, skills and attitudes a team possesses will appear greater than the sum of those the Soldier themselves would possess if they were not part of the team.

Step 3: Sustainment Stage: When a team reaches this stage, its members think of the team as “their team”.  They own it, have pride in it, and want the team to succeed.  Team members will do what needs to be done without being told.  Every new mission gives you as a leader a chance to make the bonds even stronger, to challenge the team to reach for new heights.  You constantly develop your subordinates because they are tomorrow’s leaders.  You continue to train the team so that it stays proficient in tasks it must perform to accomplish its missions.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I urge you to think about your job as a leader in the sense of these 3 Stages of Team Development.  I say this because I have executed this myself with great results.  I was able to take a rag-tag group of unmotivated Soldiers who “hid” in the Platoon to avoid their duties to a Platoon who has so much pride in what they do and how they out perform all others across the Brigade.  Trust me…it works!

If you have any comments or questions, just post them below. Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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6 thoughts on “The 3 Stages of Team Development”

  1. Thanks for posting this outline of the 3 Stages of Team Development. As a leader it’s your job to foster an environment where team chemistry is born. Following these steps can help ensure your group evolves into a well oiled machine. Any ideas for key errors to avoid when taking on a leadership role?

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Chuck. I would agree although I consider the “sustainment phase” to handle the personnel changes. You may even consider that part of the “build the team” phase. I think that each “phase” occurs simultaneously and that team building is constant because, like you said, personnel changes in the Army are always occurring. But, if you understand these three stages of development, you are better prepared to integrate that new person into the team that you are trying to build. And because you have focused on building that team, those Soldiers are more resilient and better apt to handle new Soldiers and bring them up to speed…

  3. Your post “The Three Stages of Team Development” are great. In the Army there might be one more stage: rebuilding your team. It seems like personnel changes are always affecting teams in the military. People are always coming in or leaving. It can make team development very difficult at times.

    Thanks for the post.

    1. And that is probably one of the most difficult parts of the job;just when you get a team running in a solid way, many of the faces change. That in itself can be quite challenging.

      Is there any good hints and tips about rebuilding the team? Justin, this was a great post on the 3 stages. Good job and hopefully it helps some leaders.

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