Developing Your Team For High Performance

Stages of team development

What’s a team? How about ‘a group of people working together to achieve a common goal or objective’? How does that sound – not bad? And if you like the definition, do you have a team? If the answer is no, then how do you get one? Questions, questions! Let’s look at some answers!

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman shared his 4 stage theory of team development with the world. Poetry lovers were ecstatic, as all the stages rhyme! Here’s the model:

Stage 1: Forming

The birth of a team! A new team is brought together, probably due to business needs – it may be a permanent or temporary team. Initially there is a lack of clarity regarding the team’s goals and individual roles and responsibilities. Team members experience some excitement, but mainly fear and uncertainty about the future. Productivity is, unsurprisingly, zero. The leader’s role is to provide as much information as possible, clarifying goals and roles, managing expectations, giving the team direction, but also legitimising anxieties and reassuring them that it’s all going to be ok. Let’s get this team up and running!


Stage 2: Storming

A turbulent stage in the life of any team! Some teams never get past this stage. Thanks to the leader’s interventions, some team members are happy and settle down to work – but not everybody. A pecking order has been established, and some people are not happy with where they ended up. They question the leader’s authority and meetings are plagued by sarcastic and unhelpful comments. Cliques form and conflicts arise – the team becomes polarised. Productivity plummets. The leader’s role here is to reinforce the team’s goals, discuss conflict-related issues and find solutions, and remind people they are part of a team and should act as one.

Stage 3: Norming

Norming has broken (sorry)! Differences have been resolved, people accept they are part of a team and are starting to work well together. Productivity is on the way up. This is clearly a good place to be and the leader’s role is to reinforce this by delegating tasks whenever possible, delivering regular feedback (both positive and constructive), and providing training and development so staff have the skill and the will to do a great job. This should create the momentum to carry the team to stage 4:

Stage 4: Performing

Often referred to as an HPT (High Performing Team), the team is self-sufficient and there is a high degree of autonomy. Team members support each other and enjoy working together. Productivity is very high. The leader may adopt an ‘eyes on, hands off’ approach – monitoring the team’s progress and only intervening when necessary. Unnecessary interference would not be appreciated! The leader must also ensure the team does not become stale or bored – members must be kept energised and excited by the setting of stretching goals. It’s not what can they achieve, it’s what can’t they?


A final note of caution

If you have created a performing team, then well done! But please bear in mind that once your team has reached stage 4, maintaining that position can be the hard part! Teams can regress – for example, personnel changes, either minor or major, can cause the team to fall back and you may end up storming again, or even back at the forming stage! Monitor your team and be aware of which stage they are at. Then, implement the necessary actions to get them to where you want them to be. Good luck!


4 Cross-Cultural Communication Mistakes to Avoid

We are increasingly working in a globalised world with colleagues, clients and suppliers from different countries. According to research from the law firm Baker McKenzie, Chinese companies invested 3.84 billion pounds in the UK in 2018. Furthermore, British companies are increasingly competing with global companies for contracts and employees are working as part of global teams with numerous different nationalities.

Chinese market

Avoid making damaging communication mistakesThis article will explore five cross-cultural mistakes to avoid when working with people from other cultures:

1) Not understanding different communication styles

In different countries people communicate in different ways. For example generally German and Dutch people are very direct in their communication style – what they say is what they mean. On the other hand, Japanese people often communicate in an indirect manner. This means that you will frequently have to read between the lines if you want to understand their meaning.

Furthermore, in some countries simple words such as “yes” can have different meanings. In most western countries when people reply “yes” it usually means they understand what was said and agree to do something. On the other hand, in several Asian cultures when someone uses the word “yes” it simply confirms that someone is listening to you. Someone might say “yes” and then later on say “no”, or you might find out that they didn’t understand what you said.

In this case it is important to double check if the other person understands your point by looking at their facial expressions, asking them to summarise what you said or sending them a summary of what was agreed in writing.

2) Comparing other cultures to your own

Some expatriates working overseas sometimes struggle to get used to different cultural habits. For example, this could be French people kissing on the cheeks in greeting or Japanese bowing. If you keep comparing a different culture with your own in a negative way you might offend people from that culture, and it could lead to conflict. This can affect your ability to build strong relationships.

3) Being negative or critical

 Some people complain a lot about working with clients or colleagues from other cultures. If you are negative about other nationalities or cultures and criticise the way they behave, this will have a very negative impact on your ability to work together.

4) Not adapting to the other culture

 Some expatriates work in other countries but do not adapt at all to the local culture. They live in a compound with other expatriates, they don’t eat the local food and they don’t mix with the local people. These same people often do not adapt their style of communication and way of conducting business, then are surprised when they struggle to be successful.

When working with clients or colleagues from another culture it is important to read up on the cultural differences and common cross-cultural misunderstandings. This could be something as simple as giving and receiving a business card with two hands in China.

Cross-cultural differences are important to consider when working with clients and colleagues from other countries to ensure your staff work efficiently and productively. If you would like to improve the ability of your staff to work more effectively with clients or colleagues from other cultures, read about our Cross-Cultural Communication Training.