As individuals grow together to become a team, they move from a group of people who happen to be in the same place to a team of people working together towards a common goal. During this process, all teams go through common and predictable stages of development.

In From Bud to Boss, we reference the Tuckman Model of team development as a useful tool for understanding what is happening in your team at each stage of development.  This model proposes that there are four stages of team development. These stages – in order – are Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.

Each stage of team development has different characteristics, and teams need different things from their leaders at each stage. As a result, every stage calls for leaders to behave in different ways to support team growth and development.

We also use the DISC model as a tool for understanding how to adjust your communication style in different situations and with different people for maximum effectiveness. The DISC model is based on recognizing and adapting to both pace (faster or slower) and priority (tasks or relationships) differences between people. The four DISC styles are Dominant (faster pace and task priority), Inspiring (faster pace and relationship priority), Supportive (slower pace and relationship priority), and Cautious (slower pace and task priority).

By combining the models, you can gain insights for how to best lead your team through each of the four stages of team development. To be fair, you will wind up using many different leadership behaviors at all stages of team development. And, based on where your team is at a given time, you can use the two models together to focus your efforts for maximum effectiveness. 


In the Forming stage, your team will likely exhibit polite, cautious behaviors and look to you for strong guidance and direction. While individual team members might confidently move forward, the team as a whole likely will not. Collectively, team members do not yet know exactly what is expected of them as they work together. While many of the concerns at this stage are related to relationship development, you can often help them best by providing clarity about what needs to get done and how to start. You can use Dominant behaviors – directing activities, setting goals, and solving problems – to help your team gain the clarity and direction they need to grow from a group of individuals to a high-performing team.


In the Storming stage, your team might experience conflicts and struggles. This is a very dangerous phase of team development because relationships can be irreparably harmed by conflicts, relationship struggles, and wrestling with organizational issues. To navigate these rough waters, you can use Cautious behaviors – asking thoughtful questions, carefully evaluating information, and developing processes – to guide your team on to the next stage of development.


As your team enters the Norming stage, they will focus more on task accomplishment and less on interpersonal issues. There might still be a few left-over relationship issues to resolve and some gentle guidance to offer to keep them growing. You can use Supportive behaviors – offering reassurance, encouraging, and listening – to solidify the team growth gains you made in the previous two stages.


Finally, as your team moves into the Performing stage. They are pretty self-sufficient. They know what needs to be done and how to do it. They are almost totally focused on goal achievement. Now, you can use Inspiring behaviors – enthusiasm, cheerleading, and celebrating – to keep your team’s energy up for the long haul.

With individuals, you can adjust to their particular style and the demands of the moment to maximize your leadership effectiveness regardless of the team’s stage of development. With the team, use these insights to guide your thinking about what it needs from you at each stage.


If you have specific questions about your team’s development, we want to help. Ask your question in the comments or drop us a line here. 

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