Growing your team – Teams do not just happen as though through magic

Growing your team

Teams do not just happen as though through magic. They have to be built and maintained by someone who understands what makes teams tick.

[source] Morris et al. (1995)

Growth stages

[Visual of row of tomato plants in pots, labelled: ‘forming’ (seedling), ‘storming’ (wild looking young  plant – branches and), ‘norming’ (larger, symmetrical plant with shoots pinched out), ‘performing’ (mature plant, laden with fruit). Team leader watering storming plant, and looking towards the next stage.]

A team usually grows through a series of stages, just like a plant maturing.


As the team comes together, members wait to see what’s expected of them. They ask themselves questions like: What are we here to do? How am I going to play it? They may be anxious, reserved or polite as they weigh up the situation. Trust is probably at a very low level (unless members already know each other).

The main activity going on in this stage is exchanging ideas and gathering information.


As the group moves from exchanging information to trying to reach agreement on objectives and roles, members may disagree and enter a stage of conflict. Opinions polarise and your views and role as leader may be challenged. This is a competitive, energetic stage, which can also be creative if you play your cards right.

We felt threatened by the new member’s skills and experience, so for a while we ignored her contribution.

Team member


The norming stage teaches the team members that they need to work together to achieve their goal. This means developing ground rules and procedures for how they operate. The team begins to harmonise as members understand what’s expected of them, take on their roles and start to trust each other. Members feel part of the team and realise that they can achieve tasks if they accept other viewpoints.


The mature team works in an open and trusting atmosphere where flexibility is the key. In this stage the team enjoys itself and is really achieving. Members really understand each other and their work, and they are motivated to achieve the team’s goals. Most of the team’s energy is devoted to achieving the task.

Stages of team growth

Forming – polite but untrusting
Storming – testing others
Norming – valuing others
Performing – flexibility arising from trust

Like any model, these stages are only an approximation of reality. In the real world teams oscillate between the stages, just as a young person oscillates between adolescence and adulthood. Some teams move through the norming stage before they storm.

Now do this

Think about three teams: the one you lead and two more in which you participate.
Which stage has each of these teams reached?
 Team    Stage of growth

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