Moving through the stages – Task, team and individual needs

Moving through the stages

How can you help your team move through the stages?

Understanding what’s happening at each stage and recognising which stage your team has reached gives you a good foundation for helping it to move on. Once you understand what your team is going through, it’s easier to see ways to help.

Another tool to help your team to move on is to consider the roles of leadership in attending to three broad needs. The amount of attention you pay to the task, the team and the individual varies for each stage.

[Figure 1.1] Task, team and individual needs
[John: This figure, and the following three, are nearly the same as the one in Get Organised, p.32 – you might want to adapt that figure for use here, for consistency.]


Adapted from Guirdham (1996)
In this stage, individuals’ needs are high – they need to find out what’s expected of them and what others think of them. Consequently, you need to spend time getting to know each member, answering their questions and reassuring them about what’s to come.
The team has medium needs as it starts to explore ways of getting on and operating together. You need to help members get to know each other. You can do this through activities like brainstorming or problem solving.

If at all possible, it helps to get your members together face to face a couple of times during this ‘getting to know you’ stage. If you communicate electronically, you need to find ways to get to know each other, rather than charge straight into the work. You could initiate a videoconference or e-mail discussion with a loose structure and encourage some social chat.

In our call centre we get people to sit beside a different team member each day so they get to know each other.

Team leader

Task needs are low – the work can’t really be tackled until the group has become a team. However, you can make a start by introducing your vision for the team and having answers to the question ‘What are we here to do?’ Beware of pushing through the work and thereby inhibiting the group’s development.

Team Storming

Adapted from Guirdham (1996)

Individual needs remain high in this stage, so you need to continue answering questions and reassuring.

The team’s needs increase as members give differing opinions on how the group is to operate, what it should be doing, etc. Watch out for signs of frustration and dominant individuals taking over the group. As conflict emerges, bring it into the open and help members resolve it (we look at conflict in the next section).

Task needs are still low as the group is still sorting itself out. As part of the storming, members may challenge the task, so have your answers ready. You may find it helpful to focus on the task as a vehicle for pushing the team to resolve some of their storming.

 Team Norming

Adapted from Guirdham (1996)

By this stage, individuals feel more comfortable about what’s happening so their needs reduce somewhat.

Team needs are still high as the team works to agree ground rules and procedures for how it operates. Your role in this stage is to encourage new ideas, urge members to contribute fully and help them reach agreement (we look at decision making later in this unit).

The group is now operating reasonably well as a team, so you need to pay more attention to the task. You need to get commitment to goals and plan how the work will be done. This means you need to get the team to co-operate.

A team can operate reasonably well at this stage, and some never move on to achieve their potential. To fly, you need to move your team on to the next stage.

Team Performing

Adapted from Guirdham (1996)

In this stage, individual and team needs are at a medium level. Your main focus is on task needs. You need to help the team to plan, carry out and monitor its work, always with the team goals in mind.

You need to watch the team for signs that it is slipping back into one of the previous stages. For example, teams often revert to norming when a new member joins. When this happens you need to help it to amend the ground rules quickly and move back to performing.

Our team sorts itself out. When something needs to be done we say: ‘This is what we have to do, let’s talk about who’s going to do it.’ Then people usually volunteer.

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