Team development – top 10 tips

I’m sure you agree that being part of a team that just ‘works’ is incredibly energising. When it all clicks into place and there’s an effortless flow between you it feels amazing! In my decades of coaching leadership teams, I’ve seen some teams flourish and others struggle to reach this collective nirvana. So, how do you become a truly high performing team? Here are my top 10 team development tips drawn from our Team Journey work with clients around the world and across multiple sectors:

1. Roadmap – Knowing where you’re going is a good start! Teams move through recognisable stages as they develop. Most well-known is the Tuckman model of forming, storming, norming and performing. At Complete we believe there are nine stages of team development, so there are several more levels of performance to unlock beyond that first level of ‘performing’. This roadmap helps teams to track their progress and determine what developmental actions are needed as they go.

2. Commitment – It’s critical that the CEO and CPO, or equivalent roles, are fully engaged in the need for and process of team development. A day’s ‘team building’ once or twice a year is not enough to significantly develop a team. High performing teams take time to create, but with the right level of commitment and coaching, they can progress through two or more stages of development in 12 months. We recommend eight days a year, or 64 hours. It doesn’t take 10,000 hours to be world class with the right focus!

3. Openness – Beyond the sponsorship of the key roles, everyone else in the team needs to be open to team development as well. There’s a helpful mantra to keep in mind – “I will change me, so we can change us”. If everyone is willing to personally change, then the team will develop faster. For this reason, it’s important to engage with every team member at the start of the journey. Once the team starts to make progress, openness to developing even further tends to increase.

4. Diagnosis – Assessing the team’s current stage and areas for development is essential. We use our Complete Team Development Index to flush out key factors that need attention. Interviews with every team member also provide a rich picture of the context from multiple perspectives. Any other team data can further enrich the understanding of strengths and priorities for development.

5. Reality check – It’s hard to develop anything if you don’t understand what level it is at currently at. For example, a Stage 2 team needs a different approach to a Stage 4 team. Therefore, a vital step is for the team to face the reality of its current stage of development. From this baseline, an ambition can be set and a plan put in place to get the team there.

6. Stepping in – An early moment of truth for a team is the realisation that everyone has to commit to the team. If we think of a team like a rowing boat, each team member has to step into their seat and pick up the oar to row in sync with everyone else. A leadership team can’t be high performing by reporting in from their functional boat (which is Stage 3 and below). The moment a team steps into ‘one boat’ and leads out from it (Stage 4 and beyond) is a fundamental mindset shift and transforms the rest of their journey.

7. Intimacy – If you’re going to row in sync, you’ve got to trust each other! Getting to know each other is often what teams do on an ‘away day’ with some kind of psychometric assessment and maybe dinner together. This will help, but it needs to go a lot further to deepen relationships and create genuine intimacy if the team wants to get beyond Stage 4. As psychological safety increases, the team can row together, even through choppy waters.

8. Quality conversations – Teams that can tackle bigger and deeper issues together will ultimately be more successful. Two key factors drive the quality of team conversations: the ability to healthily disagree balanced with the ability to align on a shared answer. These have a yin-yang like relationship, and both can be developed so that there is enough discipline to focus and space to explore.

9. Agility – As the team progresses, what is required of the leader evolves. For example, in Stage 3 the leader provides some stability and steps in to resolve conflict for the team. But, once the team moves into Stage 4, the leader must step back and allow the team to start figuring out answers amongst themselves. If they step back too early or too soon, the team won’t develop. An agile leader open to their own development and evolution is essential.

10. Ownership – Finally, much as I enjoy coaching teams, it’s key that a team being coached takes ownership of its own development. Everything the team learns needs to be embedded into how they work with each other. And the job of facilitating the team’s development ultimately has to be owned by the team in order to progress into Stage 6 and beyond. When a team starts to take the reins of their own development it’s a wonderful moment!

If you’re curious how this all comes together for an actual team, do check out our case studies: team transformation at YBS and team development at Tesco.

Share This Post