Lead Your Team to High Performance

19 Feb, 2018How-to

If the name Bruce Tuckman and the four stages of team development cause no bell ringing in your mind, a smart thing to do would be to start by reading this first: “The Four Team Development Stages”. Unless you are an uttermost rebel. In that case, just keep reading but consider yourself warned. You are missing out on some pretty crucial information!

Best Practices for Team’s Four Stages

In the title we promised to enlighten you with the best practises of leading your team to the fourth stage of team development – HIGH PERFORMANCE. We at DotsMore believe in delivering on our promises so let’s get down to it.

As mentioned in the stages overview (which you have for sure read right? If not this is your last chance to do this the proper way! read me) any team’s journey begins with the “FORMING” period. This period occurs not only with entirely new teams but also after any team composition changes. Losing or gaining a new team member can revert your team to this stage. Ready to find out what approach to take at first?

Put on your coordinator’s hat.

At this stage your role as a leader is very crucial. There is a lot of anxiety and novelty in the team and your team needs your support to navigate through this safely.

  • Start by building relationships and getting to know each other. You need a strong level of trust to become a high-performing team.
  • Spend enough time defining a clear shared goal for the team. Identify milestones and facilitate formation of the first action plan.
  • Coordinate the tasks and roles of team members.
  • Introduce your team to effective problem solving practices (more about that coming soon in Tips And Tricks!)
  • TOP TIP: Make it an INTENTIONAL PROCESS. This will prove to be invaluable later on. How to do it? Simple. Just help your team to come up with what their expectations, concerns, needs and wishes Establish open communication from the beginning.

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Ask your team:

  • What kind of a team would they enjoy being part of?
  • What behaviours from the team members would make them feel supported?
  • What are their expectations?
  • What concerns come to their mind?
  • What are their expectations from your (leader’s) side? – follow this up by making a commitment to them. Tell them that if they support you and deliver on their promises, you will too. And stick to it.
  • What are they offering to the team?
  • What are they best at?
  • What do they need more support in?

Open communication does wonders. Taking the time to have this conversation shows that you care. It shows you are ready to support them. It builds trust and commitment. If you go out of your way to deliver on your promises, your team will go out of their way to deliver on theirs.

TASK ONE: Look at your personal learning notes from the “Four Stages“ article. How would have this stage felt different if you had this type of support from your leader? Can you think of any other ways to support your team better?

Time to switch gears into coaching mode.

The second stage offers you an amazing opportunity to practice your coaching skills. This is when the true colours of individuals start to show – both for the good and the bad. This period is when the “STORMING” comes in.

  • When interpersonal conflicts start to show, revisit the conversation about the kind of a team the members want to be part of.
  • Explore what needs to happen for this to become a reality.
  • Train your team to have difficult conversations effectively without creating friction or making it personal (more on this coming in another Tips and Tricks entry soon, so stay tuned!)
  • Work on creating a psychologically safe environment. (Read more about psychological safety here: Google Approved Team Productivity Recipe )
  • Lead your team with questions. Approach problems together with mutual curiosity about how to best solve them.
  • Make sure that during meetings everyone gets to express If someone is displaying overpowering behaviour, address it on a 1-to-1 basis. If someone isn’t willing to voice their opinions, find out what the reason behind it is and help them to open up.

TASK TWO: Looking at your personal learning notes – think about the difference of this approach and the one you have experienced. What other elements would you incorporate into this to give the best support? How do you think this would work in your current team?

Become the king/queen of empowerment.

Well done, you are almost there! Your team should have some solid ground to stand on at this point. This is the stage of “NORMING”. Your role is to empower your team to truly adopt the behaviours you have been discussing and make them their default.

    • If a conflict arises, empower your team to solve it the way you have trained them to. If a problem arises, support your team to find the solution using the processes you have put in place. You are empowering them with the aim for them to be able to work independently without you around.
    • Address any potentially “dangerous” behaviours (like overpowering, blaming, finger-pointing, prioritizing individual goals over team goals) that any of the team members are displaying. The aim is to raise self-awareness of the implications that such behaviour brings into the team.
    • Speak less.

If necessary, offer support with questions:

  • What do we do now?
  • What is working?
  • How can we make it better?
  • What should we be doing more of?
  • What should we be doing less of?
  • What is the most important thing?
  • What have we not explored yet?

Wondering how to get your team to the high performing league?

Take the back seat.

You have arrived safely to the PERFORMING stage! This is impressive. Only a small number of teams ever makes it to this stage. It is time for you to sit back a little. Your team should be able to manage all day-to-day decisions and problems effectively on their own, using the processes in place.

  • Check-in regularly with your team
  • Make sure they know they still have your full support in case they need it
  • Celebrate their progress
  • Ask for feedback and what could be improved
  • Continue supporting positive relationships and mutual trust
  • Think about other learning and development opportunities your team or its individual members might need.
  • Show appreciation and allow members to take on bigger and bigger responsibilities. Progress is key!

At any point a team can go back to any of the previous stages. If that happens, be ready to step in and offer as much support as necessary. After all, this is your team and you want them to do well, don’t you?

As Henry Ford once said:

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

If you manage to get with your team to the fourth stage, acknowledge what a success it is. You are lucky to have an amazing team and they are lucky to have you.

Key Learning Point

There is a different leadership approach required to effectively lead the team to a high performance stage. This starts with coordination, transitions into coaching, followed by empowering and supporting.

Support your team with questions. The purpose is to empower them to be independent from you and fully able to stay on the high-performance road even when you’re not around.

Barbora Kosnarova

Barbora Kosnarova


People connector, deep conversation enthusiast, food lover, multilinguist and proud owner of a big smile. Using her years of experience and expertise in leadership, team transformation, behavioural psychology, conflict mediation and coaching, Barbora turns groups of people into driven market-leading teams.