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Developing your dream team: 7 game-changing tactics

January 21, 2022 - 20 min read

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What is team development?

10 skills needed for team development

7 tactics to develop your team

5 stages of team development

How to retain your team

Teamwork makes the dream work. 

At least, that’s what they say. When it comes to building effective teams, there’s both an art and a science to doing it well. 

It’s a no-brainer that high-performing teams are incredible assets to any organization. But sometimes, developing those high-performing teams can be tricky. 

You might be looking for ways to build effective, successful teams in your organization. You might also be looking for ways to up-level your current teams so they can reach their fullest potential

Let’s dig into what skills are needed to build a successful team. We’ll also explore the secret ingredients to what makes a high-performing team — and how to retain your all-star team players.

What is team development?

Team development is defined as the process of assembling various members to build an effective team. In order to be effective, it’s critical that team members can work together well for maximum contributions to the team’s desired outcome. 

But it’s more complex than simply assembling individual members into one group and giving the team a project or goal. 

Team development requires nurturing, intention, and inclusive leadership. It also requires a level of self-awareness as a leader and from each team member. What are each person’s strengths? Where might one person’s strength help improve another member’s opportunity? As a leader, how can you empower the entire team to reach their full potential? 

At BetterUp, we’ve studied the science behind what makes teams — and individuals — find their purpose, clarity, and passion. We know leaders are looking for ways to make their organizations more innovative and productive. 

If you’re looking to develop your team or assemble a new team, consider the role of the leader. Effective leaders tend to build effective teams — and our data backs this up. 

We’ve found that future-minded leaders have incredible influence over an organization. What does that mean? Future-minded leaders are able to leverage prospection. Prospection is the ability within each of us to think about the future and envision what’s possible. It takes a combination of optimism, pragmatism, and the ability to think through potential outcomes. 

The result? Teams are more agile, engaged, and innovative. We’ve also found that teams are more productive, resilient, and more willing to take risks.

Consider the ways your organization can develop your leaders while you’re developing teams. You’ll find investing in your team leaders and their competencies will pay dividends for your organization.

11 skills needed for team development 

There’s a handful of skills that make up the secret ingredients to successful team development. We’ve outlined a few crucial skills needed for team development. 

When developing your team, it’s important to look at the whole person of each team member. Every person brings a unique perspective matched with a unique skill set. Consider ways you can tap into the potential of each teammate to maximize impact. By doing so, you'll set yourself up for better team management skills, too. 

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7 tactics to develop your team 

You might have a few new hires in new jobs on your team. You might be assembling a new team with individuals from various parts of your business. Or you might be hiring a new team from scratch — and pairing them with some veteran team members. 

Regardless of where you are in your team-building journey, there are steps you need to take to effectively develop your team. If you’re the team leader, consider these tactics. 

1. Identify your working and leadership style

This first step takes a level of self-awareness and reflection. As a leader, it’s important to look inward to identify how you work. What feedback have you received in the past that might help you identify your leadership style? What working style has made you most productive? 

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2. Establish clear roles, responsibilities, and expectations 

A little clarity goes a long way. Ensure team members understand their roles and responsibilities. It’s also important to clearly communicate, as a leader, your expectations.

By establishing clear roles and responsibilities, you’ll empower ownership over your team. With clear expectations and clearly communicated goals, you’ll set your team up for success. 

3. Empower your team to make smart decisions 

When you put your team in the driver’s seat, incredible things can happen. Empowering your team to make decisions is an important aspect of developing a team. Leaders should consider where they can delegate decision-making on different aspects of a project. 

4. Encourage listening and feedback

Listening is a key to both a team and its leader. Leaders who listen — especially in this digital era — have better-developed teams. It shows that you have empathy and that you care. But it also shows that you’re working to understand your team and any challenges they may come across. 

Like listening, giving and receiving feedback is also a staple to any team dynamic. In fact, 65% of employees say they’d like to receive more feedback.

Feedback has its own host of benefits to team development. For example, it shows confidence and maturity. It also creates a culture where feedback is welcomed and embraced.

It opens up healthy dialogue and communication and can remove that sense of fear. Lastly, it can open up the door to increased self-awareness. 

5. Foster trust, belonging, and inclusivity 

Teams with members who feel like they belong outperform teams that don’t have that sense of belonging. In fact, when teams have inclusive leaders, we’ve found these results: 

  • Employees are 50% more productive 
  • Employees are 90% more innovative 
  • Employees are 150% more engaged 

Inclusive leadership also results in 54% lower employee turnover. Foster a deep sense of belonging, trust, and inclusivity from the very beginning. 

6. Encourage a growth mindset 

If you want your employees to thrive, a growth mindset is a necessity. A growth mindset means you’re able to improve your abilities (and capabilities) through dedication and hard work. When someone has a growth mindset, it means you’re able to see beyond the fixed, static experience of today.

Companies that adopt a growth mindset often create more learning opportunities for people to continue to grow. Looking for ways to get started? These 13 tips will help grow your team’s growth mindset

7. Provide coaching 

When humans have access to personalized coaching, incredible things happen. First, coaching helps build your employees’ mental fitness. A strong mental fitness leads to teams that are 31% more productive. It also means employees are more likely to bounce back from setbacks and less likely to leave voluntarily. 

But beyond mental fitness strength, personalized coaching increases self-awareness, resilience, and collaboration. In just three months of working with a coach, BetterUp members see a 38% decrease in languishing

What are the 5 stages of team development?

Every team goes through stages of development. Developed in the 1960s, Bruce Tuckman outlined five stages of team development that continue to prove useful, if not comprehensive. Each stage is distinct with its own set of feelings and behaviors.

As a leader, it’s important to be aware of your team’s stages as you continue to develop. 

1. Forming

When the team is first established, this is when the forming phase occurs. Teammates are introduced to one another and start to get to know one another. In this stage, it’s common that employees may feel a mixture of excitement and nervousness.

This is the time for employees to learn about each others’ skills, backgrounds, and interests. The team leader should share project goals and deadlines. The leader should also outline each teammates’ roles and responsibilities. Make sure you're scheduling regular team meetings and facilitating strong, clear communication.

2. Storming

This is the stage of team development where employees may experience some conflict. The storming phase can bring about certain challenges, specifically around how to approach the project. Oftentimes, this is because of differences in personality and working styles. It’s common for teammates to get frustrated.

But it’s critically important for leaders to help team members effectively handle conflict. The leader’s role will be to help alleviate the pain points team members may feel and clarify any misunderstanding. Yet, it’s also important for leaders and team members alike to value and appreciate their differences.

The team needs to learn to work with these differences and lean into productive friction in ways that preserve trust and commitment to team outcomes. 

3. Norming

This phase of team development can also be thought of as the “getting into the groove” phase. Your team has reached the norming phase if employees begin to recognize one another’s strengths. In this phase, employees will also begin to understand each other’s roles and become more comfortable working together. 

In this phase, you’ll likely see employees start to socialize more frequently. You might also have teammates become more comfortable asking for advice or feedback.

For leaders, it’s important to make sure any buried conflict isn't simmering without a concerted effort to resolve it. It’s also important for leaders to stay close to the project updates and communicate expectations and deliverables. 

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4. Performing

By now, employees are comfortable working alongside one another. It’s likely that they’ve build strong relationships and have figured out how to best work together.

We like to think of this as the “peak performance” stage of team development. In this stage, you’ll find teams are most productive — and they’re working quickly towards the end goal together. 

This could be a great phase to introduce mentorship or coaching opportunities. With personalized support, you’ll continue to see your team flourish and grow. 

5. Adjourning

This is the last and final stage of team development. The adjourning phase (sometimes also called the mourning phase) is when employees move on to other projects. The team has accomplished what it had set out to do.

Generally, employees feel accomplished, proud, and excited to have reached their end goal. But they’ve also built strong personal and working relationships over this period of time. Employees might also feel a sense of disappointment and sadness now that the experience is over. 

At this stage, employee recognition is crucial. As a leader, recognizing and appreciating the team for their hard work and contributions is invaluable. It’s a great time to celebrate the team and encourage teammates to celebrate one another. 

If it’s not a project-based team, the adjourning stage may never occur. For example, the adjourning phase could only be reached by an employee who has decided to leave the team for a new role. Or another employee might make the decision to leave the company altogether.

Regardless, it’s still important to recognize and appreciate the team’s work throughout all phases of any project. 

developing-teams-team-laughing-together

How to retain your team

Employee retention is all the talk these days. With record numbers of employees leaving their jobs, we know retention strategies are top of mind for organizations. 

If you’re a leader looking for ways to retain your team (and keep your employees happy), here are 6 tactics to consider. 

  1. Make sure all employees feel a deep sense of belonging. Belonging is a significant indicator of whether or not an employee will stay with an organization. 
  2. Model inclusive leadership skills. Employees with inclusive leaders see 140% higher team engagement and 90% higher team innovation. Teams with inclusive leaders also outperform teams without inclusive leaders. And when it comes to turnover, inclusive leaders see 54% lower turnover on their teams. 
  3. Allow employees to learn and grow. As mentioned, a growth mindset is critical to team development. Provide opportunities for employees to stretch their skill sets and use new muscles to learn and grow. You can offer team-building exercises around shared learning.
  4. Recognize your employees — often. Employee recognition goes a long way. In fact, recognition helps your business perform better. It leads to increased retention rates, a deeper sense of purpose, and increased employee satisfaction.  
  5. Get to know your team on a personal level. This may sound silly but it’s a factor that some leaders can overlook. When people feel like their leaders care and empathize with them, they are more likely to feel connected to the team and organization. Even in remote or hybrid environments, virtual team-building activities can help you get to know your team (and helps your team get to know you).
  6. Prioritize the team’s well-being and mental fitness. Mental fitness is of the utmost importance, especially in the face of so much uncertainty. Prioritize your team’s well-being and offer opportunities to build mental fitness, like coaching

Employee turnover can have a significant negative impact on your business. Try implementing some of these tactics and gather feedback from your team. 

Start developing your A-team 

It's time to start building a great team. Before you start assembling a group of people, consider constructing your team's roadmap. 

What ground rules will you implement as a leader? How will you measure your team's success? In what ways can you build a strong team with intention? 

Consider how BetterUp can help empower human transformation at scale. Start building the team of your dreams. 

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Published January 21, 2022

Madeline Miles

Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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