Change of Seasons

Published: August 22, 2019

Schools are back in session and professional football teams are beginning the chase for a Super Bowl ring. Education and sports provide lessons in the seasonal cycles of teams. There is a time-limited window to accomplish a specific set of goals. Teams ramp up in the offseason and try to get off to a good start when the campaign begins. They navigate midseason challenges and attempt to finish with strength as the year comes to an end. Whatever the outcome, they commit to another round of growth when the next opportunity resumes. What season is your team enjoying. Choose from these four:

All teams cycle through four stages.

Illustrated graphic of The 4 Stages of a Team cycle

In the Investment Stage, teams get clarity about norms and direction while learning how to manage conflict constructively. This lays the foundation for collaboration. Differences are empowered as strengths.

In the Trust Stage, teams commit to respect and accountability. This creates a platform of psychological safety for connection and shared work. Trusting teams are better equipped to handle the anxieties of growth and change.

In the Innovation Stage, teams harness the stability of investment and trust to explore and discover. Finding solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems requires teams to capitalize on diversity and take smart risks. Unlike the comfort of the trust stage, the innovation stage relies on the development that arises from discomfort.

In the Distancing Stage, teams take a step back to evaluate the changes they have sparked. Change feels like loss for most people so emotional depletion is normal. Once teammates have refueled and gotten perspective, they can refocus on their new circumstances and move forward to the next investment stage.

All teams are always transitioning through or between stages. Like seasons, each stage is necessary for the evolution of the team. Whether setting the course, forming connections, creating change or adapting to stress, every teammate has a role to play. In what season is your team?

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.