Four Stages of Team Growth

Adversity teaches us how to cope. Occasionally, we come up from an underground subway platform to street level and momentarily lose our bearings. Where am I? Which way is north? In that fleeting moment where nothing looks familiar, we are lost. The fear center of our brain gets activated as we fend off panic and search for direction. Of course, no one stays lost forever. Eventually, learning occurs. Consider what might happen if we got lost on purpose. A good crisis provides many lessons. Let’s look at how growth unfolds.

Harvard Medical School’s Mind/Body Institute tracks four stages of growth. These stages progress in harmony with the Team Clock® cycles.

Struggle – Whether frustrated, stressed, or depleted, this stage is marked by not being able to solve a problem or bring relief to an unpleasant emotion. Usually, the harder we struggle, the worse the situation gets. Teams frequently struggle most in the investment phase when conflict is being negotiated.

Letting Go – Eventually, the adversity disables our ability to move forward. The impasse activates our coping skills and triggers a breakout. Teams tend to let go in the trust phase when safety permits risk.

Peak Experience – Learning and growth occur. New insights, increased self-awareness, creativity, and rejuvenation combine to strengthen an inner platform of productivity. Teams usually enjoy such discovery in the innovation phase when they are primed to take advantage of the strength that different viewpoints empower.

New Normal – While the stresses of the environment remain the same, we are able to confront them with renewed perspective and energy. Teams often recalibrate in the distancing phase after letting go of old thinking and embracing new circumstances.

Although it is counterintuitive to invite struggle into our lives, the outcome provides rich rewards. Like the moment of clarity that characterizes an epiphany, previously insurmountable challenges become manageable. Once laborious tasks become effortless. Allow your team to get lost. It’s okay to not know the answer. You may discover a novel solution that wouldn’t have been visible without the crisis.