Stay Stuck or Move Forward

Published: August 26, 2016

If you take a snapshot of a team, you get a glimpse of the traditional forming/storming/norming/performing moment in time. If you film a movie of the same team, you get a series of cycles filled with obstacles, problem-solving, innovation, change, and adaptation. Teams rarely follow straight-line trajectories. Most often, they evolve through multiple iterations of talent, turnover, leadership style, and culture. As the story unfolds, team wellness and productivity rises and falls. How might this impact your team?

Team-Clock-ArialInvestment: the team re-anchors mission, values, and goals.

Testing: teammates decide whether to buy in to the vision.

Dependence: the team learns to rely on the rhythm and structure of the culture.

Trust: accountability is put to the test.

Cohesion: personal connection supports collaboration.

Attachment: teammates enjoy a commitment to each other and the work of the team.

Innovation: struggle leads to problem-solving and growth.

Risk: the team decides whether change is worthwhile.

Independence: breakthroughs alter the team’s potential.

Distancing: teammates let go of the way it used to be.

Separation: the team redefines roles and responsibilities to accommodate new realities.

Loss: the team adapts to its changes and embraces new opportunities.

Depending on the way change is managed in your team’s story, the cycle then welcomes a new investment phase. This time, however, the goals may be different. Depending on the style of this phase’s leadership, workplace trust might weaken or strengthen. If it strengthens, greater innovation might be possible. Of course, another round of growth follows and we find out whether the team has an appetite for change. In the life cycle of the team, you always get to decide whether to stay stuck or move forward.

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.