Category Archives: Teams That Matter

Theory Explains Aussie Test Team Issues

Mention the word ‘theory’ and people go scurrying like cockroaches in the kitchen when the lights are turned on!

“Theories aren’t relevant” you might say. Hmmm, that reads like a theory to me!

Seriously, we use theories all the time. The problem is that many of them aren’t grounded in research. But here’s one that is. Tuckman’s Stages of Team Development which was first proposed in 1965.

“Gee, that’s too long ago!” others of you might say. Well, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was developed between 1907 – 1915. The issue with theories is not when they were developed but whether or not they are useful.

Tuckman’s Stages of Team Development is useful in explaining the current challenges facing the Australian Cricket Test Team and the challenges faced by the leaders of the team. To keep a complex issue as simple as possible to understand, the team is stuck between the first two stages of team development. These stages are Forming and Storming.

The characteristics of the Forming stage are:

  • People are leaving the team;
  • New people are being added to the team; and
  • Individuals have a high desire to focus on routines and to not generate conflict.

Rotation policies and team member retirements of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey have seen the the membership of the Australian Test Squad constantly changing over the past year.

While new members to the squad will behave in alignment with the Forming Stage of Team Development, more experienced team members are unlikely to realise that the team has gone ‘back’ to the Forming Stage and will therefore try to behave in alignment with the Norming and/or Performing Stages of Team Development. This means that the team then finds itself constantly in a state of flux which in turn means that the team is stuck in the Storming Stage.

The characteristics of the Storming Stage of Team Development are:

  • Team members are unsure of their role;
  • Team members are unsure of their security;
  • Team members are unsure of the leadership;
  • Trust is low throughout the team; and
  • Problems are surfaced.

The Storming Stage is a healthy stage for teams to go through, but it isn’t a healthy stage to stay in

I read with interest in The Age this morning that Michael Hussey revealed that he kept his intentions to retire private because he didn’t trust that he wouldn’t be replaced by a more junior player if he revealed his intentions to retire. This is a classic Storming Stage behaviour. Coming from such a senior player in the team it is indicative of what was really going on for the whole team.

The characteristics of the Norming Stage are:

  • The problems surfaced during the Storming Stage have been identified and resolved;
  • The team’s goals and understood, agreed upon and come first;
  • Some team members will have accepted that they must put their own desires behind those of the teams; and
  • The team works as one to achieve it’s shared goals.

 The characteristics of the Performing Stage of Team Development are:

  • The team members have a fluid approach to how they work with and support each other;
  • Their is both individual and collective responsibility and accountability for the team;
  • Team members compliment each other and compensate for any flaws; and
  • Results are achieved.

How to use this theory to help the Australian Cricket Test Team
Many people don’t understand that when a team changes it’s membership, even if only by one person it goes back to the Forming Stage of Team Development. So moving through the stages is iterative rather than linear, depending on what is happening with the team. The Stages of Team Development can be moved through very quickly when people understand them.

In this context the Australian Test Squad needs to be stabilised. If a player becomes injured and therefore needs replacing, team management need to quickly help the whole team move through the Forming and Storming Stages of Team Development.

Secondly the Norming Stage needs to be focused upon so that the team has a chance to move into the Performing Stage. Due to the iterative nature of the Stages of Team Development, movement through the Stages of Team Development is not linear. You may move from Forming to Storming, but get stuck at Storming. You may move from Storming to Norming, but get ‘stuck’ at Norming. Your team membership may then change, moving back from Norming to Forming. ‘Progress’ through the stages does follow a linear pathway. Storming represents progress from Forming. Norming represents progress from Storming and ultimately Performing represents progress from Norming. This means that teams don’t ‘leap-frog’ a stage going ‘up’ the Stages, but they can ‘tumble’ down the Stages and leap-frog them on the way down. In this respect it is possible to go from the Performing Stage to the Forming Stage literally overnight.

What is fascinating to watch is that when people don’t understand how this theory works, who do you think they tend to blame for a team ‘not being the same’ when it’s membership changes? Yes, you got it right. The last person to join the team.

While I have focused on the Australian Cricket Test Team for this article, the same can be said for any team. What Stage of Team Development is your team in? What are the signs that you are seeing that are providing the evidence for your answer. With this understanding, what can/should you do about it?

Gary Ryan is the founder of the Teams That Matter® approach to high performing teams.

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at

Increasing Team Member Motivation – Audio Version

If you are leading a team within a poor company culture, how can you increase the motivation of your team members? Gary Ryan explains a series of practical behaviours that a Team Leader can do that will enhance the self-motivation of their team members.

Find out more about creating Teams That Matter® here .

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at

Communicate effectively through multiple channels

The use of email is still a main driver for miscommunication within the workplace. People simply rely too much on it for their communication, or rather they rely too much on it as the main channel for workplace communication.

Given that up to 90% of the written word is interpreted by the recipient of the message, email is a risky channel of communication especially when the author of the message suspects that it has a high chance of being interpreted negatively.

Yet people continue to press ‘send’. And again and again and again. And they wonder why their workplace relationships suffer. And they wonder why performance suffers when negative energy is wasted on unnecessary miscommunication.

Communicating any message by a single channel is risky business. And even riskier when the message has a high probability of being misinterpreted.

Unless you are deliberately intending for someone to read a negative message from your email, then it is best to use multiple communication channels to send your message.

A communication channel is a means through which a message is sent. It could be verbal, a text message, an email, a video, a presentation, an audio recording, a website, a blog – the list of possible channels is virtually limitless.

When you have a potentially difficult issue to convey speak to the person or people to whom you wish to convey your message first. This can be in person or at least over the phone. It is after you have conveyed your message via a verbal format that you should then follow up with an email, simply highlighting the key aspects of your verbal conversation.

This simple technique of using multiple channels to convey your message will significantly decrease the chances that the recipient of your message will misinterpret your intentions. Business relationships won’t suffer and performance won’t be reduced. A little care and forethought goes a long way.

What is your experience of using multiple channels to more effectively communicate your messages in the workplace?

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at

Usefulness is more important than complete accuracy when using Personality Profiling tools for teams

There are many personality profiling tools. Myer-Briggs (MBTI), DISC, OPQ and Wave are a number of the more commonly used approaches. Technically they are hard to separate although the Wave (to which I am licensed) is able to provide evidence that it is superior to the rest.

From a personal development perspective I advocate the use of any one of the abovementioned tools. I strongly encourage that they be used with support from experts.

Where I don’t advocate the use of these tools is with teams.

I don’t say this because I think the tools are poor – rather they are too complex for most people to make them useful from an ongoing perspective.

When I conduct team development programs I ask the participants if they have ever completed any personality profile assessments. A large percentage of people indicate that they have completed assessments, but their memory of what the results meant is limited.

“I did the MBTI and I think I was an extravert…” is as much detail as most people can muster.

When I ask how the tool was used to improve the performance of a team people struggle to provide clear examples. However they add, “…but I thought it was really interesting and learnt a few things about myself.”

The issue here is that we need to use team profiling tools that are memorable and useful. It is for this reason that I use the What Makes People Tick Personality Profile tool. I’ll be the first to admit that the science behind the tool is nowhere near the sophistication of a DISC or the OPQ. What is important is that the tool is easy to remember and therefore apply. You don’t have to be an expert on the tool to be able to apply its lessons within your team.

This is a significant problem I find with a lot of the other tools. You virtually have to be an expert in them to be able to apply them in a team setting. Most people are too busy being experts in their own fields and simply don’t have the mental ‘space’ to become an expert ion personality profiling tools.

A case in point. When recently facilitating a team development program, the youngest person in the room (a 26 year old) was able to provide a detailed description of the What Makes People Tick approach. He was able to accurately remember and describe the four personality types as well as how they were used to help improve team performance. This person was not university qualified yet he knew more about the practical application of techniques to manage personality differences that the vast majority of university graduates with whom I have worked.

This was despite it being a full two years since he had worked with the team where he had been exposed to the tool. No one else was able to provide any examples regarding the practical application of the tools they had used.

What Makes People Tick uses only two sets of dimensions from which a person’s profile is derived. They are:

  • Introversion/extraversion
  • People focus/task focus

The combination of these dimensions result in a people having a combination of four preferred ‘windows’ through which they make sense of the world. These four windows are:
  • Introversion/people focus
  • Extraversion/people focus
  • Introversion/task focus
  • Extraversion/task focus

The memorability aspect of this tool derives from the descriptions that Des Hunt, the creator of the profile then added to each of the above windows.
They are:
  • Dove
  • Peacock
  • Owl
  • Eagle

The majority of people are able to describe some of the key behavioural characteristics of these birds without being an expert on the tool. They are able to do this because of the differences that the images of the birds demonstrate. When the characteristics are applied to humans people have a lot of fun but are also able to make sense of how the personality differences can generate unhealthy conflict within a team. Conflict that is often hard to ‘pinpoint’ yet makes complete sense when the ‘bird’ profiles are discovered.

More importantly people are able to quickly identify strategies for managing the differences.

For examples, ‘Peacocks’ are ideas people who like to follow their gut instincts. Owls, on the other hand are conservative and like data to support decisions. It’s not hard to imagine how such differences in preferences could generate problems.

Armed with this knowledge the Peacock could engage another Owl to do some research for them to find some facts to support their idea. Armed with the facts the Peacock could then present the idea to the Owl. Similarly the Owl can choose to be more forgiving of the Peacock. They might also choose to do their own research on how often the Peacock’s ideas have been useful. Upon discovering a high percentage the Owl could use this data to support the Peacock in going with their intuition. The simplicity of the tool enhances its functionality.

What tools have you used and how useful have they been from the perspective of helping to improve team performance?

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at

Expert Tip – Motivation Factor 8

In the ninth of the short videos in the 11 part series on how to create motivated employees, I share the eighth of 10 key factors that when present will collectively enhance the motivation of your team members/employees.

How do you rate for this factor? How does your employer rate for you?

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at