<BRGail Utter, Wells Fargo Advisors
5 Stages of Strong Teams
(Based on Bruce Tuckman’s Model)
1. Forming- Trust is crucial in the beginning stage of teamwork. Facilitating your team to know each other, especially each others authentic strengths is paramount. Invite your team to share “Peak Experiences” when they felt happy, in the flow, and living at their best.

2. Storming- Team members inevitably experience conflict. It’s natural for people to jockey position of authority, ideas, and roles. Leaders will begin to emerge within the team and compassion is important to help the team feel safe and embrace diversity.

How do your team members deal with conflict?

3. Norming- Rules, norms and patterns are established that are acceptable and unacceptable for successful teams. Stability is gained when individuals and teams have clarity, focus, and accountability.

4. Performing- High performing teams hold each other accountable and rely less on one leader. There is a high sense of mission and passion. Leaders and teams at this stage empower hope and optimism to reach higher goals faster with more efficiency.

5. Transforming- Every team will encounter a crisis point to end, continue the same performance, or transform to the next higher level. Strengths team coaching is a great way to renew your teams aspirations for passion, performance, and profits.

Originally published on Gallup’s Strengths Coaches’ Playbook.



Rachael served as the operations manager for a family-owned bottled water company with over 80 employees. In her day job, she was responsible for a wide range of areas from personnel to procurement, as well as serving on the senior management team. At home, she was a busy mom of two and volunteered as president of a local parent group.

In our first strengths coaching session she admitted, “I’m overwhelmed and feel like I’m on a sinking ship.”

Rather than tell Rachael how to handle her stress with my Command strength, I gently asked her with my Individualization strength, “How could you grow stronger and work smarter with your top five strengths?”

For the next 30 minutes we had fun exploring her Signature Themes, and their potential:

  • Responsibility
  • Consistency
  • Relator
  • Discipline
  • Developer

Then Rachael had an “aha” moment — she recognized that she was overusing, or what I call speeding (80 to 120 mph) with, her Responsibility theme and underusing, or coasting (5 to 40 mph) with, her Relator theme. She was taking on too much psychological ownership at work and home, and emotionally, she was in moderate stages of burnout. She had been isolating herself from friends and couldn’t figure out how to relate authentically in a male-dominated workforce, even though her heart yearned to.

Using her Responsibility theme, she set a goal to hire an assistant who she could delegate more of the daily grind activities to. She also set a goal to practice saying “no” more assertively in her personal and professional life. Then Rachael revved up her Relator theme by making consistent time for girls’ night out, which she had been neglecting and desperately needed. She also nurtured her wellbeing by exercising and tasked herself with reading books on assertiveness and stress-coping skills.

Rachael was discovering that her Relator theme could be used as a tool to dive more deeply in her relationship with herself, not just with others.

After several coaching sessions, Rachael had renewed energy, perspective, and confidence. She created an employee-of-the-week bulletin board, an employee directory, and held a company picnic to help build genuine relationships. She became the strengths champion in team meetings, asking, “How have you used your strengths successfully this week?”

Company morale, the senior management team, and her family benefited from Rachael’s strengths-based coaching, because now she was cruising at 70 mph. With her strengths, it was full steam ahead for Rachael, as she continues to grow stronger and work smarter.

Here are three questions for you to ponder in coaching your clients:

  • Which talent themes can help you ask better questions to explore strengths?
  • When can you help clients turn their strengths inward and outward for success?
  • How could you better help clients understand over- and underusing strengths?

How do you take a 20 ton, 12 foot block of ice and transform it into an elaborate award winning work of art?

Just ask, Singapore Captain Ng See Yian who was gracious to allow me to interview him and learn how his five person team creates their magical snow sculptor called Love, Balance and Community.

Brent-OBannon-StrengthsFinder-Coaching-Blog-Transforming-Talent-2My wife and I got a blast of insight about transforming talent as we watched the 14 countries participating in the 23rd Annual International Snow Sculptor Championship in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Sculptor Rob Neyland said, “Snow is a living medium. It starts as water from the sky, and we just grasp it briefly, and then it’s water again. It’s a lot like life in that respect.”

Talent is a divine given genetic predisposition to think, feel, and act.

Just like snow sculpting teams only have 65 hours to work their magic before being evaluated on their performance we only have a short life time to maximize our talents.

Here are three tips to transform talent.

1. Start with a story.

Team Singapore used their mascot as a model for transforming their block of ice.

The story behind their mascot is that the head of a lion and the body of a fish surrounded by dolphins signifies how the world can communicate courageously, attaining peace by living in love and balance.

Donald Clifton, the father of strengths psychology created the Clifton Strengthsfinder assessment measuring 34 talent themes. Over 8 million people in 22 languages have taken this test and now Gallup strengths evangelist want to up the ante to a billion takers.

Clifton also had a vision of winning the Nobel Peace Prize uniting the world with a positive language of talents and strengths.

What would the world, your family, your church, your work look like if everyone started with the story of strengths?

To coach your clients to transform their talents into strengths, ask them to “describe a story when they were at their best.”

By starting with a personal story they have a model for talent and success.



2. Strengthen with tools.

The Snow Sculpture Championship is not allowed to use power tools and can only use hand tools such as chisels, saws, and vegetable peelers. Each sculptor on the team transforms the ice through their skills and precision from years of practice.

Talent is also transformed into strength when we gain knowledge and create a strength based mindset. Honing a positive growth mindset instead of a negative fixed mindset allows character to develop and fuels our talents.

As the book, Outliers describes, true genius is achieved with at least 10,000 hours of repetitive practice.

Coaching, mentoring, masterminding, reading, training, are a few tools used for transforming talents into strengths in everyday life.

3. Succeed with a team.

It’s true “All of us is smarter and stronger than one of us.”

To transform talents to an elaborate work of artful strengths takes the interdependence of strengths from an entire team. Each person has their role and genius that turns a block of ice into love, balance, and community.

No one person has all the strengths needed to create a masterful work of art. It truly takes not only the power of two but the genius of five team members to transform a block of ice into am inspiring award winning masterpiece.

How could your teams capitalize on each others strengths better for success?

Remember to transform talent into strength like the Singapore team transformed ice into a beautiful snow sculpture and then the world will see more love, balance and community.

One man I know answered this question, “procrastination, making messes, and drinking beer.”  Ha!

I’ve discovered that many people do not have self understanding or the language to describe their strengths. In fact, many times they communicate what their weaknesses are rather than their strengths.

The Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment created by the late Donald Clifton–father of the strengths movement–and Gallup Press is a great tool for picking your top five strengths out of 34 strength profiles.

Many organizations like Yahoo, Best Buy, and Toyota are now using the Strengths Finder 2.0 to help build a strengths-based organization led by strengths-based managers.

Playing to our strengths creates a higher percentage of employee and customer engagement. Employees are more fulfilled, stronger leaders, and more focused on team development. Customers are more fulfilled and, in turn, improve the bottom line of a company.

The 34 strengths are based on four domains of leadership.

  1. Executing themes are able to catch an idea and then make it happen.
  2. Influencing themes are strong at selling ideas.
  3. Relationship themes are the glue that holds teams together.
  4. Strategic thinking themes have the vision for possibility.

Visit to discover your top five strengths and catapult your success to another level.

Coaching points:

  1. What do you believe your strengths are?
  2. What would others say your strengths are?

Pause and ask yourself, “What leader has the most positive influence on my daily life?” Now list four words that best describe what this person contributes to your life.

This twofold question was randomly asked to 10,000 people by The Gallup Poll. The results were somewhat surprising. You might anticipate words like intelligence or wealth, but no. The four basic needs of customers are:

  1. Trust
  2. Compassion
  3. Stability
  4. Hope

How can you use your strengths to build more trust, compassion, stability, and hope with your customers?

First, we build trust by showing respect to ourself and to others. We create another level of trust when we are authentic with successes and struggles. Finally trust is established every time you say you will do something and you follow through.

Second, our customers want to feel that we care more about their well being and happiness than us getting money for a service. You show compassion by sending a birthday card, giving a gift, and asking about a customer’s personal life. Compassion is built when we cultivate emotional intelligence and people skills with our customers.

Third is the need for stability. Customers need security, stability, and strength over a long period of time.  We communicate stability when our business survives hard times, we stay involved with church, or volunteer in the community. Customers feel strength when they see a long term marriage and healthy family life.

Finally, customers want hope for the future. Customers are inspired by a happy workplace. They feel optimism when they see personal and professional growth. Hope is fostered by faith, guidance, and good news.

Coaching Points:

  1. What specific activities could you do more of to increase trust, compassion, stability and hope to your external and internal customers?
  2. How could you increase trust, compassion, stability and hope with your spouse, children, and community?

Call or email me now so I can help you or your business create more trust, compassion, stability and hope.

Last year, I remember how my heart was pounding with excitement when I went to Dallas to see Jack Canfield speak about his book, The Success Principles.

As I walked into the building, I prayed that I would meet the people I was supposed to meet. In the first few minutes, Jack shared about having dinner with an inspirational entrepreneur in Dallas the night before. Sitting beside me was Michael, a middle age psychologist from Kansas City. We paired and shared during an exercise.

He placed a 3×5 card in front of me with the written affirmation he had been saying daily for approximately six months. It said, “I am grinning ear to ear when I meet Jack Canfield face to face.”  With awe and joy he said, “Brent, that was my brother and I who had dinner last night with Jack Canfield for two hours.”

Now I was the one grinning ear to ear, inspired by the power of affirmations. Later, Michael introduced me to his entrepreneural brother who shared some incredible insights on growing my speaking and coaching business.

Here are some quick guidelines for powerful affirmations.

  1. Be personal. Start with I am or your name.
  2. Be present. Use the present tense.
  3. Be positive. Say what you want.
  4. Be precise. No more than a sentence.
  5. Be purposeful. Include an action word with -ing.
  6. Be passionate. Include an emotion/feeling word.

Here are a few of my personal affirmations using these pointers.

  • I attract favor and unlimited possibilities to fulfill my dreams and become my best.
  • I experience commitment, affection, intimacy, fun, and great sex with Rhonda more than ever.
  • I visualize and realize success, happiness, and a bright future for my children.
  • I am healthy, happy, financially free, connected, and outrageously successful.
  • I exude gratitude, humility and happiness for the journey of life.

I challenge you to write down your affirmations on a 3×5 card, carry them with you, and say them daily at least once in the morning and before bed for 30 days. It’s true that we attract what we affirm daily.  Soon, you too will be grinning from ear to ear.

Last year, my wife and I took a trip to the Canadian Rockies–magnificent!  Spray Lake near Canmore (where they filmed Dances with the Wolves) is nestled in the middle and has a truly picturesque view. Snowy Owl Tours gave my friends, my wife, and myself a howling adventure of dog sledding for the first time in our lives.

What can we learn from dog sledding?

1. You need to know your dogs, especially your lead dogs.

There are eight enthusiastic canines that pull a sled of three people. In fact, they are harnessed according to their personality and strengths. Lead dogs are the first two dogs andthe most experienced. They are not necessarily the smartest but they are the best listeners and the most focused. If they don’t lead, the team will not follow. We were told to keep praising and communicating with all the dogs but especially our lead dogs. The point dogs are the next two dogs in line and are the lead dogs’ apprentices. Swing dogs are in the middle.  They are a pair of an older dog and younger dog helping balance each others’ energy and experience. Finally, at the back, in front of the sled are the wheel dogs. They are the strong powerhouse dogs that keep the sled moving.

Is this not the perfect example of teamwork?

2. There are 3 basic commands in dog sledding.

The first command is “hike or hike up.” When you give this command with energy, the dogs go wild, howling and bursting into the wilderness. They feel your energy–they were born to run into the wild. The second command is “easy.” Believe me, there will be times the dogs are running faster than you can handle around the mountain. Easy helps the dogs steady and slow down just a little to navigate those tight turns. The third command is, “whoa.” There are two basic reasons to stop. To conclude your trip, of course, and most importantly, when a dog needs to take a poop break. We stopped several times when a dog needed to have a break and the entire team had to stop and let them do their business before we could proceed. We also discovered how important it is to match your tone of voice with your commands. If you try to say “whoa” with fear and anxiety, the dogs will keep running. If you stay calm and slowly say “whoa,” they will come to a halt.

How do you communicate with your team?

3. The driver is the CEO of the sled.

The driver has several responsibilities on this adventure other than just riding on the back of a sled. You lead from the back of the sled.  The most important rule for the driver is “never let go.” It would be like a runaway train. Also, the driver has a responsibility to build a great relationship with his dogs and get to know them. You appreciate their individual strengths, motivate them with praise, and energize them with recognition.

The driver (CEO) also helps lighten the load and pull the sled. Going up a steep hill, the dogs will look back and see if you are off the sled jogging or helping push. There is a delicate balance of not doing all the work because they will let you or not helping enough and they will become frustrated with you.

My wife and I did a tandem drive from the back of the sled. I believe it’s even harder than driving the sled by yourself. We both had to balance each other, communicate, and coordinate without turning the sled over around turns or running off the mountain, like we almost did. This CEO almost got fired, eh?

How are your leadership skills?

Coaching points:

  1. Are you appreciating, arranging, and leveraging the personality and strengths of your team?
  2. Are you communicating effectively with your team?
  3. How can you and your team evaluate your leadership skills?

We’ve all blown it. Maybe we got cold feet on a commitment, ran to our cave in fearful isolation, or forgot to follow through on our word. If you want outrageous success in business, leadership, or your most intimate personal relationships, you have to build trust and maintain a trusting relationship.

Trust is the software of success. If it is not properly installed and maintained the hardware will not work. No business, organization, leader, church, family or marriage will work without trust.

Here are 3 ways to build trust:

1. Show up with integrity

My dad told me the story of a man that visited his wife, who had Alzheimers, in the nursing home. Every week the man visited his wife and spent time with her, even though she could no longer recognize him or remember that he was her husband. A friend asked why the husband continued to visit the wife. He replied, “Because I recognize her.”

Now that’s showing up with integrity. Not because he had to but because he chose to.

If you want more trust, show up with an integrity that grows from a solid, mature character. Are you showing up with integrity in your personal and professional life?

2. Stand up with responsibility

Leaders and people who are defensive, point the finger, and blame others are secretly seen as untrustworthy. We might get mad at leaders when they make mistakes but we will also respect and trust leaders who stand up and accept responsibility for their mistakes. One of my coaching clients is a very successful business man who once said, “God created me with broad shoulders for a reason.”

If your marriage is empty, don’t blame your spouse. If your personal life is unhappy, don’t blame your parents. If your business is struggling, don’t blame your employees and the economy. Man up, stand up, and take responsibility for your success. Then and only then will people truly trust you.

Are you standing up with responsibility in your personal and professional life?

3. Speak up with accountability

Words hold the power of life and death. They can create or destroy. Our word is our bond. If what we say and what we do match with congruence, people will increasingly trust us. If we say one thing and do the opposite, people will mistrust us. Let your yes be yes and let your no be no. Say what you mean and mean what you say. People who talk in generalities confuse us. We doubt them and eventually don’t believe them. We don’t trust them and won’t buy from them.

My wife frequently reminds me not to exaggerate. I’ve started paying closer attention and correcting myself when sharing statistics, stories, and information so that it is more accurate. Speaking with accuracy speeds up the trust process. Being clear speeds up the trust process. Are you speaking up with accountability in your personal and professional life? Even when you blow it, you can spring forward, build trust and maintain trust by showing up with integrity, standing up with responsibility, and speaking up with accountability.

Are you overwhelmed with guilt to the point that you have no initiative?

27906t302g3xqui1Two monks were meditating as they walked along a muddy road. They came across a beautiful young woman trying to cross the road without soiling her shoes. Without saying a word, the first monk picked up the woman, carried her across the road, and set her down.

Then the monks resumed walking without talking. That evening when they reached their destination, the second monk said, “Why did you pick up that woman this morning? You know women are dangerous.” The first monk replied, “I left her on the side of the road. Are you still carrying her?”

Over the last few days, I’ve been writing a lot about balanceability–the ability to balance your life.  The third stage of balanceability is initiative versus guilt.

Erik Erikson, the father of balance research, taught that this crisis stage happens primarily between three to six years old.  But remember,  people can go in and out of stages many times throughout their lives.

Childhood is a foundation for adulthood. When we develop a balance of trust and autonomy, we lay the foundation for initiative.  If we do not lay a healthy foundation for trust and autonomy, we develop more guilt.

Guilt is a common feeling indicating we have violated our values. It is a warning sign telling us we are hurting others or ourselves. A little guilt is good. It helps us hurt, back up, and learn from our mistakes. Too much guilt turns into shame. And shame turns into a dungeon of darkness isolating us from ourselves and the people around us.  This zaps us from motivation and initiative to reach for our dreams.

The basic attitude of initiative is…

  1. I will start now.
  2. I enjoy new challenges.
  3. This is what needs to be done, and I will do it.

The basic attitude of guilt is…

  1. I will start tomorrow.
  2. I prefer sticking with what I know.
  3. This is what needs to be done, but who will do it?

People with iniative like accepting new challenges. They tend to be self-starters and make effective leaders. People with iniative have energy to set goals, feel adequate, and enjoy making things happen. They have a balanced sense of right and wrong without being overly moralistic.

People who are overwhelmed with guilt tend to procrastinate. They resist new challenges, are slow self-starters, and tend to be followers rather than leaders. People with guilt tend to feel inadequate, have low energy, and prefer sitting in the background. They are hyper moralistic and are focused on the things in life that are “wrong.”

Is guilt blinding you from the good in your life?

What goals and dreams are you putting off because of lack of iniative?

Would you like to…

  • Be like the first monk or the second monk?
  • Balance out your guilt?
  • Build initiative to achieve your dreams?

If the answer is Yes, then develop a coaching relationship with Brent!

Brent O’Bannon creates momentum for outrageous success. He is known as America’s Momentum Coach for individuals, couples in business, and companies. For more information go to and