The 5 Stages of Strong Teams

<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.

Cruising With Strengths

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?

Turtle, Teddy Bear, Shark, Fox, or Owl?

How do you handle conflict?

Most of us use a variety of styles depending on the person, the situation and our stress level. How we deal with our spouse at home is likely to be different than how we deal with our boss in the workplace.

Here are some brief thoughts on the strengths and struggles of the 5 styles of dealing with conflict, adapted from Johnson, 1981.

11298wudax6u5mo1. The Turtle: Avoidance

The strength of this style is that this person can easily look past conflicts and realizes most conflicts will solve themselves. They are calm on the outside and help de-escalate emotions in conflict.

The struggle with this style is the tendency to minimize, deny, and avoid conflict altogether. Major conflict tends to grow worse when it isn’t addressed.

2. The Teddy Bear: Accommodation

The strength of this style is how likeable and lovable this person is in most situations. How could you be mad at them? They want and need harmony. They will accept blame just to bring peace to angry situations.

The struggle of this style is that a teddy bear may be taken advantage of, becoming a doormat. The can enable others by not allowing them to face and wrestle with conflict. Secretly, they tend to have a low self-esteem and use likability from others as a way to build their own self-confidence.

3. The Shark: Competition

The strength of this style is the ability to be strong, courageous, and bring a conflict out in the open quickly. A shark is a leader that can confront bullies.

The struggles are becoming too pushy, tactless, and hurting peoples’ feelings. Sharks can escalate emotions and create barriers easily.

4. The Fox: Compromise

Their strength is communication and a willingness to find win-win or lose-lose compromises. Often the fox is able to craft intelligent intermediate solutions.

The struggles are deceptiveness and manipulation. People may feel “outfoxed” and cheated by foxes.

5. The Owl: Collaboration

The strength of this style is integrity. Owls can build trust, respect and deeper relationship. They are not tied to their way and tend to have an open mind for pragmatic solutions that create a win-win experience.

The struggle is that owls must have two willing parties to collaborate. These parties must have high levels of communication skills and emotional intelligence. Some conflicts require quick solutions and this style may take too long.

Coaching points:

  1. How do you cope with conflict?  Are you a turtle, a teddy bear, a shark, a fox, or an owl?
  2. What strengths and struggles do you face in your conflict management style?
  3. How do your top 5 strengths from the Strength Finders 2.0 influence your conflict management style?

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

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn /

How to Handle Confrontation



Your peer ambushes you on Monday morning as you walk into the office. In front of everyone she raises her voice in rage about the mess you left in the meeting room. You take responsibility and are glad to clean up the mess. However, the tirade continues with spewing, name calling, and threats.

The average employee will spend 2.8 days a week dealing with conflict. 25% of employees report that conflict leads to illness or absence from work.

How do you handle confrontation? Use CAREfrontation.


Connect first. Create a “we” mentality. “We are on the same team.” Then, try the SOFTEN approach:

Open body language
Lean Forward
Touch appropriately
Eye contact
and Nod

Assert second. Being passive and hiding in a shell never got the turtle anywhere. Being aggressive like a shark only creates a blood bath. Being assertive like a wise owl creates a win-win-win–a win for you, the other person, and for the company. Being assertive is feeling your emotions and still being courageous.

Resolve third. Finding a resolution and fixing the problem will not work until you connect first and assert second. Resolution requires brainstorming and innovative thinking.

Empower fourth. The relationship, self esteem, and productivity of the company need encouragement. Each of us is human and makes mistakes. However, by empowering and believing in each other we can create momentum for outrageous success.

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

Image: Liz Noffsinger /

Is America Happy At Work?

There are three interesting trends in the world of work according to Randstand’s 2008 World of Work research.

1. Job security is currently more important than job happiness.

A Gallup poll reports that 71% of Americans say now is a bad time to find a quality job. People are afraid of the downward economy and are seemingly more content to stay put with their current job,though they may not be happy.

The 15 top factors of job happiness according to employees in order are:

  • Feeling valued
  • Recognition and appreciation
  • Supportive work environment
  • Leadership I can relate to
  • Being a part of a team
  • Capable workforce
  • Lack of job stress
  • Shared vision, values, and pride
  • Opportunities for personal growth
  • Empowerment
  • Collective commitment to objectives
  • Sharp individual accountabilities
  • Fitting into the culture
  • Platforms for collaboration
  • Rigorous performance management

In 2008, every one of these job happiness factors were scored less important to employees. In other words, economic well being was focused on more than emotional/job happiness well being. Unfortunately, people are staying in jobs they hate, just to have a job. This is a reality that gives control to employers to take advantage of employees. This trend is a trap for employees and employers because if workers are not truly happy emotionally then personal problems increase, more health benefits are utilized, and burnout increases. This makes an unhealthy workplace for employer, employee, and customer.

2. Dealing with stress in the workplace is on the rise.

The anxiety of change is a constant stressor in the workplace according to employees. The fear of being laid off and benefits being cut are pesky mosquitos that buzz in the minds of workers. Employers have the challenge to provide stress management programs and managers are in dire need of stress relief themselves. Stress is likely a major reason that work productivity is down over the last year.

Employees and employers are encouraged to utilize lunchtimes and learn from seminars, employee assistance programs, leadership academies, electronic newsletters, and life coaching. If your workplace needs these services email for an initial consultation.

3. Hiring, motivating, and retaining employees

A new number one challenge and trend for business owners, Human Resource Departments, and CEO’s is hiring the right people with the right skills for the right job. This process is well discussed in the book, Now Discover Your Strengths, authored by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D.