By Barb Ward

“The important thing is that we stick together!” ~Buzz Lightyear

If you’ve ever watched action movies like Star Wars or the Avengers, or Disney movies like Toy Story or Cinderella, you know that the characters’ ability to survive and thrive is dependent on their team. The reason for this is simple, it’s because when you combine the ideas, strengths, and collaboration of a team, you increase problem-solving, decision-making, and planning skills. And, let’s face it, many tasks just cannot be done alone. 

Whether at home, on the job or on a sports team, teamwork – defined as cooperative effort by the members of a group or team to achieve a common goal – is an essential skill that can help people achieve greater success. 


Teams naturally progress through essential and familiar phases of development over time. Each stage contributes to a team’s ability to grow, face challenges, find solutions, plan work, and complete projects efficiently. Teamwork is the key to fostering communication, respect, high quality of work, a positive work environment, and employee engagement. But unlike the movies, developing a cohesive team that works well together and trusts each other is not always easy.


As a leader your goal is to help your people perform well together, as quickly as possible. This involves building a team of individuals whose collective abilities complement each other, in turn enabling them to accomplish more together than they could with their individual contributions. 

Teamwork benefits individuals and the organization by:

  • Encouraging creativity, innovation, and productivity
  • Elevating employee engagement as individuals find value and meaning in their work
  • Creating a support network for completing projects and tasks
  • Improving communication and collaboration
  • Providing well-defined expectations and roles
  • Promoting shared responsibility for accomplishing goals


“Whatever we accomplish belongs to our entire group, a tribute to our combined effort.” ~ Walt Disney


If you think about the teams or groups you have been associated with over your lifetime, you will recognize that each of them evolves in much the same way even though the people are different. First, you go through an introductory period where you are polite and possibly a little reserved in voicing your opinions or concerns. You are determining the dynamics of the relationships within the group. When you are feeling more comfortable, you may voice your opinions and debate your viewpoints until the team can come to a consensus. You then find yourself in a place of harmony. From there, you are able to collaboratively work through and resolve problems and support each other’s roles in the project. These are common themes in the evolution of a team. 

In the 1960s, Bruce W. Tuckman introduced a framework for the stages of team development. According to this framework, every team or group moves through five stages: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning as shown below:



This doesn’t mean progress is sequential, sometimes a team may toggle back and forth between two stages as it deals with a challenge. For instance, a team is ever evolving, and the dynamics may shift if there is a change in task, a new employee joining, a new leader hired, etc. While they may have been moving happily through storming into norming, they may suddenly find themselves back at forming. Also, upon successful completion of a designated task, the team may head back to the drawing board to begin a new cycle.

Now we know the benefits of a team and how they are formed, but how do we take a group of individuals and help them form the relationships and trust that will enable them to work effectively together? Regardless of whether you are working with an established team, a new team, or a team that is continuing to learn to function remotely, here are some tips to enhance your success:

  • Set measurable goals and evaluate them often.
  • Communicate with transparency, clarity and frequency.
  • Show appreciation.
  • Foster a sense of “we’re in this together”.

So, if your team is struggling with conflict between team members, is newly formed or has several new members, needs to move in a new direction, is not performing or getting the results you desire, taking some time to focus on your team’s attributes can be a critical step to improving team function and performance. You may want to consider a team assessment. An assessment identifies team dynamics that are working great and those that could be improved upon. It also sheds light on important questions, such as how coworkers feel about each other, about the work environment, the importance of their work, their commitments to each other and much more. 

Just as there often is in the movies, there can be a happy ending. If you think a team assessment is right for your organization, we’d love to help. Our Team Assessment is a starting point to help you understand the critical stage your team is in and to build upon your strengths and opportunities.

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