Meet Me at the Intersection of Collaboration and Contribution

Meet Me at the Intersection of Collaboration and Contribution

We are better together. That is the whole point of teamwork. So why are dysfunctional teams so common? What makes it difficult to bring out the best in each other? 

One tool I use with my clients is by Bruce Tuckman. He proposed a developmental framework that describes the milestones of teams : Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, Adjourning/Mourning.  Sometimes we forget that we can’t skip right to high performance.  The team, even if it is just you and one other person, needs to stabilize first. 


Forming- The team is coming together. While they may be uncertain about who they are working with, how the team will work and what it will accomplish, everyone is probably on their best behavior. 

Storming- The honeymoon is over at this point and it will be turbulent as everyone figures out how to work together.  Dysfunctional teams are usually stuck in the storming phase and it isn’t uncommon to feel overworked and underutilized until roles and responsibilities are clarified.  

Norming-The storm has passed. While the team may not yet be great at working together, it is getting better.  The diversity in talents, skills, perspectives on the team isn’t making things harder any longer, instead the differences are valued and appreciated. The team is clear about strategy and understand how things should work, even if they haven’t quite gotten into the groove. Your team is probably stuck here if you are not bringing out the best in each other yet. 

Performing- Now the team is in the flow. You are having fun and getting stuff done.  Ideally you spend most of your time in this phase and work effectively and efficiently. Unfortunately, it is easy to take the progress for granted. Remember to recognize each person’s contribution and to celebrate the wins as you go. Once you reach performing, don’t be surprised if you need to storm and norm occasionally too, it is natural to pulse. 

Adjourning/Mourning- Maybe the project is over, or a team member is leaving- no matter what don’t gloss over this stage.  This is a good time for reflection and more appreciation. Also recognize that the team is going to be different with a shift in personnel or objective, expect that you will go through all of the milestones again.  

Even if you can’t skip the steps you can try to get your team to high performance quickly. Get to know each other and help some of your quieter teammates be heard. Build trust and commitment. Promote healthy conflict. As the leader, be consistent and a role model for how you want the team to behave. 


One way to get your team off to a strong start is by starting with a simple exercise. Have each person share their strengths and a few ways to get the best out of them. It can be as simple as sharing some “do’s and don’ts”. Here’s an easy button for you: try this free assessment for you and your team  

If you want some help implementing this exercise with your team, schedule a call with us today and we can provide free access to our proven tool kit and virtual workshop.