November 17, 2021

Rainbows, Unicorns & Cupcakes

Creating a Dream Team consists of a lot of hard work. Ask any team member or any leader. It’s a constant state of forming new relationships, managing conflicts and personalities, getting things done and reaching goals. Otherwise more formally known as Forming, Storming, Norming & Performing – hopefully in order and one at a time, but that isn’t always the case in a growing or evolving team.

In case you aren't familiar with those terms, or you've forgotten exactly what they meant in the chaos of a Storming team… let’s take a closer look.

Forming is the first step in a team’s life when they come together for the first time and focus on what needs to be done, who should do it, and try to figure out some kind of schedule. This is when people are most polite, but we observe and make assumptions, while trying to figure out the other people on the team.

Storming is when the team members begin to need further clarity around their activities and goals, as well as more guidance around how they will work independently and together. It can involve brainstorming and likely some disrupting behavior. This is when team members start to open up to each other, worry less about being polite, and begin to challenge one another’s ideas and perspectives.

Norming causes a sigh of relief for most leaders because it means the team has successfully moved through the storming stage and is clear about its purpose and strategy. This is when the team begins to effectively collaborate. YAY Team!

Performing is when norming is “normal”, and everything is going relatively smoothly. Motivation and confidence are at an all time high as they go full speed ahead to pursue and achieve their goals as a team.

Unfortunately, some teams never get past the Storming stage and conflict never gets resolved. If your team isn’t in the bliss of Performing, you might be pulling your hair out trying to get through this stage. Here are some of the behaviors I’ve observed in Storming teams.

Stating the obvious, which isn’t obvious at all.

Shutting down - Not communicating.

Talking too much and over each other.

Not asking enough questions. Assuming we know what the other person means, without being curious enough to confirm.

Assuming – assuming stupidity, specific personalities, lack of insight, etc.

Fist Fights - OK, lol! I've never really seen this happen, but I'm certain the thought has been there.

Screaming and/or crying.

Disrespect - Making fun of each other or talking behind each other’s backs.

Refuse to deal with the problem - Firing people and/or quitting.

Cupcakes - I mean, what problem doesn't cupcakes solve?! Ignoring, pretending there is no problem, or making light of the situation will never really get you very far as a leader.

As you can guess, none of those behaviors got any of those teams very far either. If you really want to create an environment that can weather the storm, try these:


Have tough conversations.

Plan trust building team activities.

Be genuinely curious.

Create a safe environment.

Don’t make assumptions.

Talk about it.

Don’t take it personally.

Be clear and concise.

Recognize strengths.

Before bringing your plate of cupcakes to the table of a raging storm, take a step back and think about how you can effectively move your team forward. Remember, every team has potential.

Bruce Wayne Tuckman (November 24, 1938 – March 13, 2016) was an American Psychological Researcher who carried out his research into the theory of group dynamics.[1] In 1965, he published a theory known as "Tuckman's stages of group development". According to this theory, there are four phases of group development: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing. In 1977, he added a fifth stage, named Adjourning.

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