Contact Us

Building An Olympic Team

  • By Andrea Schlapia
  • |
  • February 7, 2014
Photo credits: ©Stockbyte, Thinkstock, Getty Images
Photo credits: ©Stockbyte, Thinkstock, Getty Images

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are in full swing. Do you ever wonder what it takes to be part of an Olympic team? I would imagine dedication, courage, skill, clear set goals, a unity of purpose, and a harmonious atmosphere are vital components of an Olympic team just as they are with any team, including the team at your firm.

Team development is a process and cannot be left to chance. Implementing a team development process that includes defined expectations, benchmarks to measure progress, and regularly scheduled team meetings is vital to creating successful teams.

Compare your team to Olympic teams –  new people coming together, development through various stages, and sharing a common goal – Bring Home the Gold!

In 1965, psychologist Bruce Tuckman introduced a memorable phrase – “forming, storming, norming, and performing,” in his article, “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups.” Tuckman’s phrase describes the path many high performing teams follow.  A few years later, Tuckman added a fifth stage to the process, “adjourning” (also referred to as “mourning”).

Tuckman’s theory provides the framework to apply directly to your internal team development process, equipping you with a means to maximize team unity and productivity.



Stage Overview: During the forming stage, team members will typically be eager, positive, polite, and excited. They are enthused to be included in a new team or process to further develop their skills. Some team members will experience anxiety as they are unsure how their skills and expertise will fall on the performance chart. In addition, they may be concerned how they will fit in with the team and its culture.

Leadership Actions: As a team leader your role is crucial, especially during the Forming Stage. Create clear structure, goals, and expectations to ensure team members understand their responsibilities. As you provide direction, team members will begin to build trust with one another.


Stage Overview: The Storming Stage reflects its name appropriately. Outward frustration and confusion typically arises in regards to roles and responsibilities when team members experience differing work manners. Boundaries are often pushed as team members may begin to challenge leadership and the original mission and goals.

Leadership Actions:  Provide support by reinforcing the established team process.  If the process is not adhered to, team members may question the value of each goal. Reestablish team goals by breaking them down into smaller more manageable tasks.


Stage Overview:  Team members now have had the opportunity to establish some normalcy to the group process. During the Norming Stage, team members will typically reach out to one another for direction and constructive feedback. They begin to open up and feel free to express their individual opinions. Teams “normally” unite during this stage by placing a stronger focus on reaching established goals and monitoring progress.

Leadership Action: Prepare team reviews to evaluate the progress they have made individually and collectively. Schedule a team discussion to analyze established processes.


Stage Overview:  In the Performing Stage, team members experience fulfillment with their progress. Team members transition from reactive to proactive roles and begin to prevent or solve present challenges.  Interaction within the team has reached a new level. Members develop an understanding that the strength of a team lies in the skill sets and talents of each member. Successful strategies and processes to achieve team goals result in reaching a new level, the Performing Stage.

 “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  Aristotle

Leadership Action: Delegate your work as much as possible. Team members have reached new heights of professional development and are capable and willing to accept more responsibility while focusing on the original objectives.  Revert your focus to developing team members.


Stage Overview:  Some teams will remain in the Performing Stage indefinitely; however, there are many teams that reach the Adjourning Stage. Project groups, team changes, and organizational restructuring can account for the discontinuance of a team. The Adjourning Stage causes members to experience a cycle of emotions including anxiety, uncertainty about their future role, and a sense of loss. Simultaneously, team members may experience peace of mind along with a great sense of achievement as they reflect on individual and team accomplishments. Team morale is likely to rise and fall with the conflicting feelings of each member.

Leadership Action: The Adjourning Stage was not part of Tuckman’s original theory, but is a vital stage to the process. Acknowledge the transition with team members while directing their focus on these activities:

  • Completion of remaining work
  • Evaluation of team’s processes and results
  • Team meeting to identify lessons learned
  • Closing celebration to acknowledge the contributions and accomplishments of the team

Team development doesn’t end here and needs to be integrated into a systematic process at your firm.  There are always new goals to focus on, changes in team members, or external factors that cause team development to return to an earlier, less-developed condition. Recognize these changes by implementing an immediate plan of action to protect your team from lapsing into an earlier stage.

Download Ironstone’s Team Development Checklist (based on the Tuckman theory)

If you have questions or comments in regards to team development or other areas of strategic planning, business development, or operational effectiveness, please let us know.

Sources: MIT Human ResourcesMind ToolsBruce TuckmanMyers Briggs Type Indicator


Are you just getting by or are you getting better? Get started today!

Author Bio

Andrea Schlapia, RCC™, HCS, sHRBP, is the Founder and CEO of Ironstone, which represents the culmination of her 20+ year career within the financial services industry. Her experience began as a financial advisor evolving into a consultant coach for advisors entering the field. This ignited her passion to support others through learning and development of best practices in order to achieve substantial results. To this end, she followed her desire into positions of senior-level practice management specialists for Dreyfus, Prudential, and DWS Investments prior to the realization of Ironstone.  Andrea’s focus is on practice management strategies to enhance and improve both business and personal life. Andrea identifies 4 key performance areas known as the Fundamental 4™, which are required to design, develop, and sustain a successful business. Through coaching sessions and speaking engagements, she captivates her audience with interactive, high-energy presentations which are built with “how-to” strategies resulting in real-world implementation for significant impact. Andrea has been featured in multiple publications and audio broadcasts as a specialist and distinguished spokeswoman in the financial industry.