WorkVine®: What the X-Men Can Teach Us About Teamwork

By Robert Half on May 22, 2014 at 7:00am

Robert Half's WorkVine® blog series addresses the lighter side of the workplace, with fun topics to help you get through the workday.

If the X-Men’s greatest achievement is keeping the peace between human beings and mutants, what they teach us about teamwork runs a close second.

As a whole, the X-Men may seem like a motley crew, but they actually represent a model of team diversity. After all, a team works best not only when its members are different, but also when they’re compatible, complementary and cooperative.

Case in point: The earth would be toast right now if all of the X-Men were like Wolverine. Successful teams include members like Professor X, Cyclops, Storm and Jean Grey as well.

The founder of the X-Men, Professor X, excels in his role as team leader. One of his greatest strengths is staying positive, especially during rough stretches. Professor X clearly outlines goals, making sure his team members know their objectives. He also recognizes individual strengths and weaknesses — vital when working with mutants or other types of professionals. Despite being wheelchair-bound, this mentor has a knack for motivating his team into action and pushing members to reach their full potential.

If Professor X is the COO of the X-Men, Cyclops is the manager or project leader. His ability to shoot a powerful beam of energy from his eyes parallels his own leadership style: Direct and effective. Cyclops understands the value of teamwork – specifically, that individuals can produce and achieve more when they’re working together than they do when they work independently. He keeps his fellow team members focused, even the wily Wolverine, because he is tough when necessary, but always fair and respectful.

Wolverine underestimates his team members’ power, even though they naturally flock to him because of his get-the-job-done attitude. Goal-oriented workers like Wolverine are valuable team members, but they need to be gently nudged in the right direction. Otherwise, they can spark disagreements with other dominant team members, as often happens between Wolverine and Cyclops. If you have Type-As around the firm, it’s a good idea to take a page from Professor X or Cyclops: Pull the team members aside individually, give them each positive feedback on their work performance and remind them that team members produce more when working together.

Balancing out the more dominant Cyclops and Wolverine, Storm is an effective second-in-command. She relates well with all team members, but she’s no lightweight: Storm saved Professor X and Wolverine many times by controlling the weather, which is her unique mutant power. And although she’s most comfortable in a supportive role, she has excellent leadership skills — honed during her service as headmistress of Professor X’s School for the Young and Gifted — and can step up if need be.

Professor X’s star pupil, Jean Grey, has telekinetic and telepathic powers like her mentor, although hers are not as advanced. Jean is a valuable team member who demonstrates a thirst for knowledge and strong loyalty in the day-to-day tasks. In Jean’s role as the doctor of the X-Mansion, she works behind the scenes caring for and protecting the X-Men team. She is the glue that binds the X-Men together.

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