What Do Bees Teach Us About Teams?

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.

– Henry Ford

It’s been said that bees can show you something about teamwork. On a warm day about half the bees in a hive stay inside beating their wings while the other half go out to gather pollen and nectar. Because of the beating wings, the temperature inside the hive is about 10 degrees cooler than outside. The bees rotate duties and the bees that cool the hive one day are honey gatherers the next.

Who knew that the bee could teach us about the power and function of teams?

Pardon the pun, but there’s been a lot of buzz in recent years about teams and teamwork and rightfully so. Anyone can throw a group of people together and call it a team. But is it, really? Until the following four characteristics emerge within that group of individuals they will simply remain a group of people struggling for identity, struggling to make sense of what they are doing, where they are going, and what they are accomplishing. Here are the four things we must learn from the bees.


It stands to reason that if a group people can emerge and gel as a team it will be predicated on trust. The bees trust one another to carry out their duties. Whether those duties are in the hive beating their wings or out gathering pollen and nectar. They depend on each other to get the job done. One recent survey I read said that 45% of employees say that a lack of trust in leadership is the biggest issue impacting their work performance. So until the issue of trust is settled then those in leadership will continue to struggle. And sadly, so will the team and its ability to perform.


Due to the revolving nature of the bees’ duties, they have an understanding of what it takes to get the job done each day. Each knows and understands what the other is going through. Within your organization, developing empathy goes a long way in building trust and moving the team forward. Everyone’s skills and talents are needed and all must be respected even though not all are the same. Team members need to see the big picture not just through the lens of what they do but in what others do as well.


Bees depend on each other to cool the hive and gather food. If they fail to do their job, someone might just get stung! In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni says, “Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.” And this is the secret sauce of how teams work. They hold each other accountable.

Without accountability, your team will flounder and miss the mark. It’s when you embrace it, as painful as it can be at times, that you will come to understand the power and potential of your team.

Mutual respect

When team members begin to trust one another, develop empathy, hold one another accountable, then they can move forward with mutual respect. When you look at your fellow team members not as competitors but as colleagues, you can then harness the power of teamwork. Don’t let petty office politics or gossip ruin what could otherwise be the making of a well-performing team.

When you come together possessing these qualities you can move from being a group of people that look like a team to actually being one. If the bees can do so can you!


Doug Dickerson
Doug Dickerson
DOUG has been speaking to audiences in the U.S. and overseas for more than 30 years. Doug knows how to spin a story, make you laugh, and how to challenge your traditional ways of thinking about leadership. Most of all, Doug is committed to helping you grow as a leader. Doug is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida and studied Clinical Pastoral Education at Palmetto Baptist Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. While his leadership expertise has its roots in ministry and teaching. His background also includes public relations and business. Doug understands the necessity of leadership development and why creating a leadership culture in your organization is critical to your success. He is the author of four leadership books including: Leaders Without Borders, 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders, Great Leaders Wanted, It Only Takes a Minute: Daily Inspiration for Leaders on the Move, and Leadership by the Numbers. As a speaker, Doug delivers practical and applicable leadership insights with a dose of humor and authenticity that endears him to a wide range of audiences. Doug is a John Maxwell Team member.

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