This week’s Pearl of Leadership Wisdom is on Teams.

I’ve been working with a particular team performance model now for a few years. I have found it very effective, intuitive and easy to understand. It’s by The Table Group.

Would you like more tea…

The thing about teams is that they often seem to be doing fine but really they’re just being civil. You know, polite. But when they come under external threat, or have a significant, contentious issue to deal with, they very quickly fragment into factions.

This is because the team is not really built on sound foundations. The individuals can be superstars but teams are teams – they need a different kind of behaviour and this behaviour needs to be fostered.


It starts with trust. What is trust? “I can trust you to be 10 minutes late!” That’s not trust. That’s predictability. Trust is about feeling able to be vulnerable in front of others. Being able to show weakness. And to know that the weakness won’t be exploited. Now or in the future.

Conflict is good for you…

If a team trusts itself, then fear of conflict is diminished. This is important because conflict will almost certainly arise when major issues need to be addressed. These issues require full debate. If the team members fear the natural conflict that will arise and will not talk openly, then they cannot get to the next stage.

Yes, but, we didn’t really consider…

No conflict (and its resolution)…no commitment. The team may well say they are committed, but when they are challenged by others outside of the team, they find it difficult to vigourously defend the decision if the natural conflicts within the team have not been resolved. This leads to a break down in cabinet responsibility and the projection of an image of fractured and inconsistent leadership. You see it all the time, particularly with politicians.

Commitment leads to accountability…

Once committed to a decision, people are more able to accept accountability and to hold their fellow team members to account. It is impossible to accept accountability where there is no commitment to the decision.

At last! What we’re here for…

Without accountability, there is an inattention to results. And that’s what the team’s for. To get results.

Only at this level, with a trusting team, fully debating issues, building commitment and through that accountability, can all the team energy be focused on getting results. These teams are at the top of their game, but it doesn’t happen by chance. It isn’t some kind of interpersonal magic. It isn’t something that happens in time, “once we get to know one another”. That’s just familiarity.

True team effectiveness is 2 + 2 = 5. It’s a source of competitive advantage. Leaders make it happen.

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