What makes a strong team? A team is more than a group of individuals working in the same department or on the same project. In a team there is synergy; team members strengthen each other. They ask each other questions and offer help, share knowledge and give feedback. This only happens when a number of conditions have been met. Patrick Lencioni has made these conditions transparent in his ‘5 frustrations of teamwork’ pyramid:
This is the bottom layer of the pyramid and the basis for good cooperation. Trust can be increased by connecting on a personal level. You discover what you can get out of each other and what you can turn to each other for. Insight into each other’s strengths and weaknesses is important in order to be able to complement each other. An additional advantage of actively connecting with each other is that you increase the mutual ‘goodwill’. When you know someone well and appreciate them, you are more willing to stick your neck out for them.
Confrontation is often avoided because of a lack of trust. There is no open communication, but rather discussion behind each other’s backs. Confrontation sounds negative, but it can be valuable. It creates openness and prevents frustrations or irritations from arising. Moreover, it is a condition for helping each other grow. When there is trust in a team, team members are more likely to call each other to account for their behaviour and exchange feedforward in order to work together towards success. A positive mindset towards making mistakes is also important; mistakes are there to be learned from, not to be judged on.
The next condition of good cooperation is commitment. This follows open communication by exchanging ideas and making room for everyone’s opinion. This creates consensus and each team member feels heard and involved in the team, in the decisions that are made and in the goals that need to be achieved.
When each team member feels responsible for his or her work and the success of the team, the standard of work remains high. It is important that everyone knows what his or her responsibilities are and those of his or her colleagues. A clear division of roles is therefore essential to increase the responsibility and sense of autonomy of team members.
The top layer of the pyramid is about a focus on the results to be achieved together, rather than a focus on individual success. In a strong team, team members help each other grow in order to work together for team success. A shared mission helps in this respect; it acts as a magnet, keeping everyone on the same page.