In teamwork we trust

In this blog we set the scene for an exploration of what it is to be an effective team. The story will unfold over the coming weeks.

Clients approach us to design and deliver leadership team development programmes. We explore their needs and sometimes we tell them they don’t need a team. We advise them to spend their money elsewhere. They are surprised.

Getting the requirement right

They may not have thought very hard about what they need from their so-called leadership teams. Sometimes they use the term ‘leadership team’ when others might more properly use the term ‘working group’ or ‘project team’.

We invite them to consider the nature of the team’s purpose and goals, the level of interdependency between the entities their team aspires to lead, and the appetite of the team’s participant-leaders to put common purpose and courageous mindful conversations ahead of ego and personal reward. This helps create some clarity about what is required, and a dawning insight into the investment needed.

So, what does an effective team look like? There are lots of models of course, and we will dip in and out of Lencioni’s model (2002) over the coming weeks.

Pain and commitment

Real teamwork is powerful but cost some pain and commitment to do properly.

There is a level of trust required between participants to enable robust compassionate challenge that in turn begets collective commitment to execution and a preparedness to hold one another to account in the service of achieving the desired results.

Pyramid investing

And so there is a pyramid of capacities to be developed and sustained from the bottom up: real trust and openness, robust compassionate challenge, collective commitment to decisions that may not be unanimous, mutual accountability, and a focus on results.

Many leadership teams are great at setting goals and holding others to account. They are great at being surprised and frustrated when goals aren’t met. And they are great at scapegoating people outside the team, down the line. They have failed to invest in their own pyramid.


How do you develop real trust and openness in your leadership teams? See next week’s blog for some of the things we do to help clients build their pyramids.

Dave Stewart
The Fresh Air Learning Company