In one of my leadership workshops, I begin by conducting a simple exercise where participants are asked to gather in small groups and come up with the definition of a team. It sounds simple, and the groups inevitably come up with very similar definitions. It goes something like this, “A group of individuals working together to accomplish a common goal”. Given the same assignment, perhaps you’d come up with something similar.

But what happens next is much more interesting. We do a short teamwork exercise and then regroup to discuss any needed adjustments to our definition of a team. The following concepts are usually added to the generic definition:

– within a team there are different roles. Having an understanding of our own role, the role of others, and the interaction between them is key in creating an effective team.

Decision Making
– understanding how a team makes decisions is essential for teams to reach a state of high performance. Conflict caused by decision making conflicts lowers team effectiveness.

– there is an inherent pace and tempo to team activity. It’s not necessarily stable, but effective team members need an understanding of what dictates tempo, and how tempo affects their individual work habits.

– things don’t always go right, even in high performing teams, and how a team responds to needed changes is a key component in determining overall effectiveness. Feedback between team members is key for everyone to be informed about needed changes and adjustments.


The reason that I begin my workshop this way is because most people spend very little time thinking about teams. It’s a deceptively simple concept that we tend to think we have mastered. In reality, there is much more to team dynamics than managers tend to consider. I believe that having an understanding of these dynamics provides managers with the insight to lead their teams to much higher levels of performance.


What do you think of  as the definition of a team? Has your thinking ever limited the results you’re getting? Share your thoughts in the comments below.