In my last article I closed off by saying “The success of your external collaboration is directly related to your ability to collaborate internally.” It was the conclusion of an article highlighting the need to treat collaboration with internal departments as it were collaboration with external companies.

There is one level deeper: collaboration within the own department or team. We easily use the word “team” when referring to a group of people who are working within the same department. Yet, how often isn’t it just a collection of people and not a team?

Within a team we rely on each other, thus there is a level of trust; we share responsibility and keep each other accountable. All while working towards a common goal. The overall performance of the team is greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Great teams know why they work together, they understand how they do it and they know what they are working for. Unfortunately, many teams miss these essential elements of Simon Sinek’s golden circle and only focus on what they are doing.

Building a team requires continuous effort. Many team building efforts are too focussed on the activity elements when being out together. You probably know how those days go; during the day you’ll sit together working on the strategy for the coming year and perhaps a company executive will keep a motivating speech. After that you have some non-business activities and in the evening you all hit the bar.

After these team building days when you’re back in the office, you will probably laugh together about those silly things your colleagues did or said in the bar (“remember John and Sally dancing on the table?”). Then you’ll go back to work, just like before.

Just going out for a day or so with the team and expecting that everything will be different when you return to the office, simply doesn’t work.

Team building is a continuous process; it requires changing habits. When you ever tried to change some of your own habits, you know that changing habits takes time and perseverance.

In my work with teams, I bring the proven material of a few wise people together: it is based upon work by Simon Sinek, Patrick Lencioni and Marshall Goldsmith.

First I will interview the individual team members and some key stakeholders, then we’ll start with an offsite day with the team. During this day we will define why the team exists and how it should operate together. This might seem obvious, but for many teams it is not. Then we work towards the collective improvement as a team by identifying areas for improvement as an individual team member.

Based on this first day together we will continue the team coaching on a monthly basis. On a regular basis we’ll measure the team’s improvement progress. After all, team building and coaching should lead to measurable improvement of a team’s performance.

Think about it before you organize, or participate in, a next team meeting: what do you do specifically to improve your team’s performance and to improve as a team member?


PS: if you want to read more about the work of Simon Sinek, Patrick Lencioni and Marshall Goldsmith, then I warmly recommend these three books: