Three Tips to TEAM

by Susan Leahy, MA CSP & Freeman Michaels, MA

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Would you like to experience more team at work? Would you like to have a greater sense of TEAM in your family or community? Are you experiencing power struggles and resistance, but you don’t know how to get past it?

For definition, a person is in “group” when they are motivated by self-interest. Shifting to “team” requires an orientation around shared interest. Here are three tips to help transform the groups in your life into TEAMs.

Tip #1: STOP Pretending to Be a Team, Ask the Question:

A group of people who are all looking out for their own self-interests don’t become a team because someone in upper management decides to begin calling your department or division a team. Team happens when individuals consciously and consistently choose team. If you want to operate as a team, you will need to make a commitment to operate that way. Ask the question:

“Are we going to be a group or are we going to be a team?”

Try putting this question at the top of your meeting agendas or in the signature of your emails. Offer that you desire to operate more as a team and ask your peers or even your boss if they want the same.

It may be helpful to explain that group is normal. It is a default setting. People will naturally default to operating out of their own self-interest. Team, on the other hand, is a choice.

These days, it’s common for upper management to begin referring to departments as teams—as if renaming a department the Customer Service Team or the Finance Team will suddenly provoke people to operate more as a team. If your department is being called a team, ask the question, “are we really choosing to operate as a team?”

When you choose team, you will be required to listen and behave in a different way. You will need to start looking for shared interest and/or a common cause. Which is our second tip.

Tip #2: Organize Toward a Common Cause

High-functioning teams are made up of individuals whose attitudes and actions are aligned because of a common cause; everyone on the team wants to contribute because of a shared interest in achieving a goal. Their mutual objective motivates them to interact in a different way. They respect one another, collaborate, and cooperate because they are all vested in the same result.

Paradoxically, starting with your personal purpose is the best way to get to a shared purpose. Your personal purpose will become your “offer” that you extend to others. Great teams are made up of self-motivated people who have a sense of vision and purpose; people who enjoy collaborating with others similarly self-motivated. People who know what matters to them. The best employees are the ones who sincerely want to contribute, create value, and be of service to a cause greater than themselves. We recommend that you get clear on your personal purpose and invite others to find a good reason for why they do what they do, too.

Here is a list of questions to help you explore your personal purpose—your offer:

  1. What are the qualities of the type of team that you want to help co-create?
  2. What are your greatest talents and abilities—the gift that you have to give?
  3. In what ways do you want to be honored or recognized by others?
  4. What are a couple of areas where you’d like to personally grow?
  5. What is your greater purpose in life?
  6. How do you want to feel about going to work?

Tip #3: Set a Standard for Respect

We view respect across a continuum. At the lowest level, respect is “tolerance.” Tolerance is important so people can be different, even disagree, without killing each other. We are taught to tolerate people that we disagree with, don’t understand, or to whom we can’t relate. Moving up a step, we demonstrate respect by being civil to one another. This is most often expressed as good manners and politeness. While “please” and “thank you” are important, it is not the level of respect required to generate team. The only way to get to team is to hold others in high regard.

High regard is the level of respect that builds bonds, builds trust, and builds connection between people. Individuals on high-functioning teams hold one another in high regard. They relate openly and honestly. They speak highly of each other, avoid gossip, and cheer for each other.

When the members of a team commit to holding each other in high regard, and practice restating this standard regularly, it changes the operating system of an organization. The environment becomes almost sacred in the respect people have for one another.

Aspiring Toward Team

Team is not a destination: It is an aspiration. When people ask the question, “Are we going to be a group or are we going to be a team?”, they invite the possibility of stepping up their collective game. The rigorous commitment to uncovering and co-creating a common cause that supports every member’s sense of personal purpose is a powerful motivator for everyone on the team; a further commitment to being open and honest with one another—and holding each person on the team in high regard—elevates the operating system and creates a generative environment that will lead to remarkable results. At Group to TEAM Leadership solutions we invite you to choose team today!


IAAP works with the best trainers in the industry to ensure you have relevant, engaging, practical content at your fingertips. This blog is written by a speaker with a program in the IAAP Approved Programs database. Search by name or keyword to find their contact information and book them for your Branch or Region event. 

If you’d like to attend one of these events, you can find one in your area here.


Susan Leahy, MA CSP and Freeman Michaels, MA are the co-founders of Group to TEAM Leadership Solutions Inc., a global consulting company that specializes in helping organizations build a culture of team through comprehensive training, coaching and consulting services. For more information about their trainings, please visit www.GroupToTeam.com.

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