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TEAM BUILDING (minus the paintball)

21 July 2013

Ask anyone what it is or was like being part of a team that really hummed - whether it was a work team, your family, a sports team, the SES or even a community group - and some surprisingly similar comments emerge. “ …we’ve got each other’s backs…loyal to the team…we trust each other…all valued for our unique contribution and qualities…lots of lively debate to nut out problems…never fearful of voicing a different point of view…no prima donnas…all pitch in when we’re up against it”.

Likewise, most of us have unfortunately probably had the no-so-great experience of being part of a dysfunctional team – at its worst, possibly an environment similar to what a contact recently described as “so toxic you needed to wear a Hazmat suit”!

Whilst they definitely have their place then, sometimes a game of paintball, a few rounds of golf or drinks on a Friday after work, just aren’t enough on their own to ‘cure what ails’ a group of people that just don’t seem to be operating as a high performing team - where politics is rife; goals and targets get missed; difficult issues aren’t aired – or if they are, not everyone weighs in…leading inevitably to the ‘meeting after the meeting’; and where it feels more like a collection of individuals rather than a committed and focussed team.

Sound familiar? 

After many years of working with executive teams in large corporates, Pat Lencioni (Managing Director of The Table Group) made the following observation – “The state of teams in the corporate world is so bad that it’s one area where, if you build and continue to work on maintaining a high performing team, you’ll gain a definite competitive advantage” (Pat Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team).

Think about it... for starters, if you have a team where no one trusts anyone, it’s going to be pretty hard to get any healthy discussion going around contentious or challenging issues. Yet when you foster an environment of trust, and people feel unafraid to weigh into a debate, you’re going to get buy-in and commitment to the final outcome, simply because “I really feel I was heard, people took my point of view seriously”.

Jim Collins in Good to Great talks about the critical importance of getting the “right people on the bus” if you’re to attract more great people... and if you want to keep the good ones you’ve got fully engaged.

Being part of a lousy team, full of politics, unfettered prima donna behaviour and often bullying (both subtle and not so subtle) does not make for a team that is likely to achieve set targets, let alone go over and above.

In short, building a high performing team requires more than just hiring a bunch of talented people.

  • It means hiring and/or developing people who will work well together.
  • It means developing a shared vision and commitment, constantly highlighting the role each person plays in achieving the overall strategies, objectives and vision.
  • It means physically bringing people together in formal group meetings for open discussion of broad-based issues.
  • It means encouraging positive, informal interactions between group members.
  • It means instilling a "winning" attitude throughout the team/organization.
  • It means watching for and quickly dealing with morale destroying problems such as jealousy, cynicism, and defensive behavior


Here’s a quick checklist of some differences between a group and a high performing team:





Personal (inward)competition


External (goals) competition

Personal agenda


Team agenda



Highly participative




Kick starters



Personal Success


Team & Organisational Success

Independent or Overdependent


Interdependent (we can depend on each other)

Tolerate each other


Enjoying work and other workers

No sense of Urgency


Have a strong Sense of Urgency

Avoid risk at all costs


Thrive on a challenge, happy to take calculated risks


Developing a High Performing Team is a constant work-in-progress – it doesn’t just happen. And when you do find you have built a High Performing Team, be aware that it won’t stay that way by itself. A team is of course a living breathing group of people – it needs to be nurtured and worked on constantly, using all of the many skills and attributes of a Leader.

Maybe it’s time to take the temperature of your team…

For Information on Rocket Blue’s TEAM BUILDING PROGRAMS, please contact:

Penny Nesbitt

Director, Rocket Blue Pty Ltd

m: 0403 895 097