Every team behaves differently, and those behaviours develop over time to create a unique team dynamic. Team members operate within that dynamic – sometimes even unconsciously. Many teams struggle because their team dynamic doesn’t help them achieve their goals, so understanding team dynamics plays a key role in getting the best out of your team.
Based on our experience working with teams we have developed A team dynamic model. As you can see, each of the four quadrants represents a different team dynamic. Ideally, you’ll move towards the top-right, to the “collaborative high performing” team, with high clarity and high connection. But you might not be there yet, so let’s examine the other quadrants first.
As we do this, you might see your own team as one of these four types. If it’s not yet the collaborative type, don’t see that as a failure. There are usually good, natural reasons why a team has evolved this way. But keep in mind that, while in these dynamics, the leader is usually powerless, team performance is restricted and the power of team is un-realised. So, making the commitment to move towards collaborative, on the top right, makes very good business sense.
A Team Dynamic Model:
Our experience has led us to believe that to create a collaborative high performing team you must have three important ingredients, connection, clarity and context. But when it comes to the exploring the particular dynamics of a team we need look no further than the first two, connection and clarity.
Connection:
Connection is the glue for teams. It is what holds them together through the tough times and the good. The strength of a team’s connection is based in its strength in emotional intelligence.

Team Dynamics model
Clarity:
Clarity is the direction for teams. It is all the ingredients that guide a team toward achievement. Including, purpose, vision, goal, strategies, values, structure, kpi’s, performance standards etc.
The Dynamics at play:
Chaotic: You often see this with new teams, fast growing teams, or teams with a new leader. These teams have low efficiency, low focus, high waste and low cohesion. The team members are typically in overwhelm and confused with their own role clarity, structure and overall strategic direction.
Siloed: They are a work group not a team, each working in isolation achieving their particular tasks to contribute to a known strategic direction. There is little support, comradery and engagement and as such low tolerance for risk for failure required for high levels of innovation. As such, even if they have bold shared goals they are unlikely to get traction in the achievement of these goals because of their lack of connection.
Social: This team may have formed organically with a low sense of purpose or planning and lack a cohesive direction, structure and goals. But they hold together because they get along well and consider each other friends possibly against a common foe. They consistently fail to meet targets or expectations due to a lack of clarity and accountability.
Collaborative High performing: Combined Clarity & Connection provide this team with the following: the ability to innovate and take risks to achieve greater success in alignment with the shared goals; The ability to set stretch and achievable goals and to adapt to change quickly when required; The ability to accurately review and debrief failures and learnings as a team; The ability to make decisions fast and effectively, knowing the right people with the right skills are in the right roles; and the Ability for others, not just the designated leader, to step up to leadership and take accountability for moving strategic goals forward.
Interested in getting the best out of your team? Understanding your team’s dynamics will give you greater insight into why things are happening are they are and what you can do differently to change it. Through exploring these changes you might also recognize your role in leading team transformation and how you are sustaining or changing these dynamics
Sarah Friis is an author, facilitator and mentor of high performance teams. She has recently published “The Power of Team – A practical guide to breakthrough performance”. Sarah has a Masters in Psychology and is co-founder of Workshops4teams.com, a leading global team resource dedicated to unleashing the power of team. www.workshops4teams.com