The key to a high performing business is not about an individual person. Businesses that perform well are built on a foundation of high functioning teams. This won’t be a surprise to many. The understanding of the role of the team in successful organisations has spawned an entire industry of “Team Building”.

Traditional team building has tended to revolve around team activities and off-site days. These are designed with the intention of promoting better collaboration between team members, improving interpersonal relationships and building team cohesion. Too often though, this is not a tangible or sustainable outcome. The big issue is that these events can serve to alienate some team members that may not like or have an inclination towards particular activities. Further, where there are already fractures in the team, these environments can cause flare ups. Team building as we have come to understand it, does not address real world team challenges and instead serves as temporary band aid to cover the cracks. That is not to say that these activities are of no value, they are.  They come too soon though. First, we need to work on developing the team.

There are some fundamental principles to be addressed that will deal with the common denominator of the team …… the team. This is team development and it is an iterative process. Once the development journey has completed its first cycle, then the traditional team building activities can be valuable as a team bonding exercise.

Organisational Psychologist and author Adam Grant said:

“Putting people in a group doesn’t make them a team. A team is a collection of people with a shared identity who collaborate to achieve a common mission. Each member makes a unique contribution. Turning a group into a team starts with clarifying core values, goals and roles.”

This is true. We must figure out collectively:

  • What do we care about? – Values
  • Where are we going? – Goals
  • What do each of us do? – Roles

T.E.A.M. – a cheesy acronym with a powerful impact

At Performance Nerds, we take this a bit further. Our T.E.A.M. model addresses these issues, and more. Once we are satisfied that we have, in fact, a team we can work on developing the team through the fundamental principles of T.E.A.M. The principles are:

  • Trust
  • Engagement
  • Alignment
  • Meitheal (Pronounced: Meh-hill) 


This should be a no-brainer but is frequently overlooked or hidden away in a closet! We see from the best teams in the world that trust is a non-negotiable element. We look at trust from two perspectives:

Character Trust – Do the right thing

Competency Trust – Do the thing right

Establishing these trust bases will allow us to address the “elephants” in our team room that we have been ignoring or unaware of, and enable us to have the challenging conversations that are needed for development and continuous improvement.  We need to ask ourselves some important questions.

What needs to happen in our team to establish these trust bases?

What are the “elephants” in our team room?

How does a lack of trust show up in our team?


There is an employee engagement problem in the world of work. According to the Gallup Employee Engagement Surveys of the last 20 years there is a very significant engagement problem. It is improving, but very slowly. The numbers are still embarrassingly low with only about 30% of employees engaged in their work. This is a problem because we know that engaged employees are better performers across a wide range of metrics. We also know that disengaged employees are actively damaging the productivity of the team. Essentially, we want people to come to work because they want to, not because they have to.

To help people to engage with their work and their team, we need to help them answer some questions such as:

Why are they here?

Are they a valued member of the team? Why?

Do they believe in what we are doing here?


An aligned team is a focused team. For an aligned team the 5 standards of alignment must be in place.

  1. Team Goals & Individual Objectives
  2. Roles Clarity
  3. Key Systems & Processes
  4. Common Language (Strategy/Plans/Vision)
  5. Rules of Engagement & Behavioural Expectations

The lack of attention to these standards is a frequent problem we see when working with teams. They point mostly to an overarching need for clarity and while they are simple concepts, they are not necessarily easy to implement.

Meitheal (Pronounced: Meh-hill)

Meitheal is an Irish Gaelic word with a literal translation of co-operative or work team. It represents an old tradition within the farming communities of rural Ireland where neighbouring farmers helped each other with the labour intensive tasks of farming long before machinery made it easier. Neighbouring farming families and community members would gather to help with tasks such as sowing crops, harvesting, cutting & baling silage and cutting turf. They would do this for the common good of the community and would be paid with good food, plenty of tea and at the end of the day it was common to share a glass of whiskey, poitin or porter along with music and a dance to celebrate a job well done.

In the business world we can learn from this. This is true team spirit. Helping each other out in the pursuit of a common goal with pure intention. And, of course, we should always celebrate our successes and accomplishments together.

The best teams have this spirit in abundance. This is what brings together the other principles of T.E.A.M. into something that is meaningful, collaborative and successful.

It’s Not All Sunshine & Rainbows

We don’t want to leave you with the impression that high functioning, high performing teams never argue. They do. It’s just that they do it better than other teams. Tension is important in a team. They must be able to challenge each other, to disagree and engage in debate. This is how we grow. This is how we learn. This is how we understand alternative perspectives. This makes us better.

Just do it well. It’s about achieving a common goal, not ego, not being right and not about the person. The focus is the subject matter.

We work with teams at every level of the organisation. The most dysfunctional teams we see tend to be executive/leadership teams. This sets a tone for the organisation and needs to be addressed first, ideally.

If the teams in your organisation are not functioning optimally, then neither is the organisation and this is inevitably impacting the bottom line negatively.

To learn more about how we can help your organisation to develop a T.E.A.M. mindset, get in touch with us to start the conversation.