Teams Assume Many Forms

Published: October 6, 2021

When people think of the word ‘team,’ they often imagine a larger group of talent with interlocking roles. They repeat the adage about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. They measure the impact of effective leadership and good chemistry while imagining some pro sports team winning a world championship. While all of this can be accurate, it is a stereotype. Teams assume many forms.

Let’s begin with a simple definition: A team is two or more people who collaborate (Team Clock: A Guide to Breakthrough Teams, p. 23, 2009). By these terms, we all participate on many teams. Moving from micro-to-macro, consider what each of these teams share:

  • A friendship shares similar interests
  • A marriage anchors a shared commitment
  • A family creates a shared history
  • A project group operates according to a shared goal
  • An organization is driven by a shared mission
  • A community coalesces around shared values

Whatever their size and shape, teams that excel have important features. They invest in a common vision. They value differences as strengths. They use respectful management of conflict to build trust. They are willing to take smart risks to make discoveries without being held back by the comfort of staying the same. They adapt to the change they have created and reinvest in their new circumstances. They hold themselves and each other accountable for healthy team structure and interactional dynamics.

What does your team share? Is it interests, commitment, history? Is it goals, mission, values? Is your team a collaboration between two, ten, fifty, a hundred, or thousands of teammates? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you invest in your team’s foundation, you build connection, you enable growth, and you are resilient when things change.

When you measure your friendship, marriage, family, group, organization, and community against these standards, does it make the grade? Are you a ‘team’? Your answer might surprise you.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.