The 4-Question Team Constellation Experiment

Published: February 8, 2022

There’s a way of viewing the many partnerships that make up a team while looking at the whole team as a unit. The fingerprint-level uniqueness of the group is stamped by the distinct individual connections between teammates. As each internal partnership morphs, the team evolves either toward or away from wellness. Here’s how to take a snapshot of today’s state of affairs.

Imagine that everyone on the team brings different strengths and talents to the workplace and that each teammate has their own secret motivation for contributing to the overarching goal. One person might be analytical while another might be creative. Someone might be energized by learning while somebody else is driven by making the world a better place. There’s room for everyone.

Natural connections are sure to unfold. Friction, too, is more likely between certain personalities. Many of these early partnership themes are a result of human chemistry. As the team evolves, however, each internal connection will either grow more close or more distant. Which direction the partnerships take will be fueled by day-to-day experience.

Stop here and take a snapshot. Each person answers the following four questions:

  1. What do I bring to this team and what motivates me to contribute?
  2. With whom am I most dependent in order to perform in my role most effectively?
  3. What do I need most from those whose collaboration I covet?
  4. What do they need most from me?

What do I bring to this team and what motivates me to contribute?

Words and behavior must match. Beyond your job description, what is your gift? How does your role on the team allow you to express this gift? Which aspects of this expression are most energizing? What parts of your job make the hours fly by? When are you your best self?

With whom am I most dependent in order to perform in my role most effectively?

This is where roles link up. This is where ‘stay in your lane’ doesn’t work. In addition to knowing my lane from yours, I need to know the ground rules for entering your space or changing lanes. Where do I start and you end? Where do we overlap?

What do I need most from those whose collaboration I covet?

Of every possible partnership between teammates, some are more crucial. Both strength and weakness gets delivered to the future. I’d like everything I inherit from you to be from a place of strength. Similarly, anyone who inherits my work should have everything they need to move things forward successfully.

What do they need most from me?

Big or small, every teammate should be able to define their commitment to each partner on the team. Whether direct or indirect, your work either splashes directly on someone or quietly sends a ripple that eventually touches everyone, whether or not they realize they’re being touched. Name the impact and its scope, from you to them and from them to you.

You’ve taken your snapshot. Recalibrate focus and direction based on what you learned from the exercise. Put the photo in the archives and take another soon. People change. Priorities shift. Drag the 4-Question Constellation Experiment out whenever progress is stymied, the team is stuck, a major change has occurred, or you just want to elevate the team to the next level.

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.