Thriving Teams

Dr Peter Chee,
Serely Alcaraz &
Aaron Ngui

How do leaders transform team turbulence into thriving teams?

To enable teamwide high performance, leaders need to scale three huge roadblocks to establish a thriving mentality.

People being curious

Scorn is the first hurdle.

Many won’t think twice about shooting down the opinions of others. They may even take things further by labelling others to their face, or behind their backs. This occurs when trust is absent. The team environment is poisonous when people do not trust that others are doing their best. This is manifested in unwarranted criticism that holds others back from contributing to performance.

The people when rightly and fully trusted will return the trust- Abraham Lincoln
Anne was the newly appointed business development team lead. Her feeling that the team lack trust prove correct when her first meeting devolved into a farce. A member openly scolded a junior for a mistake in the report. The junior member was cowled into silence.

Knowing she had to intervene, Anne rapidly instituted several changes. For one, meetings would start with positivity. She shared what went well for her, and the organization for the week. She then got team members to share what went well too. Doing so let meetings start with appreciation and gratitude.

Anne culled criticism by turning feedback into feedforward. She encouraged people to focus on improvements instead of what went wrong. “Thank you for the effort,” she would say, “in the future, I like to see you make follow up appointments and go the extra mile with an email and text message confirmation,” she told an intern. She role-modelled the behaviour for others to follow by fostering warm connectivity.

She took the initiative to get to know them better by asking then about their health, family wellbeing, or hobbies. She shared some of her interests and concerns too. Her personalized approach enhanced camaraderie. Relationships within the team grew stronger, trust increased, and collaboration grew as a result.

Anne revealed her human side by being vulnerable. In discussions, Anna admitted to challenges she faced with clients and asked for suggestions. Her openness to confess her limits showed her team she trusted them enough to listen to their ideas. People were given a safety net to share their issues and to support and motivate one another for results.

As the situation improved, her team tapped on the diversity of strengths, skills, and knowledge of each other. If one person was unable to connect with a client, he or she felt free sought support from other members to create a breakthrough. The year-end results spoke volumes to her leadership as the changes Anne made took hold.
Man stressed out

When attention is in short supply patience becomes victim.

People are demonstrably less patient now than before. Moreso when confronted with their wrongdoing, mistakes, or problems. Chief among the causes is the lack of accountability and refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

Accountability breeds responsibility - Stephen Covey
Ben felt bitter. He just got off a video call with his manager in a conversation that lasted just under three hours. On the call, his manager berated him for allegedly failing to follow the standard operating procedures (SOP) in handling a customer complaint. He defended himself by showing showed text messages between him and the team leader that his approach complied with company policy.

However, the manager was having none of it. Instead, he wanted Ben to handle the complaint differently as stated in a section of the manual. Telling Ben to pull out the document and to share the screen, they reviewed the section line-by-line but the manager could not find where the procedure was. “What happened was he was referring to an older and outdated manual,” Ben said.

Even though Ben managed to prove himself right, his manager doubled down. He refused to take responsibility or accountability for not being updated on the new SOPs. Ben was unfairly singled out.

By being impatient to dismiss explanations, and in not taking responsibility and admitting to making a mistake, the manager lost the trust of a productive team member. Ben felt he had enough. And applied for an opening in a different department. He obtained an internal transfer soon after.

Accountability happens when people take ownership of doing what they said they are committed to do. Such persons engineer a high sense of integrity because they enable and maintain high trust. Leaders who want to cultivate integrity as a value in teams would want to make things as transparent as possible.

When teams practice candid interactions with the intention of benefiting the organization, negative behaviours like backbiting and backstabbing are minimized, or eliminated entirely. Leaders who literally open the book by sharing their work calendar with direct reports, communicating frankly with respect, and sharing information openly reduces misdirection and improves transparency. Those who are accountable for their actions are said to have dependability. These are people who can be counted on to do their best to deliver the desired results.
Women taking notes

Stagnating teams manifests in different ways.

It could be people lacking commitment to complete work. In others, teams lose focus on the common objectives and cannot deliver on time. For individuals, they withdraw from interaction and disengaged themselves from the team.


To mitigate the effects, leaders must rally the team by establishing unity and providing clarity. Leaders create unity by taking the effort to instil common values for pursuing a common vision. They do so through strategies that drive a fulfilling mission. This makes everyone feel involved in activities that adds tremendous value to the individual, team, organization, community, and the world.


Unity is but one side of the coin. The other side is clarity. People who are united but do not know what to do to get to where they want to be are wandering aimlessly. By having clarity of roles and responsibilities, they understand how their contributions support achieving the desired outcomes.

Clary was flummoxed. She felt she deserved better than to be assigned to lead a department that others perceive to be the dumpster for the organization. “It’s the department where people who are seen as misfits are sent to, because firing staff is expensive,” she said. She felt she could contribute better to a more strategic area, but the CEO felt otherwise.

Her instincts that team members were not united and lack clear direction were confirmed in her first meeting with the managers. Some of them complained loud and long about how the organization treated them. Others appeared disinterested. “They seem to be happy just collecting a salary without contributing,” she said.

Knowing that massive action should be taken before her reputation as a competent leader took a hit, Clary got down to business. She singled the fear of failure as a major factor since decisions were continually put off. She empowered her managers to make and execute decisions so projects could progress. She also cultivated an air that the buck stops with her. Knowing their boss had their back gave the managers the courage to move things forward.

“I also started weekly meetings where instead of fault-finding and finger-pointing, we focused on the issues to solve,” she said. This allowed people to feel safe in bringing up matters requiring action. Before Clary took over, previous meetings would devolve into an acrimonious blame game where blame was assigned but no solutions were brought up. Clary also created a sense of clarity by clearly laying out expectations for every team member. Everyone needed to contribute to the success of the organization.

“For example, some of the customer-facing people were seen to be uninterested in providing good customer service. We stressed that they would be the first people customers would see when entering the building,” she said. Clary added front-facing personnel should make those coming in feel as comfortable as possible. She said this message was continuously shared to reinforce the value of making people feel happy when engaging their services. “If the first thing customers see is a sad face that saps their energy, why would they want to spend money on use?” Clary said.

In addressing those feeling disengaged, Clary engaged the services of mental wellness experts to conduct classes on mental wellbeing. These experts supported the department to create a manual of mental wellbeing techniques so team members could continue practising them. “The manual is available to everyone in the organization, not just those from my department. I want people to benefit from the knowledge,” she said.

In identifying and implementing different solutions to issues, Clary displayed agility. This mental flexibility allowed her the freedom to remain open for answers. She also did her best to cultivate an agile approach for problem-solving in her team. Giving them the allowance to learn from missteps and apply best practices and success allowed for continuous learning for improvements.

Clary permitted team members to freely seek out subject matter experts for mentoring or consultation to nurture a culture of flexible learning. If a team member was not proficient in a skill, that team member was empowered to seek help from other departments, or even outside the organization. To take it a step further, Clary used some of the team budget to pay for mentoring or consultations for knowledge and skills was critical for success.

In addition, Clary took the initiative to engage an external coach specializing in team coaching. Through group coaching conversations, the coach facilitated the development of a team charter. The team charter clearly spells out expectations, habits, and behaviours on how team members conduct themselves. This document keeps all accountable for fostering team spirit and unity.

A core-rule the team agreed to abide on was to speak to each other respectfully without raising their voices. Those who violated the rule were to follow a pre-agreed upon apology. The apology was also included in the team charter. Rule-breakers need to issue a formal apology on the spot when the behaviour was pointed out, and to treat the team to snacks for afternoon tea the same day to show there was no hard feelings. This allows team members to be accountable to one another, and to learn from mistakes.

To secure better clarity, Clary and the team agreed to take the high-performance teams assessment on a quarterly basis. This let them keep track of progress and reflect on what can be improved. When team members are aware of the strengths the team, individuals can synergize and leverage on each other’s strengths to execute the tactics and strategies effectively. The team coach was also roped in to aid the design of a matrix scorecard so everyone could be on the same page in terms of goal progress and accomplishment.

The transformation was slow and tough as people resisted getting out of their comfort zone. Yet, Clary’s persistence to stay on point and to continuously reinforce the message won the day. From a department that was seen as underperforming, the highly motivated and engaged team, managed to meet their targets, and even outperform some of their KPIs in just over a year.

World #1 Strategic Innovation Coach Dr Peter Chee will be speaking on the topic of 10X Transformational Team Coaching 4.0 at the upcoming Global Leadership Team Conference (GLTC) this October 2023.
Click or tap here to register and save your place. See you then!
World #1 Strategic Innovation Coach Dr Peter Chee will be speaking on the topic of 10X Transformational Team Coaching 4.0 at the upcoming Global Leadership Team Conference (GLTC) this October 2023.
Click or tap here to register and save your place. See you then!