The Two Teams

The Two Teams

When working with teams about their collective behavioral styles, I have noticed that in the long run there are only Two Teams. As I check in with various teams’ progress at certain intervals the Two Teams have two distinct results.

Team One is doing well. Team Two is actually worse than before.

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.

Team One is communicating differently, achieving results, and having less conflict.

Team Two is communicating differently, not achieving results, and having more conflict.

What separates these Two Teams?

Why does Team One prosper and Team Two decline?

The answer was simple. After a series of meetings, calls, and follow-up visits a pattern developed. I took notes of each group but the difference became clear.

Team One Pattern

After the initial session, each member of Team One reflected on their own primary style. They made a list of what worked for them as a member of Team One. They made a second list of what didn’t work or needed modification in order for them to be a better member of Team One. Over the next few months each Team One member worked on what didn’t work and tried to leverage what did work.

Team Two Pattern

After the initial session, each member of Team Two reflected on their primary style. They made a list of what worked for them as a member of Team Two. They made a second list of what didn’t work or needed modification in order for others to be a better member of Team Two. Over the next few months each Team Two member worked on trying to get others to change their behaviors and style and did not focus on how they could change.

Will you focus on how you can improve to make the team better?


Will you make a list of how much better things will be when other people change?

The choice is simple when you realize there are only Two Teams.

Finding Your Voice


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When working with a fairly large team of leaders one dominant trait was clear. This team drove hard for results, and wanted to accomplish numerous projects and tasks. The intensity manifested itself during their meetings. In between numerous cross-conversations and interruptions, ideas were discussed, challenged, and hashed out.

If you had an idea, you had to defend it.

If you had a suggestion, you had to sell it.

If you had an objection, you had to voice it.

But, there were other members of this team. Team members who did not share the same dominant drive. In meetings, these team members remained silent. They had no voice at the table.

One of the “silent ones” pulled me aside after the session. We talked about finding their voice amongst the team and the challenges associated with speaking up.

“Your voice is important on this team, and you need to find ways to speak up, especially if you have concerns.”

“That is great for you to say, but I think this team just views me as a speed bump on their road to progress.”

After a few moments of stunned silence, a plan developed. We agreed that during the next meeting, this “silent one” would find their voice, stand up, and speak (shout) out the following statement:

“Speed bumps save lives!”

And they did.

After the initial disruption, a brief explanation, and a few laughs, the dominant team members stopped and listened. The “silent one” found their voice, and offered their insight into the project.

Months later, the team dynamic has shifted. More members have found their voices, and the dominant ones are learning to slow down, listen, and even occasionally ask:

“Are there any speed bumps we should know about?”

Finding your voice, in your organization, meeting, or workplace may require a bold step, but being heard is well worth the effort.

How Do You Define Teamwork?

Teamwork.  There is a seemingly endless list of how to define it, thousands of books written about it, and the notion that we should all strive to obtain it.  Teamwork has been rattling around in my head lately, and I was trying to remember a defining moment for any team where I was a member.  Nothing was coming to mind until I met recently with a member of this team for breakfast.

This particular team had been through some rough times together, but also celebrated well during successes.  The defining moment that I remember was during a meeting where we had been instructed to reduce our budget.  It wasn’t just a little reduction, the reduction was large enough that it would cause everyone in the room to take a hit.  I had instructed each of them to bring a list of what was important that needed to remain, and a list of what could be reduced.

One by one, each member of this team shared their list.  The items on the lists were important things that would have a significant impact on each person’s part of the operation, their ability to provide the right level of service.  After all the lists were read, it became quiet.  Part of me expected the real battle to begin, and each person around that table would start lobbying about why their department should be retained, and someone else should take the cut.

It was at this very moment that I witnessed teamwork, and what I heard had and still has an impact on me.

“After listening to the group, their lists seem more important to the overall operation.  I think I can reduce a little more.”

“I can take the hit, let’s make sure that other department has what it needs this year.”

“I don’t know how I am going to explain this to my employees, but I am withdrawing my list of needs, the other lists just seem more pressing.”

One by one, every member of that team saw the overall organization and operation as more important than their particular department, silo, or fiefdom.  Each member of that team knew that the only “win” was ensuring that the organization “won” not whether or not it was a “win” for them individually.

How should we define teamwork?  Maybe the definition is simple.  Teamwork is when everyone that is working together can look beyond themselves, see the larger picture, and “take the hit” for others.