How to Get Your Team to Work as One

Dancing Workers

The title to this article has a double meaning…getting your team to work as one and not as separate silos; and getting them to function as a real team. Top executives often manage teams that focus on their own business units. Working together as a team sounds like a fundamentally good idea. Unfortunately, these executives do not possess the experience for getting their teams to function as one. In fact, according to an article by Debra Nunes with the Korn Ferry Institute

“There are a couple of reasons why today’s senior leaders aren’t particularly good at working together. For one thing, it wasn’t a point of emphasis for many of them when they were coming through the ranks. Much of their working careers have been spent managing risk, defining a market, recognizing opportunities and leading subordinates. They weren’t, however, often asked to be a teammate of similarly driven, talented colleagues. Even as recently as the 1990s, only about 20 percent of professional work was team-based. Now it’s about 80 percent.”

Yes, they need to “take care of business” and place their focus on the objectives of their business units. Yet, this cannot be their only point of focus. Executives must not only work together but, as a unit, they must place their focus on success of the entire organization. Both Ms. Nunes and Amy Gallo, in her article entitled Getting Your Team to Stop Fighting and start Working , agree that the team needs a common purpose. Even a small team with complex initiatives will find ways to disagree. We all bring a variety of perspectives, experience, and opinions to the team. This is even more true for high level executives who wield power daily, have strong opinions, and usually get their way. Bringing these people together is not easy task, even for the experienced CEO.

Further, not only are many CEOs ill-equipped to handle disagreements among executive team members, they fail to be proactive and only handle disruptions as they rear their ugly heads. The authors of Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence, suggest having a “solid conflict management procedures in place to deal with [conflicts] when they arise, because they will arise.”

Ginka Toegel and Jean-louis Barsoux offer a different approach by having team members gather for 20 to 30-minute conversations to identify areas of possible friction before they occur. An experienced facilitator needs to guide these conversations. Areas that typically crop up include:

  • Clashing behavioral norms
  • Physical boundaries. Think Dirty Dancing “This is my space and this is your space.”
  • Attitudes about time. This is particularly seen in globally diverse organizations
  • Differing levels and attitudes about assertiveness
  • Communication styles and language differences
  • Managing emotions

As you can imagine, the list could go on. This process can help keep conflict down and help increase productivity in a way that pushes your organization to reach its goals faster and with less stress. This indeed is the result of a team working as one.

Thank you for reading this blog. If you would like to have a chat about ways to prevent or address behavioral and communication friction, call 404-320-7834, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit

Graphic Credit: Copyright: fizkes

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