Five Characteristics of a High Functioning Team


High trust

Low Trust


  • Open to feedback
  • Takes risk in offering opinions and ideas
  • Believes team members have positive intentions
  • Knows and utilizes team members strengths
  • Uses meetings to obtain agreement on key initiatives
  • Reluctant to provide feedback
  • Hesitate to offer help outside of their own responsibility
  • Jump to conclusions about other’s intentions
  • Don’t utilize team members strengths
  • Dread and avoid meetings


Embraces Conflict

Avoids Conflict


  • Address critical topics head on
  • Utilize all the team’s knowledge and resources
  • Engage in lively, business focused, discussions
  • Focus on the issue (task related conflict) not the person (interpersonal conflict)
  • Team members play it safe in meetings
  • Avoid discussing controversial topics
  • Lack of commitment and ownership to ideas/projects
  • Fail to utilize the collective wisdom of the team


High Commitment

Low Commitment


  • Clarity on direction and priorities
  • Team aligned and has a united front
  • Excellence in execution
  • Count on team members for support “we are in this together”
  • Lack of follow through
  • Ambiguous work environment
  • Continually revisits previous decisions
  • Unsure of where team members “stand”


Is accountable and holds others accountable

Avoids Accountability


  • Fosters respect because all are held to the same standard
  • Positive peer pressure
  • Identifies problems quickly because able to question another’s approach
  • Reduced need for formal performance management
  • Breeds resentment because everyone is not held to the same standard
  • Frequently misses deadlines
  • Team leader is the sole source of accountability
  • Reduced standards of excellence


Collective Results

Individual Results


  • Focuses team behavior on specific actions
  • Minimizes individualistic behavior
  • Team does what is “right” for the business
  • Encourages individualistic behavior
  • Team members can be easily distracted
  • Individual goals not always aligned with what is best for the business

Creative Conflict: How management teams can have a good fight

The absence of conflict is not harmony, it is apathy

How teams argue but still get along

  • Focus on issues not personalities
    • Base discussion on current, factual information
    • Develop multiple alternatives to enrich the debate
  • Frame decisions as collaborations aimed at achieving the best possible solutions for the company
    • Rally around goals
    • Inject humor into the decision-making process
  • Establish a sense of fairness and equity in the process
    • Maintain a balanced power structure
    • Resolve issues without forcing consensus

Building a fighting team

  • Assemble a heterogeneous team
  • Meet regularly and often
  • Encourage team members to assume roles beyond their obvious geographic or functional responsibilities
  • Apply multiple mind-sets to any issue
  • Actively manage conflict – don’t allow team to acquiesce too soon.

From: How management teams can have a good fight by Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, Jean L. Kahwaji; L. J. Bourgois III in Harvard Business Review reprint 97402