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  • Writer's pictureDairín Patry

Is teamwork really as easy as it sounds?From ‘Toxic Team’ to ‘Dream Team’


A word we use and hear a lot, but what makes a team ‘work’? How come some teams of strongly-able achievers don’t work to their full team-potential?

In my experience, there are a few key factors that can come into play – all soft skills based. I believe personalities and behaviour can have a stronger impact on team performance than perceived ability.

Why do people work?

It’s an important starting point to consider why people work.

The drivers behind each member of a team can all be very different.

· Some people absolutely love to work and, may or may not, love their current role

· Some are simply working for financial reasons

· Others work for promotion and reward

· Some may feel less ambitious and are happy in their current position

· Some may feel misplaced or trapped

· Others may simply work for social reasons.

The list can go on.

So, everyone is in the team for different reasons, yet they are all there for the same purpose; to work.

Potential v Reality

Let’s say they all have strengths that would add to the overall team performance, if recognised and used to their full potential. They all have relevant experience and individually good references. On paper, it looks very promising!

In reality, the complications start when personalities come together. Quite often negative behaviours, judgements and decisions which may be subconscious can result in a disappointing team performance.

The Toxic Team

Judgement, comparisons and the ‘need to lead’

Whether we realise it or not, we innately judge everyone we meet. We read their body language, our brains send signals to each other and we decide if they are a ‘friend or foe’ very quickly. In a team situation, this may be more ‘peer or threat’.

We also judge ourselves. We allow ourselves to feel like ‘imposters’, to feel like one day soon it will be found out that we are not as capable as others think we are. This impacts negatively on our behaviours and performance.

Both of these judgements can be detrimental to team performance.

If we feel our team members are not capable, or we are not capable, then we may not fully commit. It may impact on our communication and we may not focus our energy in the right direction. Instead, we will put our attention into finding fault with our team members or covering up our own insecurities.

While we are busy in our judging seat, we continuously compare ourselves to others. Instead of being pleased for a team member’s accomplishments, it can be seen as highlighting our own imagined inadequacies. It can create a feeling of being threatened by their success which can lead to trying to ‘trip them up’, to level the score!


In every team, there are natural leaders, supporters and team players.

It is hoped, in every team, that the leader has the people management skills needed to lead without threat, and to create a strong team ethic. Although the team leader may have all the skills needed, when we consider what can be going on in each team members head (including their own), it can still be quite a challenge!

Some team-leaders have worked hard to get where they are.

They arrive in a leadership role through hard graft and a drive to succeed. When they arrive, they can suddenly feel like an imposter and their negative self-judging can hamper their ability to succeed. In an effort to prove their worth, they may micro-manage and ‘push’ instead of motivate.

Dream Team

So, how can we really look at our team potential and see what, if anything, might be holding it back?

First, we need to decide what our true ‘dream team’ is. It is often a challenge to separate personality from potential. For this reason, it is worthwhile getting external input.

The Power of Coaching

An external Coach offers objective perspective.

Individual coaching sessions allows the team members a judgement-free, non-confrontational, confidential setting, where they can review their work performance, goals and successes, identify areas they want/need to work on, and create individual action plans to put their best self forward in their team.

The power of individual and team coaching to develop true teamwork, team spirit and maximum team potential cannot be ignored.

Coaching provides perspective, clarity and clear objectives. With all the team focused on developing their true potential both individually and as a strong team-member, true capabilities and strengths begin to show, and team confidence and performance grows.

Consider your team.

Consider their true potential.

Consider Success.

Consider Coaching.

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