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Coaching Leadership Organizational Psychology Teams

7 competencies of teams that work

As someone leading an international marketing, staffing and recruitment company, building teams that work (for my clients or myself) helps me put food on the table. But it’s not as simple as it sounds. Building great teams takes a lot of time, effort, and patience. And even then, you’re probably won’t be able to create one. 

Dan Rockwell interviews Scott Tanenbaum and Eduardo Salas to find out the critical competencies of teams that work. I loved this list below and the interview.


  1. Capability.

Does the team have the knowledge, skill, personality, and other personal attributes needed to complete the assignment, overcome challenges, and adapt as necessary to sustain performance?

Most selection processes focus on knowledge or skill or personality or personal attributes. Thankfully, not all of them. There can’t, of course, be a perfect candidate, but that doesn’t mean you go ahead and hire someone very high on skill and knowledge but a personality that sucks or goes against the company’s culture.

2. Cooperation

Do they trust one another? Do they believe they can be ‘genuine’ with other members on the team? Are they committed to the team and the work they do?

Boy, this is so important. A team that trusts each other stays together and potentially, forever. And that’s a great thing, especially if they’re high performers. Trust is a “culture” thing. So, if people see that the leaders trust each other and feel that people trust them for their capabilities, the trust muscle of that organisation grows much stronger.

3. Coordination

Are the team members exhibiting the necessary teamwork behaviours for team success?

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to teamwork behaviours. I’m also working on a course/podcast series on the same topic. In general, to coordinate between the team needs to trust, cooperate, and communicate with each other. And leaders need to encourage teams to create a safe space to explore possibilities. Once that micro-culture is established, coordination is a piece of cake. Of course, this is easier said than done.

4. Communication

Communication is about information exchange – to accomplish work, maintain awareness, and foster positive relationship both within and outside the team.

Super obvious, yet, people don’t do it as often they should. Some leaders think Communication is the be-all and end-all of great teamwork. That’s not the case. Far from it, there’s a real need to establish a culture of trust, cooperation, and coordination before Communication can work its magic. Think of Communication as wheels while the other aspects as the structure, with trust being the engine.

5. Cognition

If we were to interview each person on your team separately, what would they say about the team’s priorities? About who is responsible for specific tasks or who gets to make certain decisions?

I’ve said this before. The biggest mistake leaders make is assuming that “communication has happened.” Understanding the organisational and team priorities are critical. They need to be communicated, heck, over-communicated as appropriate. If the team members can’t explain the priorities well, they haven’t understood it. And if they haven’t understood it, the leader hasn’t done a great job communicating it.

6. Conditions

Local conditions such as resource availability, degree of autonomy, work environment, and time availability can influence team performance.

Team managers usually care a lot about the metrics than the crucial factors that aren’t accounted for in the spreadsheets. Yet, managing conditions is one of the most significant responsibilities of the team’s manager. That’s why I often tell people to go beyond the spreadsheet and observe the conditions the team’s working in — if that’s not in favour, everything’s going to come crumbling down sooner or later.

7. Coaching

How might team leaders effectively provide advice and promote ongoing team learning?

Most team coaching and training programs are looked upon as a waste of time and resources. Even if there’s leadership buy-in, the manager-mentality will get in the way and fuck up most of the learning and development initiatives. What they fail to see is that the time invested in learning and development will reap benefits that far outweigh the costs involved.

Of course, there will be teams or team members who see learning and development as “paid vacations” or a “mental break from all that stress” or worse, “a waste of time.” I don’t blame them; it’s the culture that’s to be fixed.

Someone wise once said, “you don’t have 10 minutes to meditate; you should meditate for 20 minutes.” Somebody should apply that sage advice to learning and development as well! If you don’t have 30 minutes to learn something that will help you professionally, you need an hour to get your career back on the track!


Check out Dan’s interview with Scott Tanenbaum and Eduardo Salas to learn more about the competencies of teams that work. They’ve also come out with a book that I bought a couple of days back. It’s damn good! Buy it!