Jennifer Wilson

Harness the Power of Team

Eight simple rules of team engagement.

March 28, 2011
by Jennifer Wilson

It saddens me to see how little teamwork exists anymore — at home, at school, at work, in our communities, in our government and even on the world stage. Instead, we focus on ourselves or our microcosm, competing internally for people, clients, recognition, money and more to ensure that our goals are met and our turf is protected. This article divulges how eight simple rules of engagement can start transitioning a group of individuals into a team.

Over time, internal competition and a lack of teamwork slowly saps an organization of its very essence — its motivational mojo — stalling growth, stifling innovation, turning off top talent and eventually causing decline.

Much of my work involves helping groups of individuals who co-exist and compete at work, to come together and begin operating as a high-functioning, high-performance team capable of achieving anything they can collectively envision:

  1. Everyone is subject to your team’s agreed-upon values, behaviors or commitments. No matter how long you’ve been here, how much stock you own, how old you are or how brilliantly you perform, each team member must submit to the agreed upon norms for behavior and performance to which others on the team are expected to adhere. “Do as I say and as I do” behavior earns and maintains the respect, trust and motivation of fellow team members.
  2. Each person deserves to be treated with respect and kindness. No one can be allowed to engage in name calling, diminishing comments, humorous barbs that belie your true feelings, eye rolling, threats or other disrespectful comments or gestures that unempower and shut down other team members. In addition, triangulation or complaining about someone on the team to another team member (instead of talking directly to the source), must be stamped out. For some groups, this seemingly easy rule is the hardest to follow, because these behaviors have become habits and are engaged in, without realizing their demoralizing impact.
  3. Everyone must learn to and be encouraged to talk straight.Team leaders must begin openly inviting honest dialogue about what’s working and not working on the team, the way it is led, its mission, vision, services and more. Team members must develop the courage to share their ideas honestly and constructively and speak from the heart about their hopes for how things can improve and develop at work. This will help resolve the triangulation issue, as well.
  4. Everyone should know and understand the team’s mission and vision. Team leaders must develop and communicate the answers to these questions regularly: Why does the team exist? What difference will its collective efforts make in the lives of others? What is the team striving to achieve? What will be better when we get there?
  5. Each person must have a defined role on the team with a way to measure their contribution. As the team’s mission and intended vision become clear, each team member should understand their specific duties and responsibilities and the areas over which they are expected to exercise stewardship for the team. They should be able to tell clearly how their efforts affect the team’s collective goals.
  6. Everyone should return and report their status and be held accountable for results. The team must have agreed-upon ways to communicate status, honestly acknowledging and correcting off-track performance and ensuring that all participants, at all levels, are accountable for delivering their agreed-upon contribution.
  7. Each person should feel rewarded for their contributions and the team as a whole should celebrate success, too. Praise, status, promotion, time off and financial rewards are some of the ways team members can be rewarded for their contributions to the collective effort. Team leaders should take the time to acknowledge small successes and truly celebrate — with food, a party, a cake, an outing — team achievements. Being a part of this team should build individual and collective esteem and become a source of pride for members.
  8. Anyone unwilling to submit to the rules of engagement cannot stay on the team. This is the hardest rule by far to follow, because it takes courage to ask someone to leave your group when they won’t behave or perform as expected. But if you aren’t committed to follow through with this, then team members will pick and choose which things they’re willing to do and the needs of the individual will supplant the needs of the team, taking us back to the dysfunction that drives decline.


I love the quote on the power of team from Japanese poet Ryunosuke Satoro: “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”

Is your team accomplishing its objectives with the drip of individual drops or with the power of an ocean? Share this article at your next team meeting and discuss how you’re doing in employing these rules of engagement. Which one can your team most benefit from focusing on right now? Choose one of the eight rules to focus on improving and the power your team can produce will amaze you!

Rate this article 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor). Send your responses here.

Jennifer Wilson is a partner and co-founder of ConvergenceCoaching, LLC, a leadership and marketing consulting and coaching firm that specializes in helping leaders achieve success.