Part 3: What Makes A Successful Team: Spirit


Do you want your senior team to sustainably win more business and develop your organisation? Strong team spirit is one of the most powerful ways to enhance your team’s performance and success.

But often senior team members distrust each other and just don’t get on well together.

In this blog we discuss how to create a strong, positive culture of mutual trust and respect, and give practical advice for developing Spirit.

 What makes up great Spirit and why is it important?

We’ve already introduced you to our new Successful Teams Model, a 6-dimension model we’ve designed to help you grow a sustainably successful senior team. Having covered Internal and External Focus, the first and second dimensions, we’re now moving onto the third: Spirit.

Spirit is defined as the prevailing mood or attitude of the group at a particular time. When a person or group of people are feeling focused, connected and purposeful, they perform at their highest level. So naturally, Spirit is a key element of a successful team.

Successful senior teams with healthy levels of spirit experience the following:

•  Develop and maintain a strong climate of mutual trust and respect.

•  Comfortable giving and receiving positive and developmental feedback, as well as being able to deal constructively with conflict.

•  Know that diverse perspectives help make better and more informed decisions.

•  Team members collaborate effectively and build on each other’s ideas and energy.


Senior teams with poor spirit likely experience:

•  Distrust between members.

•  Team members struggle to build personal relationships with each other.

•  The team just doesn’t feel right.

•  Historical issues and past troublesome conversations continue to cause conflict.


5 key elements of spirit

1.    Trust

It’s vital that senior teams build and maintain a strong climate of mutual trust and respect. This adds to the creation of a place of safety, where they know they are working with team members who all have the same goal and will listen to different perspectives to help them achieve it.

Often there’s mistrust between team members when the elephant in the room hasn’t been addressed. This is often a historical issue that has not been addressed. In this case, it’s important to bring that issue to the table and resolve it in a positive way.


2.    Recognition

One significant element of cultivating trust, is having members recognise each other’s strengths and weaknesses, complementing one another on their skills and appreciating one another’s interests and ambitions. This not only builds trust, but creates a really strong team dynamic.

This is especially important when new members come in. In order to rapidly integrate them into the senior team, have members talk to them about what drives them as a whole person - as CEO Bill Lawry likes to say, whole person as in human being, not human doing. By human being, Bill means what drives and excites them outside of work, as well as inside. This helps team members establish common ground and build rapport, which results in a happier, trusting and high performing team!


3.    Developmental feedback

For a team to be consistently successful, they must be comfortable in giving and receiving positive and constructive feedback.

In fact, members of a high performing senior team will proactively ask for feedback from other people to improve their individual and team's overall performance and success. They create what's called ‘psychological safety’.

‘Psychological safety’ means that they know it's okay to take a risk and challenge the status quo and to look for ways of improving things.

The best feedback team members can give each other is feedback that provides them with the most helpful information to get things right or do things better in the future – it should really be called feedforward – not feedback!

[Discover the best way to give development feedback by reading our article ‘The Dangers Of Praise’]


4.    Constructive conflict

As a result of the ‘psychological safety’ climate created by following the above three principles, people are comfortable with airing different views and ideas, causing conflicts and disagreements to be resolved in a constructive way.

When working with an upstream energy company who recently had a new leader and some new team members, we locked them in a house in the Perthshire countryside - with no phones or internet! The members had to cook together among other things, in order to understand each other better, to think about the vision of the business and different strategies. This created a psychologically safe climate where they wouldn’t hold back in challenging perspectives.

From this moment forward for three years, they worked exceptionally well together. This experience enabled them to positively change the team culture, bond, and perform and work better as a team. Retention engagement significantly improved and saw an increase in success across the broader business.


5.    Collaboration

The combination of the four elements above fosters a team that looks to collaborate with each other and therefore looks to make each other better as a result. You can’t help but have a high performing and very successful team!

When working with an international engineering company, they wanted their Managing Directors of each country to bond into a team. We linked our fee into the performance of the global business as a whole and due to the huge success, we were paid our maximum amount - partly because Darwin experienced an increase of 12% in growth.


Spirit is really where one plus one equals three – the collective effort of a team motivated by a strong team spirit can produce the results of hundreds!

To find out how we can help you, send Christina ( an email with the subject ‘Successful Teams Model’.