Team Elements: Summary

by Ron Potter

We’ve just finished our series on building great teams.  Years ago I named my consulting company Team Leadership Culture, TLC for short.  Over 30 years of consulting work plus another 20 years in the engineering/construction industry and software development I experienced this combination to be the winning formula for great success.


Build a great team first.  While great leaders certainly increase the opportunity for success, if they don’t work together as a team, the final result is always a failure.  Build the dynamics of a great team first.


If you’ve built a great team, increasing leadership skills will greatly enhance your opportunity for success.  If your goal is to do something really great or overcome great difficulties, add powerful leadership skills to great team dynamics.  Next week we’re going to look at these two elements in combination and you’ll also see great overlap that makes it difficult to accomplish one without the other.


There is plenty of research that companies and teams with great cultures rock!  Starting in a couple of weeks we’re going to look at the elements of great culture.  But, it’s important to note that it’s impossible to build a great culture without great teams and great leadership.

Great Teams

So let’s recap the elements of great teams.  I use Aristotle’s “Pursuit of Happiness” as the model of great teams.  Aristotle describes four levels of happiness.  Level 4 is the highest of the four pursuits and the one that Aristotle says all humanity seeks.  He describes it with five words: Truth, Love, Purpose, Beauty, and Unity.  I have not concentrated on Purpose because I believe business teams usually know their purpose.  However, if the purpose of the team is in question, that must be corrected first or all else fails.

I’ve also translated the four remaining words into terms that are better understood in a business environment and also make them easier to remember.

Truth (Trust)

Great teams know how to speak the truth with each other and also view their environment in a very truthful way.  We have numerous stories of corporate failures when the leader or the team just doesn’t believe the external environment is going to change enough to affect them.

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”  Tom Watson Sr., IBM, 1943.

“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”  Henry Ford

On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors: John Z. DeLorean’s Look Inside the Automotive Giant

Speak the truth about your industry and customers.
Speak the truth with each other.  Great teams are built on great people who have entirely different perspectives.  Figure out how to share those different perspectives with each other and speak the truth.

Respect (Love)

This combination of Trust and Respect has been observed and chronicled throughout history.  Modern research reveals that psychological safety is essential for great team performance.  Psychological Safety is bringing Truth and Respect to the team.

Elegance (Beauty)

Elegance or beauty is all about simplicity and clarity.  Most leaders and teams think of organization structure when they think of elegance.  Do they have the best structure that invokes simplicity and clarity to get the job done?

Many of the leaders I’ve worked with through the years have asked me which organizational structure is the best.  They are never really satisfied with my answer because I tell them it doesn’t make any difference.  Organizational structures are simply lines on a chart to help direct large numbers of people to accomplish great things.  But all organizational structures are artificial.  They’re just a means to organize work and people.  Every company I’ve ever worked for is in the process of shifting from one org. structure to another.  No structure is perfect and no structure last forever.

Work on simplicity and clarity regardless of the structure.

Commitment (Unity)

Getting to unity is the ultimate goal of any team.  Commitment is the outward expression of team unity.  I’ve selected the word commitment because of this outward expression and because it brings all the elements together as TREC.  Hopefully thinking of TREC reminds you of the real word TREK which is defined as a long arduous journey.  Using TREC to build a team is a long arduous journey but it’s well worth the effort.

Always the Engineer

I graduated from the University of Michigan with an engineering degree.  I guess I still think like an engineer regardless of the task: Great structures, great software, great teams.  So here is my engineering formula for building great teams with TREC:

[ (T x R) + E ] x C = Effective Teams

Truth times Respect, plus Elegance, all times Commitment equals Effective Teams.

Let’s take a snap quiz.  Pick a team you’re a member of and score each element of TREC on a zero to five basis.   What’s the maximum score for the equation?  [ (5 x 5) + 5] x 5 = 150

Least Impactful Element

Which element has the least impact on the overall score?  Elegance!  Let’s say you score a 5 on all elements except Elegance which is a zero.  Your total score would be 130.  Increasing  Elegance from zero to five increases the overall score from 125 to 150.  And yet, when things aren’t going well, one of the first things I see leaders do is change the org. structure.

Most Impactful Element

Which element has the most impact?  Commitment!  You can score the maximum on Truth, Respect, and Elegance but if your Commitment score is zero, your overall score is ZERO!  Just increasing it from zero to three improves your effectiveness score from zero to 90!  Build Commitment!

Team Effectiveness

It’s hard to improve any one element at a time.  There is no way you will build commitment without truth and respect.  Respect will never be realized without speaking the truth and committing to the team.  Building teams is a TREC, a long arduous journey.  But when I talk with those of us who have grown gray over many years, our best memories are the great teams we worked with and what we accomplished together.

Take the journey.  It’s worth it!

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.