This article is part of The Ascender, the Highrise platform for articles and resources.

5 Behaviors of a Cohesive Team

Andrew Langat
January 10, 2023
A group of employees sitting and working on a table.
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Genuine teamwork remains as elusive as it's ever been- Patrick Lencioni.

Teamwork is a concept many organizations desire, but few have teams that consistently push in the same direction. The result is dysfunctional teams that fail to realize set objectives.

A perfect analogy for this is a rowing team, where a cohesive team works with the ultimate goal of outrowing their opponents. To win, team members in unison and rhythm need to pull as hard as they can — have a slow team member or one out of rhythm, and the boat will slow down.

For such a perfect rhythm to occur and create a high-functioning team, it requires much more than just talent but understanding, among other things, what makes a cohesive team.

This is a lesson that workplace teams can learn if the goal is to create collective results.

Cohesive teams tend to show similar traits. In his book, "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team," Patrick Lencioni outlines the causes of the dysfunctions of a team. This includes the absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results.

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The Five Behaviors Model

From this, the five behaviors of a cohesive team were derived. This include

  • Trust
  • Conflict,
  • Commitment,
  • Accountability
  • Results.

This simple but effective model enables team members to nurture skills for becoming better team members, which results in more effective teams.

These behaviors are interconnected and rely on the correct implementation of the other.

It can complement other teams and personnel team nurturing tools such as the DiSC style assessment in learning behavioral style.

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1. Trust

Of the five behaviors, Trust is the foundation of any cohesive team. In his book, Winning Teams: The Eight Characteristics of High Performing Teams, Tim Baker states that Trust is the glue that makes teamwork stick. When trust is absent, it becomes difficult to focus on achieving collective results. Moreover, it means that team members cannot exercise vulnerability-based trust.

How to Exercise Vulnerability-Based Trust

Patrick Lencioni defines vulnerability-based trust as one that comes out when human beings on a team can and will say things to one another like:

  • I don't know the answer
  • I need help with this issue
  • I think I made a mistake
  • I'm sorry, etc.

When this state is achieved, it creates an invaluable, genuinely transparent team where everyone's personalities come out in an open and unguarded manner - they become completely vulnerable to each other.

When team members are not entirely vulnerable to each other, they may be hesitant to debate ideas, or to collaborate, which can hinder the team's effectiveness.

For example, imagine a team working on a new product to beat a competitor. If the team members don't trust each other, they may be hesitant to share their ideas for fear of being judged or criticized. This can lead to a lack of creativity and innovation, hindering the team's ability to develop a successful product.

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2. Conflict

Conflict is a natural part of any team and can be beneficial if appropriately managed; when well handled, it leads to real commitments and is one Leadership behavior that leaders need to master and understand conflict competence.

Craig E. Runde, Tim A. Flanagan define Conflict competence as the ability to develop and use cognitive, emotional, and behavioral skills that enhance productive outcomes of conflict while reducing the likelihood of escalation or harm.

Healthy and productive conflict means that team members can express their opinions and ideas openly and honestly and are willing to engage in constructive debate often emotionally to find the best solution.

This is only possible when an environment of psychological safety and effective team dynamics exist.

In such a team, team members are at liberty to express themselves openly, even at the risk of causing disagreements.

How to Master Conflict

As a team member or leader, to master conflict, one needs to do the following:

  • Speak out even if it means openly disagreeing with a popular idea. Always resist the urge to go with the flow or stay silent, as not to rattle other team members.
  • Get views from reserved team members. For a more cohesive team, get the input of all team members, including the silent ones.
  • Focus on the Idea. If the debate gets heated and shifts towards ad hominem, get team members back on track with the day's agenda.
A group of employees sitting and working on a table.

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3. Commitment

For a team to be cohesive, its members must be committed to achieving their goals. When team members are not committed to a decision, they will not buy in.

This means they will not be willing to put in the effort and time necessary to realize set objectives.

For leaders keen on exercising, Influence in leadership, this is particularly important in encouraging a productive conflict where everyone is brought on board once a rationale for a given approach is agreed upon. A lone-ranger approach to critical decisions, primarily where implementation relies on the team members, might not be the best approach.

How to Show Commitment

It is essential to state that commitment does not equal consensus but rather a platform where everyone's opinion is heard. For effective commitment, do the following:

  • Slow down to ensure clarity
  • Make sure everyone is given a chance to state their point
  • Endorse group decisions even if you may not agree with some of their key components.

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4. Accountability

Without commitment, it becomes difficult to have accountability. Of the five behaviors, Lencioni identified lack of accountability as the most challenging and common problem among teams. In an effective team, the most significant source of accountability is peer-to-peer.

Accountability ensures that team members are empowered to call out behaviors that can affect the team. To create an accountable team, leaders need to be accountable. This is one of the fundamentals of leadership. This way, team members learn accountability from the top.

How to Show Accountability

As a team member, you embrace accountability through the following:

  • Accepting questions and inputs from team members
  • Hold other team members accountable

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5. Results

Ultimately, results are what determine the success or failure of a team. If all the other five behaviors work as expected, it leads to intact teams that deliver results. That said, a team result takes precedence over individual results.

Results need not be viewed in financial terms only. They can be better customer success, eliminating destructive conflict, more customer conversions, etc.

How to Show Results

A team member who values team results is willing to sacrifice his specialty for the common good, takes personal initiative to improve team results, points out the contribution of others, and values collective success. This is achieved through:

  • Maintaining focus on the end goal
  • Taking failure seriously
  • Helping inspire a sense of team spirit and common purpose in the team.
Inspiring, isn’t it ? Want to learn more about connecting self-awareness to professional development? Get in touch today.

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How Highrise Can Help

At Highrise, we firmly believe that it all starts with you. Understanding your personality style is vital for personal development and creating synergy within your team. Moreover, we also know that a productive team takes work.

If your goal is to understand better the five dysfunctions and how to utilize them to create an untapped competitive advantage leading to a high-performing team, reach out for an in-depth assessment-based learning experience of what it takes to build a strong and cohesive team in our Executive coaching for leadership development program.

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Andrew Langat
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Andrew Langat is an experienced content specialist in Leadership, Productivity, Education, Fintech, and Research. He is an avid reader and loves swimming as a hobby. He believes that quality content should be actionable and helpful.