Whether you are at the forming, storming, norming or performing stages of your team building, productive teamwork all comes down to nurturing mutually rewarding relationships. Use the ‘GRACE at work’ model below, developed by Eric de Nijs (2012), to build such relationships among team members and the team leader. You will also find some further tips below to keep in mind as you move in your journey towards a productive team.
Establish GRACE at work
- Goodwill: Create a safe space for working relationships to flourish, where people work together to achieve collaborative goals and are encouraged to take the risks often associated with breakthrough performance. Goodwill implies suspending judgement, assuming positive intent, looking out for the other team member’s best interest with forgiveness and support.
- Results: Create a shared sense of purpose by linking the work outcome of the team with the mutual contribution and development of all (organizational, professional and personal). The team will be successful if each invests and also gains. This is also a powerful way to multiply the goodwill.
- Authenticity: At the base of a balanced, healthy and productive relationship among team members is authenticity. All parties are expected to be honest with themselves and others about their needs, desires, moods, attitudes and feelings; say what they mean; hold themselves accountable using the same standards for self and others; and walk the talk, in a spirit of goodwill.
- Connectivity: Effective teams collaborate and communicate frequently, both formally and informally to co-create value in the pursuit of mutual goals. They do so by empathizing with other team members, finding ways to understand how they feel, identifying what is important to them, and realizing differences in intention and impact on others, as they connect and collaborate.
- Empowerment: Create an open space of encouragement and support to motivate team members to take risks, advance skills, overcome obstacles and explore new possibilities, while allowing time for testing and learning, essential for productive results.
Avoid these pitfalls
- Group think: This is the term for when the group develops its own mind. Avoid a situation where members would not dare to voice concerns or descent. Instead, performing teams explore ideas and connect regularly with different sources outside of the group and bring what they learn back to the team, rather than staying in silos.
- Group shift or polarization: This happens when people in a team take a more extreme decision than they would have taken individually, either more conservative or more adventurous. In these situations, the team leader’s role is important to balance potential biases from the group dynamics.
- Too large of a team: Beyond a team of 5, there is a risk of a diffusion of responsibilities according to the Economist (Voyer, 2015). In larger teams of 10 or 12, people don’t have the same impression of accountability. Everybody, and therefore nobody, is responsible. You typically could have a social loafing phenomenon, where some team members may contribute less effort to achieve a goal in the group than when they work alone, as they think everyone else will do the job.
- Allowing some to dominate: According to the Harvard Business Review in the ‘Hard science of teamwork’ (2012), lower performing teams have dominant members, teams within teams, and members who talk or listen but don’t do both. It is important to encourage talking and listening equally among members in order to make the most from the team dynamics.
For more resources:
For more information about the studies quoted in the article:
- Eric de Nijs, ‘GRACE at work, a model for transformational workplace relationships’, Choice: the Magazine of Professional Coaching, April 2012
- Benjamin Voyer, ‘The psychology of teamwork’, The Economist, January 2015,
- Alex “Sandy” Pentland, ‘The hard science of teamwork’, Harvard Business Review, March 2012