Why you need to choose to be a team

In a lot of organizations, people are put together and asked to work as a team. Have you ever asked yourself how you want to work together? It is worth the time!

Steffan Surdek
June 12, 2023
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One of my core beliefs when working with management teams is that as a group, you need to CHOOSE and WANT to become a team.

As a leader, you may have faced the following dilemma: "What is my number one team? Is it the management team or is it the group of people that I manage?"

The effect of this dilemma is that it can often lead to silos on management teams. What this means it that as a consequence, it creates an "us" versus "them" dynamic between teams in the same organization.

In this article, I will dig deeper into this phenomenon and give you some insight into why and how you can choose to be a team.

What does it mean to choose to be a team?

In a discussion I was having with one of my clients, we were talking about the importance of wanting to create a team and working towards becoming that team.

I realized that more often than not in organizations, we put people together and we call them a team, but no one knows how to define themselves as a group. Everyone has their own definition, but what is the one the team agrees on?

This collective definition is the starting point for your journey as a team. One common problem is when people create a team vision and then everyone forgets about it. So things remain the same and the team stays in its status quo.

Choosing to be a team means having a shared willingness to work together to reach the collective vision of the team. In my view, this means:

  • Choosing to create a safe space for everyone to speak
  • Choosing to respect each others' opinions
  • Choosing to be vulnerable and ask for help
  • Choosing to let go of your personal preferences
  • Choosing to compromise and build upon the ideas of others
  • Choosing to have difficult conversations in a healthy way
  • Choosing to be patient and supportive when things go wrong
  • Choosing to help team members resolve misunderstandings
  • Choosing to support each other to do all of the above

In many organizations, people are caught up in the wave of the day-to-day busyness. Some people forget to put time and effort on the soft side of being a team. Others do not have the soft skills to work on this, which makes it more difficult.

What is also difficult for many management teams is putting all of this into practice in a consistent way. The pressures of the moment can easily take over more often than not.

What is the first step to become a team?

One of the first steps many teams take is to create a working agreement together. I like to use this term but others commonly call this "team rules" or "rules of engagement".

Here's something I tell every management team I work with when they go ahead and create one of these: Creating a working agreement is not a magical formula. It will not make all of the issues disappear and transform you into a superteam overnight!

What a working agreement does, though, is give you a list of things that are OK or normal for you to talk to each other about as a team.

Does your management team have a working agreement in place? How well is it working out for you? How is it supporting you in becoming a better team?

Being a team is everyone's responsibility

There is no such thing as a perfect team, even for the ones applying a lot of the ideas we discussed above. How you react and play together in those imperfect moments is part of what defines you as a management team.

One of the misconceptions many teams have is that the leader needs to call out when someone steps over a line that is in the working agreement. This is really not the case. Instead, the great thing about having one of these is for everyone to take ownership and speak up when someone is not living up to the agreement.

This can definitely be awkward at first:

  • "Who am I to call out my boss?"
  • "How will people react if I start challenging them?"
  • "If I call someone out then maybe they will start calling me out as well!"

These are all concerns I regularly hear from teams that struggle with this. The trick is: choose to be a team! Choose to make it alright to talk and give each other support even if it is uncomfortable at first. Things will get better with time as everyone learns to step up to the new standard you set for each other.

This initially requires you to slow down and practice doing these things regularly. Ideally, this needs to be a priority and a shared goal between all of you.

The key here is to put in place a process to help you track, discuss and make decisions as a team to help you progress towards your shared goals. You also need to follow up and practice together to become a better team. It is also critical to create a space for the conversations you need to have and to reduce the conversational debt on your team.


It can appear deceptively simple, but there is a lot more to it than just being a team. You need to actively choose to take the time together to become the team you want to be.

Creating a working agreement with your management team is a first step you can take to outline what you want to achieve together. You then need to support each other in enforcing the agreement so that things can evolve.

Following up regularly, having conversations, practicing as a group and taking action are key to the success of your team. The alternative is getting stuck in the daily grind and staying in the status quo... which is not the way to go for any organization!

What are some of the main collaboration challenges in your management team? What are you doing about it?