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  • Steve Brunt

Building strong foundations within your team dynamics

In May 2016 there was shock that rocked the footballing world.  


A 5000/1 outsider, Leicester City FC won the English Premier League. They won by 10 points over their nearest rival and secured the title with two games still to play. They were such an outside bet that some bookmakers said there was a better chance of finding Elvis alive than Leicester winning the league.  


It was, and still is, one of the sporting world’s great underdog stories. 


When you consider the value of the players in their squad, a paltry £72 million compared to the £415 million of Manchester City’s, the achievement is even more remarkable. To add to the magnitude, the previous season they finished 14th in the league and spent four months stranded at the bottom of the table before putting on a great escape.  


So, how did the seemingly impossible happen? There were many elements that contributed to the team’s success, but one the key factors has to be the group dynamic at the club. This dynamic was created from the top down starting with the owners but crucially included the players, manager, coaches, all the staff who were involved in the club and of course, the supporters.  


Whether or not you are a football fan, there are countless other stories of success that were defined by the dynamics of the people involved despite huge challenges and being faced with adversity.  

In this article, Senior Partner, Steve Brunt, is going to delve into what it means to build strong foundations within your team dynamics and the importance of this for a business.


What core elements constitute healthy team dynamics and why are they crucial for team success?  


The term ‘group dynamics’ was coined by social psychologist Kurt Lewin in the 1940’s and describes the effects of the different roles and behaviours people take on when working in a group and has become central to good leadership practice.  


Think about the very best team you have ever been involved with. How did it feel? What was it like to be amongst? What made it that way? What was the mix of people like?  


Every team is unique but there are a common set of traits and behaviours that tend to crop up regularly.  


  • There is trust between team members.  

  • Everyone knows what they are responsible for and there is accountability. 

  • People collaborate to solve problems. 

  • There is a clear vision and direction of travel.  

  • When things go wrong, the team learn together and don’t criticise. 

  • Team members can speak up and challenge how to do things better. 

  • There is a culture of appreciating difference.  


The foundation for all these elements is trust. In his work on high performing teams, Patrick Lencioni says that the absence of trust is the most severe dysfunction that a team can have and without it all the other dynamics that make a high performing teams are almost impossible to achieve. 


Teams that lack trust, don’t share weakness, cover up mistakes, don’t ask or offer help and don’t openly share ideas. In low trust teams, team members do not get to know each other and understand how others like to work, communicate and what’s important to each other. 


Teams that lack trust also have a fear of conflict. They are not open to discuss things that might be challenging and may be unwilling to share individual views and ideas. This can stifle creativity but more crucially can lead to a toxic atmosphere and a lack of accountability for poor behaviour and performance.  


How should teams navigate internal conflicts to strengthen their dynamics? 


If we take trust as the basis of strong team dynamics there are several things that teams can do to build trust, and therefore be in a better position to deal with conflict. 


Get to know each other. Set time for team building activities, spend a few minutes before or after meetings engaging in social chat, take lunch together, create inclusive spaces and times for people to get together to build camaraderie. If you want to be more deliberate, having a structured team away day and using a tool like Insights Discovery is a great way for the team to understand each other on a much deeper level and can become a common language to diffuse conflict, work through communication challenges but also understand motivators and different ways of working.


Be vulnerable. It’s key that this trait is modelled by the leader. Be open about your own mistakes, where your weaknesses or blind spots are and involve other team members in those discussions. Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something. It’s worth agreeing a set of ground rules around how this might work in practice, so people can feel safe.  

Communicate. The space you create through building trust and being vulnerable will help in allowing team member to share ideas, to ask questions, to raise concerns and be open in how they communicate with each other. Create a team charter of dos and don’ts and have everyone contribute. This is another great tool to then support accountability.  


Conflict may still occur, but with these things in place, it will be easier to work through. However, it is worth putting some things in place for when it occurs.  


  • Have the team create some shared and agreed rules on how disagreements will be handled. Creative conflict is good, but it must be handled with respect and be constructive.  

  • Ask questions and listen to really understand the perspectives and perceptions that are involved. It’s ok for team members to see things differently and have their unique perceptions. They can disagree and both be right.  

  • Stay focussed on the ideas and outputs, ensure it does not become personal. 

  • Recognise the discomfort people will be feeling and provide some security, recognition and boundaries when team members feel safe enough to bring their issues out, and more so when the discussion does not go the way they want.  


How does the leadership style within a team shape its dynamics and what styles are most conducive to developing a strong team? 


The leadership style within a team significantly influences its dynamics, affecting everything from communication to motivation levels and overall productivity. Different leadership styles can foster different atmospheres within a team, and some are more conducive to developing a strong, cohesive group.  


The most important element for Leaders is to first know themselves. Ask yourself the following questions: 


  • What is my default leadership style? Do you tend to lead from the front, with purpose and authority, or do you have a more laissez-faire approach? How much do you involve team members in decision making processes? Do you foster a sense of purpose and vision?  

  • Where does that serve you well? 

  • Where might it limit you? 


Again, using a tool like Insights Discovery can add genuine value to a Leaders level of self-awareness and help them be clear on where their leadership preference may lie, and where they may need to adapt their style to connect with their team members, who will all require something different.  


There are many variables that will affect how the team will need to be led, such as the maturity of the group, the skill levels, the diversity, how well resourced it is and the pressures it may be under by the wider business.  


However, leadership styles that prioritise collaboration, empowerment, and support tend to be most conducive to developing a strong team. By fostering trust, communication, and a shared sense of purpose, these styles can contribute to high levels of motivation, productivity, and cohesion within the team. 


Do your managers need some support to become better and more aware of how they like to lead their teams? We’d love to chat with you about our bespoke programmes. Get in touch today!

Article written by Steve Brunt – Senior Partner, Blue Gnu Consulting. March 2024.


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