Why teams outperform individuals

Yes, individual performance is important but it is through team performance that exceptional value is possible. An individual alone cannot achieve the results that a well functioning team can. Although this is something that most would agree with, very little of talent acquisition and development activities are focusing on how the team can maximize their performance but rather the main emphasis is on the individual.

Within recruiting, we specify the requirements for the role solely (or at least mostly) based on what is required for individual performance in a specific role. Even though we for most roles today require some kind of collaborative competency and consider the interplay between the individual and the rest of the team or network around the individual, this is not enough if we truly want to have high performing teams. An individual does not only contribute to the team within their own role, but is also an important piece in the team’s dynamic and how the team functions as a whole. This is an area that we need to get much better at understanding if we want to improve and maximize team performance.

What are the most critical team characteristics? 

We know from major studies on team performance and high performing organizations that teams with high levels of trust, psychological safety, emotional intelligence and open communication perform better (Lencioni; Wheelan; Google). Trust and Psychological safety has for quite some time been highlighted as the building blocks of a highly functioning team. It is not until the team has a high level of trust and feels psychologically safe, that they can move on to building a more open communication. A communication environment where disagreement and conflict is encouraged and used in a very constructive way to improve performance.

focus your team efforts on building trust and psychological safety

When the environment feels safe and issues and diverging opinions are brought out in daylight, the team will be able to create structure, clarity and accountability. When all members of the team know their roles and what to do in order to contribute to the team and help the team succeed, commitment and meaning can be created within the team. Commitment and meaning are the building blocks for both the individual and the team to generate outstanding results and to have a true impact.

How to build highly effective teams

To make sure we maximize our chances of our teams experiencing these critical team characteristics we need to focus on two things: 

  1. Identifying individuals who will contribute to this type of team climate and add to the team characteristics mentioned above. 
  2. Developing the team within those characteristics. Just adding individuals who naturally have a stronger tendency to engage in behaviors that creates trust, psychological safety, accountability, openness to different opinions, etc., will not in itself guarantee the team will have those characteristics. Every team needs to also continuously work on developing and keeping those characteristics within the team. Every time we add a new member to the team, the dynamic within the team changes. Sometimes a lot, sometimes less, but the important thing here is to not take for granted that just because the team has developed a successful team environment including these critical characteristics once, they will automatically stay within the team. 

Key takeaway

If there is one thing that you should focus your team efforts on it’s on building trust and psychological safety in teams. The reason for this is because when these characteristics are lacking, no other processes within the team will function properly. Therefore, teams who lack trust and psychological safety are not only more likely to be dysfunctional, but teams who excel in building these characteristics are also more likely to perform exceptionally well because they have a solid base to build other important team characteristics on.

evali can help you with both identifying individuals who will contribute to a successful team environment and help you understand what a team needs to develop into a highly functioning team. 

If you, like us, have a great interest in team performance and want to discuss this further let us know. 


Lencioni, Patrick. 2002. The Five Dysfunctions of A Team. Jossey-Bass.


Wheelan, S. A. (2016). Creating effective teams: A guide for members and leaders (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Photo by Antonio Vidal on Unsplash.

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