Building Sustainable Teams

Disruption comes in many forms, but rarely does it arrive simultaneously and globally.

The pace of change has been accelerating for decades, yet many of us find ourselves as now not only locked down, but also locked out of our ability to change. So how do we move on to a sustainable future?

Sustainability, in this context, is not only an environmental matter, it is about widening the concept so that the entire playing field understands how they too, are accountable. The underlying common values must cascade down to the team and on an individual level. It literally means building adaptable, trusting teams that can create their own future and do so consistently and on an ongoing basis. Creating just the right team can be difficult. And once you create one, getting all the nuances right – it’s near impossible to sustain. Yet sustaining teams is a foundational element to any successful effort, team, organization, and company. Small businesses. Large businesses. All industries, around the globe.

What makes sustaining an effective team so difficult? In my experience, there are four challenges a team must be able to overcome in order to be effective.

  1. Trust.
  2. Common purpose.
  3. Adapt-Ability in the face of constant change.
  4. Systemic Interconnection.


Trust is a topic upon which much is written. I’ve found that the most effective teams are those where trust is established quickly. This allows people to get past concerns related to feeling awkward or self-conscious and get to work. How do teams achieve that?

• Creating a work environment that is authentic and psychologically safe to explore corrections, interconnections and new concepts

• Encouraging people to bring an open mind, getting past traditional practices and biases, recognising that many of these are unconscious and therefore require a culture of openness and feedback

• Providing people, the opportunity to “get real and reveal themselves” and enjoy each other as…people!


Aligning your team in the pursuit of a common purpose/goal/objective is a second factor. In the absence of that unified approach, the team could (most likely will) fail with no clear sense of direction, process or results. A key reason for this is that without a clear purpose, the primary task of the group (because it is not strictly speaking a team in that case) becomes survival, due to confusing meaning and a building of conscious and unconscious social anxieties. This calls for a social teaming process to mitigate this risk. Alignment leads to effectiveness when:

• The common purpose is ambitious and overarching enough to appeal to a greater and common good that has real meaning and heartfelt aspiration – too small and it will not interest or stretch people to grow, and only serving a narrow good, will not enable the emotional connection.

• Inclusion - team members are given an opportunity to contribute to the determination of the objectives and process

• Individuals are valued for their creativity and innovation

• Collaboration is encouraged and nurtured, with a containing social teaming process to help make sense of the lived experience (the process as it happens) as well as the objectives and tasks of the work involved.


Every team will face change. Just as individuals do, teams struggle with handling it effectively. Those teams (and by extension the leaders and individuals within) that are resilient as they meet those changes will be best equipped to handle them. The most resilient teams (and therefore the most sustainable ones) can do the following:

• Recognise behavioural patterns and work to disrupt them, without fear, and with competence

• Tap into the viral nature of ideas and emotions in the workplace

• Ensure individuals and teams are innovative in thinking and flexible in action

• Embrace the greater good


Teams do not exist in a bubble or even within a silo of their own firm, or industry or cluster but in a community and ecosystem on our planet. Our entire existence involves groupings and interdependencies, exchanges and trades between these groupings.

Every small positive action made by any grouping builds not only sustainability for itself but in a small but meaningful way for the greater good. Therefore, the more we understand this web of interactions and master how to shift groups into performing teams, the more we can understand the nature of human systems and how to help them perform within the overall biodiversity of our entire existence.

Teams, therefore, are the vehicle through which organisations connect up with themselves and their entire eco-system. Learning the language of teams, and how to join, connect and transfer between teams is a vital process that all organisations must strategize for cultural change and organisation adaption in a crisis. Teaming as a philosophy, a strategy and capability is a new way of understanding our stake-holder-driven world and the shifts of power and attention to multiple outcomes, it is a must for continued organisational viability.

If you don’t have this, your organisation will become brittle and fragile against the pressures of a rapidly changing world and be subject to the disruptive anxieties that cause splitting, drifting and eventually sinking. Ultimately you will lose your best talent to those organisations that understand and are already building this capability.

If this resonates with you and your team we invite you to have a look at our Team Services to learn more.