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Building Strong Teams Every Day

As a manager, your success hinges on your ability to build and guide a strong team. But how teams function is not one size fits all. I spoke with James Scouller, executive coach, thought leader, former CEO, and expert in building teams. He is also the author of the trilogy How to Build Winning Teams Again and Again and Again, the first series of handbooks to explain the psychology, principles, and road maps behind team success.

Here, James explains the core principles to building a strong team that accomplishes great work together. 


Not all teams collaborate in the same way. James describes three types of teams, each with their own ways of working that best meet their environment and goals. 

Performance groups are those whose work is completed individually, with minimal reliance on one another. They are best managed through a hub-and-spoke model, with the manager supporting each person directly. James noted that the vast majority of senior teams often function more like performance groups rather than real teams.

Pseudo teams are work groups that have no clear, shared responsibility and yet still call themselves a team. Their meetings are often jovial on the surface but underneath people are frustrated by the lack of decisions or implementation that come from their discussions. 

Real teams, as James calls them, must integrate their skills and talents to deliver a shared outcome. In order to qualify as a real team, you must answer yes to at least one of these criteria: Will we have to create something together, solve problems together, execute together, or all three? If the answer is yes, then you must be attentive to cultivating a strong team.


According to James, to build a winning team, you must facilitate your team members through the three stages of psychological engagement.

Commit, the first phase, is when the person decides they are dedicated to the group’s goal. In the workplace, it’s not enough to be assigned to a project. The individual must mentally commit to the team and project success in order to give their best efforts. 

Combust is the phase where power dynamics are worked through. Each person has power needs. They may desire or want to avoid holding power. They may want to be outward about their power or behind the scenes. Whatever it is they want, until the group has untangled the power dynamics, the group may suffer from overt conflict, half-hearted agreements, awkward silences and passive aggressive behavior. 

Combine, the final step, signifies the integration of these diverse humans into a high functioning team. In order to combine, there must be deep trust amongst the team members. People must feel safe to share their thoughts. They must also put what’s best for the team before their own personal interests. Only then can the team truly be most effective.


When selecting team members, James recommends prioritizing diversity in mindset and behavior. While it’s easy to build a team with diverse expertise, mangers often overlook the need for diversity of style. For example, it’s helpful to have someone who is great at keeping people on track, someone who is strong with bringing outside perspectives into the room, someone who thinks outside the box, and so on. A variety of perspectives and styles leads to innovative solutions, fostering creativity and mitigating group-think. 


The most important thing you can do as manager is ensure the team has a clear vision of what you are trying to accomplish. A well articulated goal enables people to decide if they are committed to the goal. It also enables them to feel they are contributing towards something valuable. James noted that often, simply clarifying the team’s objective can drastically reduce the frictions a team experiences. 

Building strong teams requires a clear understanding of the difference between real teams and performance groups, so that you can employ the right leadership strategies. An effective team can significantly improve each person’s daily collaboration experience, ultimately boosting workplace productivity and success.

Listen to the entire episode HERE to learn more about conflict management.

Keep up with James

- Follow James on LinkedIn and Twitter

- Grab a copy of his book here

- Visit Leadership Mastery Suite here

Guest Bonus:3 Exclusive Bonuses For Podcast+ Members

James is providing 3 amazing bonuses to members of Podcast+:

  • The first is a PDF download of his “Rapid Team Rater” tool, which lets you assess your team within 10-15 minutes using a framework based on the Seven Principles team building model. 

  • The second is a download of an entire folder consisting of James’ sophisticated suite of tools called “Team Fixer”. The tools help you figure out your team’s top psychological issue and then zero in on the actions you’ll need to apply.

  • The third is a free hour of consultation with James, where you can use the Rapid Team Rater tool to discuss the specifics of your team.

To get these guest bonuses and many other member benefits, become a member of The Modern Manager Podcast+ Community.


The Modern Manager is a leadership podcast for rockstar managers who want to create a working environment where people thrive, and great work gets done.

Follow The Modern Manager on your favorite podcast platform so you won’t miss an episode!

Get this guest bonus and many other member benefits when you join The Modern Manager Podcast+ Community.


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