Balance Points from the Team

Teamwork Requires Context…And Context Requires Teamwork


In my last blog I mentioned a four-part “secret sauce” for creating impactful teams. It’s about to get a lot less secret. No need for secrets!

As I think about what’s really at the root of impactful teams, it’s clear that leaders rarely possess all the answers to problems. In fact, it usually isn’t the answers that are most valuable, but the posing of critical questions that surfaces a powerful dialog and the direction that creates context that is shared, understood and engaging.

Borrowing words from Brene Brown in Daring to Lead, teams can “Paint Done” together; forge a goal (“paint”) with a defined end state (“done”) and create a shared pathway to success in the process.



Context leads to clarity, and in working with teams for years, I have found that they are most effective when all members know where to play and how to contribute.

If they contribute to establishing this foundation, even better, but without it the wheels can come off pretty quickly and they’ll find themselves stuck.

Teams will often wait for their leaders to do this important work for them and while C team insight is very valuable, it doesn’t always happen in perfect timing.

Don’t wait! You can take a proactive approach to establishing context within your team’s circle of influence by answering these five questions:

Why are we here and what is our unique contribution?

What are our shared behavioral values?

How will we succeed and how will we know it?

What are our top priorities now?

What do we each contribute?

I recently worked with a team that struggled for a long time because they hadn’t asked themselves these critical questions. They weren’t meeting goals, and they blamed their executive leader because they expected him to provide the answers.

I challenged them by asking, “What are you waiting for? How are you going to take responsibility now in areas where you have influence to maximize your potential?”

This team was also sinking to a personal level of blaming one another, which obscured the truth: They didn’t know what they were there for.

The team dialed all the way back and established context using the five questions above. They got clear about their purpose, worked hard to repair damaged trust and came together as a solid team.

It was a commitment and it took energy and time. They got unstuck as a team and now they focus on direction and impact rather than the interpersonal strife and organizational chaos that had hindered them.

Going forward, they know if they get stuck they go back and build context before confusion or interpersonal hurdles take hold.  Does your team do the same?


Click here to learn more about Lisa Johnson

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