Collaborative Leadership Blog

8 Reasons Why Collaborative Teams Excel

Just you call it a team doesn’t make it one.

Since 1965, the prevailing model for team development has been Tuckman’s 5 stages known as “forming-storming-norming-performing-adjourning”, which was basically a theory about how teams should work. In reality, however, companies found this model broke down fairly quickly, turning into “starting-storming-storming-non-performing”. Why waste your time and join a team that is all about power and chaos?

The time has long past for a 21st Century approach to team development—Collaborative Teams. Tuckman’s model taught us that principle-based teams need to do their norming process first and to have a front-loaded team governance process that creates a culture where the members learn to trust and respect each other. Here are 8 elements of collaborative teams, which make them unique:

  • Culture-First: Most teams start with their task rather than how they are going to work together. The result is Tuckman-like teams. By translating a team’s principles into behavior through a team governance process, collaborative teams accelerate the achievement of their task, and do so in a high trust environment
  • Front-Loaded and Intentional: Team governance is literally the first thing a collaborative team does before it focuses on task, so that everyone on the team is playing by the same rules. It is intentional because only when teams are empowered, own their rules, and achieve a high level of trust can there be exceptional results
  • Collaborative Principle-Based: Teams have a choice—operate by power or principle. Power-based teams are driven by on fear; principle-based teams are based on trust. Collaborative teams are based on 7 principles: ownership, integrity, honor, respect, responsibility, accountability, and trust
  • Ownership—The Key to Trust: At their core, what makes collaborative teams unique is their focus on the principle of ownership—people take care of what they own; they don’t wash rented cars. They own the agreements for how they will work together, their charter, and their roles and responsibilities. This results in high trust, mutual respect, and accountability
  • Psychologically Safe: Collaborative teams are safe work spaces where members are free from fear of retribution, harassment, and discrimination. If there are violations of basic human decency and respect, they are dealt with swiftly and decisively
  • Real-Work-In-Real-Time: Because most team members are busy and have little patience for process, collaborative teams are formed and chartered around real-work challenges
  • Empowerment: Each individual is empowered to be their best self and do their best work. Acting together, these individuals generate a significant level of synergy, innovation, and sustainable results
  • 100% Consensus Strategic Decisions: The bottom line of consensus for a team is working through dissensus. People are going to disagree. That’s good. And working through those disagreements strengthen the mutual understanding and commitment of the members. This is done by having a 100% consensus (not “can live with”) strategic decision-making rule

It’s time to transform your 20th Century teams into 21st Century collaborative teams so you’re your organization can be agile, innovative, and productive.


*Dr. Edward Marshall is an Adjunct Professor in Management at the Fuqua School of Business, and the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University; ICF certified executive coach, Lifetime Top 15 Trust Thought Leader, and author of the forthcoming book: The New Age of Collaboration: Leadership for the 21st Century, 2020.