3 Things That Erode Team Unity

Unknown-1Earlier in the week I posted about two key ingredients for building team unity.  I proposed that shared experiences and prayer are important elements in building team unity because both aspects point towards our dependence on someone besides ourselves for accomplishing our mission and calling.    You might naturally think that a lack of these two elements would be the inroads for disunity.  And over time that will be true.  But I think there are three other aspects that will more quickly begin to erode team unity before the dependence issue is ever noticed.  Much has been written about this topic, so I know my thinking is not new.  But I share these from my observations of teams over many years.  And I would love to hear from you on this topic.

1. The Absence of Trust  Almost all books and articles on the topic of team unity will emphasize the value of trust.  Webster defines trust as the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something.  This is a helpful definition.  A team member’s ability to trust others on the team is surely based on these aspects.  If certain team members lack critical abilities then it is difficult to trust.  If the team leader lacks core character then it is difficult to trust.  If there is not a team environment of grace and truth it will be difficult to trust.  This aspect cries out for teams to be well led from a foundation of strong moral character, for team training and development, and for there to be an atmosphere of grace and truth prevalent in the environment.  When any aspect of this is missing team unity will begin to erode.

2. The Absence of a Clear Team Purpose  You can gather talented people, have stellar leaders at the helm, and even be committed to a grace and truth environment–but if the team does not clearly understand why they exist and what they are trying to accomplish it wont matter.  Unity will begin to erode as team members become worn out by continually trying to either, discern the purpose of the team, or insert their own meaning into the team environment.  Every team has to clearly understand why they exist and how they will function.  This is what makes the work meaningful.  This provides motivation for team members to contribute well.  And this aspect has to be revisited on a regular basis so teams stay on track.

3. The Absence of Meaningful Contribution  Once there is a foundation of trust and a clear stated team purpose, there still needs to be meaningful connection for every individual on the team to those elements.  Each team member needs to see their part in the whole.  They need to be able to see where they can make a meaningful contribution out of their unique gifts and abilities toward the stated purpose.  Team unity is necessarily like this.  There is the whole and the individual parts.  People need to see that they need each other and that their part in it matters.  This enhances unity.  And when team members cannot find themselves and their contribution in team functioning then they will begin to withdraw in some way and team unity begins to erode at that point.

Prayer and shared experiences can help to slow and even repair the erosion.  But the above three components are the early markers I have observed when I see team disunity.  What have you observed and experienced?

Two Critical Ingredients to Team Unity


UnknownSometimes I am asked by Christian leaders, “What are the elements that lead to true team unity?”  Unity is defined as being in a state of harmony.  It is the quality or state of being made one.  It is not the loss of diversity or uniqueness.  It is the confluence of gifts, abilities, like mindedness and effort towards a common cause.  My experience tells me that there are two primary pieces to creating team unity: Shared experiences and prayer.

Shared Experiences  Unity is enhanced when people are exposed to their weaknesses and made to depend on one another.  When a team tackles a difficult task, as a team, there is a comradery built around the need to pull together to be effective at that task.  The nature of the common task can vary greatly.  It can be an organized team building task.  It can be a true to life ministry effort.  Whatever the make up of the task it must include something significant enough to demand every member of the team to contribute well.  It must be of a nature that each team member begins to realize the value of every other team member.  The end result is that the team begins to see that they are better together than alone.  There is a sense of oneness that becomes apparent.  Therefore, there are appropriate times or seasons for a leader to require that a team go after something together-rather than continuing to be a collection of individual efforts under the same banner.

Prayer  Prayer is a spiritual exercise and it has power to shape the core of a team.  What I mean is that prayer, directed toward God, as a team, is a unifying experience because, by its very nature, it too expresses a deep dependence upon God.  When a team rallies around prayer as a collective expression of dependence, God has the opportunity to also form a collective heart.  Therefore it matters what teams pray for.  Therefore, there ought to be some God sized requests that a team can trust God for together.  As God acts in response to prayer, a team can also celebrate to His glory.

Shared experiences and prayer, when genuine, are important ingredients in forming team unity.  What are some of your thoughts?