The Essentials of Teamwork Series, #10: Come Back to the Circle Over and Over

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 19, Issue No. 6b
October 15, 2020

By Dan Coughlin


Most members of business teams do not sit right next to each other. They are working in different departments, buildings, cities, states, provinces, and countries. They have different functional responsibilities. It’s mostly a myth that team members regularly interact on a daily basis. Mostly what team members do is their various jobs, which are separate from one another.

So how does a group of people who are spread out geographically and in terms of their activities become a true team?

Let’s start by thinking about what constitutes a team. A team is a group of individuals who support one another toward fulfilling a meaningful purpose and achieving important outcomes. Also, team members share values. Values are what people believe is so important that they drive their behaviors on a consistent basis. Team members respect one another even if they don’t necessarily like each other or spend a lot of time together. They are open-minded to hearing each other’s ideas and to learning from each other. They care about the success of the other members of the team.

Let’s break that down even more. Team members share a common purpose, goals, values, mutual respect, open-mindedness, and caring.

And yet there is one more thing. They share a circle. A circle is when team members come together and talk with one another. This could be in the same physical room or in a virtual room. There needs to be frequent times when the circle comes together.

Intentionally Bring Your Circle Together

I think the word teamwork gets thrown around too loosely. People will say, “Let’s have the communications team meeting tomorrow at 9,” or “I’m a member of the operations team.” But these often are not real teams. They are a collection of people who share a common description. Real teams take time to build. It takes time and intentional effort for people to get to know each other and trust each other. It takes time for people to really understand and emotionally buy into a shared purpose and shared values. It takes time for people to truly care about each other and communicate with each other in an open-minded way. The word team should be earned, not just given on day one. When two people go out on a first date, they are not called a married couple. Marriage takes time and effort to be earned. So does teamwork.

In order for the members of a group to experience a sense of teamwork they do have to come together on a regular basis. This time together is tremendously important and needs to be used wisely. When a team is healthy and comes together in the circle, they experience emotions of joy, gratitude, resilience, optimism, and enthusiasm. These people are genuinely glad to be a part of this team. When the members of a group never experience time together, negative emotions are likely to enter the group dynamic. These include fear, anger, apathy, and jealousy. These negative emotions rip the members apart and keep them from ever becoming a true team.

Bring your group together consistently. Provide time for people to get to know each other. Do exercises and activities that help people to understand how they are each hard-wired, and the character strengths, passions, talents, and values they each bring to the group. Discuss the meaningful purpose that the group is working toward fulfilling. Talk about the important goals the group is trying to achieve. Create experiences where they are able to experience joy in being together. Allow people to share what they are grateful for. Discuss moments of great resilience in their lives. Convey a sense of optimism and hopefulness and enthusiasm for where the group is today and where it is going.

Most importantly, don’t call the group a team until they have truly earned that designation. That way when you do use the term “team” the individuals will know that they have really arrived at a special level in their development as a group.

Most of their time will be spent apart from one another, but it is in the circle that they can begin to feel that they are a part of something bigger than themselves.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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