Because I run workshops on team-building and conflict management, I am often asked for the best way to turn a group of people into a high-performing team. The answer, of course, is multi-faceted, but I always start with one question: Do you have a great team leader?  The truth is, you can have a functioning team without a great team leader, but you can’t have a high-performing team without a high-performing leader – even if the leader role is shared.

Here’s my “snapchat” on the continuum of teams in the workplace. If you are a team leader, where would you plot your team as it stands today?

Team Continuum

If you chose the far right box, then you very likely already possess the top two attributes. If you chose any version of the two images to the left, then you might benefit from cultivating these traits – and by the way, these are also great traits for job candidates, line managers, even online dating:

ZEST, noun, Great enthusiasm and energy.  Synonyms: enthusiasm, gusto, relish, appetite, eagerness, avidity, fervor, ardor.

ZEAL, noun, Great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. Synonyms:  passion, love, fire, avidity, devotion, vigor, energy, intensity.

Yes, I know zest and zeal are actually synonymous with each other, but they are so important to the making of a high-performing team that I keep them separate. Manifesting and conveying zest sends a signal to all team members that you wantto be there, and each day you consciously activate your energy to advance the work of the team.

Zeal takes that investment one step further by showing your team members that you are a thermostat, not a thermometer.  There’s a big difference. Thermometers are reactive; simply adjusting to the temperature of the room. So, if the team is experiencing conflict, then you get agitated as well.  A thermostat, on the other hand, sets the temperature.  You set the expectations for healthy conflict and confidence in the face of adversity. In return, your team sees you as an energizer of team productivity and catalyst for healthy group dynamics.

Can you manufacture zest and zeal?  Not really.  You have to truly care about the work, the mission, and the team members.  Here’s the good news: if you have swung over to the opposite side of the spectrum – toward indifference or discouragement, but your true nature is generally optimistic and hopeful – then you can swing the pendulum back in several ways. You can go for a vigorous walk, watch your favorite TED Talk, have an engaging conversation with a trusted co-worker, look back over a report, email or presentation you are particularly proud of, and your natural demeanor will reappear. I have one client who uses audiobooks on the way to and from work to re-energize his spirit.

Right now, as I write this, I am listening to Lisa Gerrard’s Sanvean  (I am Your Shadow). It never fails to charge my batteries.  What’s your go-to motivator?

If you or your team needs a boost, reach out to us –


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