Four Differences Between Healthy and Unhealthy Teams

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Healthy things grow!

Healthy teams thrive!

But health isn’t easy. Teams have to fight to get healthy and stay healthy. My own team fights daily to maintain a healthy culture.

Health is a differentiator between an average team and a great team.

The impact of a healthy team can be seen in this really cool book…called the Bible.

When Jesus got ready to change the world he picked a team and that team changed the world.

How did they do it? Take a closer look…

Acts 2:42–47 (NIV)

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. ​And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

From examples like this in the Bible and from coaching church teams across the country, I have learned the differences between a healthy team and an unhealthy team can be subtle. What appears healthy on the outside may harbor conditions robbing teams of effectiveness.

Charting the course from an unhealthy team to a healthy, high-performing team is something we consistently coach Pastors and churches through.

Here are four differences that exist between healthy and unhealthy teams.

#1 – Unhealthy teams have high levels of fear. Healthy teams have high levels of trust.

Stephen Covey wrote a fantastic book called ​The Speed of Trust​. He essentially says when trust is high, speed is high and cost is low. When trust is low, speed is slow and cost is high. Take communication for example: In a high trust environment, you may say the wrong thing and people may still understand what you mean or give you the benefit of the doubt. In a low trust environment, you could be very intentional in what you say and may still be misinterpreted.

#2 – Unhealthy teams learn things through discovery. Healthy teams discover things through transparency.

Too few leaders realize the value and power of saying the last 10%. I like to call it “fighting for trust.” In any situation, the healthiest way to discover is by way of courageous honesty. As potentially painful as it is to be transparent, it is more painful to discover someone has been harboring ill feelings for a period of time. So many teams are plagued by artificial harmony because they don’t practice transparency and truth-telling. Living in the tension of telling the truth facilitates authenticity and health.

#3 – Unhealthy teams confuse excellence with perfection. Healthy teams turn excellence into a habit.

Perfection is a singular, elusive, moment. Excellence is not an act, but a habit. While everyone strives to do their best work, they are not shackled by the false god of perfect. Healthy teams fight the monster of perfect outcomes by reframing an elusive value into consistent habits. For example: Creating an habit on your team of returning calls or emails within 24 hours is a value that is easy to hold others accountable to that creates a habit of excellence.

#4 – Unhealthy teams have one leader who is the smartest person in the room. Healthy teams harness the brilliance of everyone in the room.

Leaders of healthy teams have a good handle on their ego. While they may have a solution to a problem, they know their job is to draw the best solution out of their team. Often this means the best leaders are also the quietest team members. They know their words trump the room so they hold them for strategic moments, allowing the best results to come through the giftedness of others on the team.

Leaders allow the best results to come through the giftedness of others.

You may be on an unhealthy team. There’s hope. Tenaciously practicing good habits, clear communication and defining realistic expectations can help move a team towards health. Don’t give up. Health is worth fighting for. Your calling is worth fighting for.

Go fight for it!

Recognizing this difference is one of the secrets to unlocking a high-performing, killer team.


If you want to dive deeper into building healthy teams, join Shawn Lovejoy and Todd Wilson in a FREE webinar on Thursday, February 4th at 2pm Eastern. 

We are better together!

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
John 17:22-23

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