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What is Team Spirit?

As social creatures we live and function effectively to the extent that we learn how to work with and through each other.

To operate effectively within any group, organization, business, corporation, etc. requires specific social, relational, and communication skills. These are the skills that enable us to succeed in getting along with others – a key component of leadership, management and entrepreneurship. When we get along well with others, we create and invite a spirit of camaraderie and team spirit.

As a group develops its sense of identity as a team, this team spirit makes them more able to cooperate and collaborate. It enables them to think at higher levels as they expand their frame of reference and move beyond win/lose to win/win thinking, increasing effectiveness in the process.

The objective in developing a team is to shape a collection of individuals into a team so that a common sense of purpose and even destiny is created in relation to current and future stakeholder needs. Individuals develop this sense of ‘we’, working together for a common cause and, as cohesiveness grows, so the team emerges.

In a team of horses, we harness a number of animals together so that we can get them to pull a cart. To create that ‘team’, we only have to put them together and let them get used to the structure. Humans are a very different matter! With people we have to deal with their semantic constructions—the meanings that they bring to a situation. Their meanings about choice, freedom, understanding, agreement, importance, respect etc.

With people, we have to take their views and emotions into account. With people, we have to enable them to buy into the process and to realize that it serves their highest purposes and objectives.

How do we build this kind of spirit?

Group dynamics occur when more than two people come together.

In the workplace, these are the mechanisms and processes that govern and guide the grouping of people so that they can become a team. They influence the psychological awareness and experience of the individuals and invite them to work together. Within these principles are things like the organization of the group, roles, expectation styles of interaction, communication flow, leadership, followership, management, conflict resolution, etc.

A significant aspect of group dynamics concerns the way groups come together, form, and then work. We can categorise the stages of a group’s development in terms of Tuckman’s forming, storming, norming, and performing. Within this process, groups work on a two-fold focus:

  • Relationships as the group interacts; and
  • Task as the group acts and performs.


In working well together and in bringing out the best in others, it’s the relational and communication skills that enable us to communicate respect, care, trust, excitement, support, mutuality, etc. in service of the tasks that the team is called into being to perform.

So what are the internal qualities and characteristics of a group which has become a team and developed this strong and healthy team spirit?

1) A common goal or purpose

The frame of reference that unites all of members of a team is its Purpose. This may include a shared mission and vision. But let’s be clear – The Team does not create the Purpose. It is the Purpose that creates the Team.

The process of finding agreement on what it is that the World needs the team to uniquely create, agreeing on commonalities and developing a common language builds up the sense of a team. All other things being equal, the more shared norms, standards, and visions – the more cohesive the team. As a leader, part of your role is to unite your team around its purpose as this will be the container for all team activities, tasks, and experiences. It will give directionality to the team.

2) Goodwill

Since team experiences involve personal relationships, it is important to foster a sense and expression of goodwill between individuals. The absence of goodwill results in competition, lack of caring, criticism, anger, frustration, resentment – even malice. These are the poisons that toxify and destroy team spirit. This isn’t a state of harmony – far from it! The best teams will argue vociferously about an issue but at the same time, they maintain a belief in the value of each person and of the group as a whole.

This depends on the ability and willingness of each member of the team to know their role and to play that role in ways that enables others to be more effective in their roles. This win/win orientation builds cooperation and collaboration. The more psychologically healthy team members are, the greater and more effective their roles in the team will be and the greater the team’s energy and contribution will be.

3) Participation

The healthiest teams experience a sense of shared adventure, of not knowing the outcome and constantly attending to the learning on the journey. Each person willingly contributes their abilities, talents, gifts, and energy to the adventure thus promoting a sense of participation, cooperation, and interdependence. This generates a sense of belonging – one of the key satisfactions we all derive from being a part of a group as social beings. We all like the sense that we belong, that we count, that we are a part of a friendly and loyal group that we can count on. This togetherness gives a sense of the ‘we’ which makes up the identity of the group.

This creates a high level of morale and a deep sense of rapport with others. We start to identify with others and experience the sense that ‘we are in this together’. When we have it, we experience more personal warmth, there’s more care, compassion and interest in each other’s well being. We are then more likely to support each other when stress or conflict arises – raising the team’s resilience and effectiveness further.

Bottom line
When a group of humans become a team,
it is much more than the mere aggregate of its individual parts… 
An emergent property arises—the team develops a personality of its own.

With content acknowledgement to L. Michael Hall

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