As a manager, understanding your team is critical; without a deep awareness of your team, you can’t empower them to do their best work.

Sometimes, understanding what’s happening with your team is a straightforward process. But other times, you may need a little help—and that’s where team effectiveness models come in.

Team effectiveness models give you a framework to better understand your team, how they’re functioning, and what you as a manager can do to support their highest level of performance. But what, exactly, are team effectiveness models? How do they work? And how can you use them to understand your team better (and drive performance in the process)?

What Are Team Effectiveness Models?

Team effectiveness models are frameworks to help leaders understand how their teams are functioning. “A team effectiveness model…is a construct to help us understand a system—in this case, how teams can be most effective,” says organizational psychologist and leadership coach Dr. Lisa Barrington.

Not only do team effectiveness models help leaders understand how their teams are functioning—they also help them understand what needs to happen for their teams to function better.

“Team effectiveness models are simple ways to understand how a group of people working together can best accomplish their shared goals,” says leadership and management consultant Liz Wootton. “They provide insight into what people need to do their best work, and to work together to get the best from each other. They can also provide insight into what might hinder the performance of a team, which can be useful [for leaders] in figuring out what could be done differently.”

Depending on what you need to understand about your team, there are a variety of team effectiveness models that may be helpful. “Certain models solve specific problems,” says SIma Shelbayah, Chief Communications Officer of HR consulting firm Yardstick Management. “[For example], some models find what is creating the dysfunction in the group, how groups need to develop within themselves to be successful…[or how to] help employees transition from an individual mindset to a social one.”

Team effectiveness models can be an effective tool for managers because they give you an objective way to evaluate your team. Instead of injecting your own opinions onto the situation, a team effectiveness model gives you a clear, evidence-based framework for understanding what’s happening with your team—which can help you develop more effective approaches and solutions.

“There’s science about what makes teams aligned, effective and efficient—what makes them perform,” says Aaron Schmooker, co-founder and CEO of leadership and culture training company The Yes Works. “Having a model can help get away from…[personal management style and ideas] and into what’s proven and demonstrably effective.”

Clearly, team effectiveness models can be a helpful management tool. But what are some models you can use to better understand your team?

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The Lencioni Model

Based on a book by Patrick Lencioni, The Lencioni Model “lays out five areas where teams commonly lose traction as a team—and therefore don’t produce results,” says Schmooker.

Or, in other words, instead of looking at what makes teams effective, the Lencioni Model looks at the five elements that make teams ineffective—or what Leonici calls “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.”

According to the Lencioni Model, the core dysfunctional elements of a team are:

  • Absence of trust: If your team doesn’t trust you—or each other—they won’t take the steps necessary to do their best work (for example, ask for help or collaborate with a teammate). 
  • Fear of conflict: Healthy conflict is a necessary component of innovation and performance—and if your team is afraid of conflict, it could cause them to stagnate and not live up to their full potential. 
  • Lack of commitment: Good work takes commitment—and if you have team members that aren’t committed to doing good work, it can bring the rest of the team down.
  • Avoidance of accountability: In order to be successful, teams have to hold themselves and each other accountable; if there’s no accountability, there’s no success. 
  • Inattention to results: If the team isn’t focused on their collective goals, they’ll never hit them.

The Lencioni Model is structured like a pyramid, with trust at the bottom of the period and inattention at the top—and according to this model, in order to effectively deal with these dysfunctions, you need to start at the bottom and work your way up. (So, for example, you can’t deal with fear of conflict until you address the absence of trust—and you can’t address the avoidance of accountability until you’ve solved your team’s commitment issues.)

How The Lencioni Model Helps You Understand Your Team Better

The Lencioni Model can help you understand what’s not working with your team and where it falls on the pyramid—which can help you identify the most pressing issues and the different steps you’ll need to take to get your team to their highest level of effectiveness.

Tuckman’s Team Development Model

Developed by psychologist Bruce Tuckman, the Tuckman Team Development Model describes “the development of efficiency within the team—and what it will take to get there,” says Shelbayah. 

The Tuckman Team Development Model breaks down the evolution of an effective team into four stages:

  • Forming: This is the stage where your team is just coming together. During this stage, each member of the team is feeling things out; they’re not sure how they fit into the team, how the team is going to work, how you’re going to manage them, and whether they’re going to be successful. 
  • Storming: During the storming phase, the team is still getting to know each other. But as they become more familiar, power struggles can emerge. Individual team members may try to set the tone for the rest of the team about how to work or how the team should function—which could cause other team members to push back and lead to conflict. During this stage, team members may also challenge or question your authority as a leader.
  • Norming: During the norming stage, the team finds a relative groove. They have a better understanding of how the team works (and how you manage the team). They also feel more comfortable collaborating with other team members, receiving feedback, navigating their responsibilities (both individually and collectively) and asking for help or support.
  • Performing: The performing phase is where the magic happens. At this stage, your team trusts and respects each other. They understand how the team works, how they fit into the team, and what they need to do to succeed. The team is also invested in your leadership and feels driven and engaged—all of which leads to high levels of performance.

As teams get to know and trust each other more, they progress through each stage—and become stronger and more effective throughout the progression. Although it’s important to keep in mind, Tuckman’s Team Development Model isn’t necessarily linear; you might bounce between phases. For example, you may be riding a high at the performing phase only to fall back to the storming phase after introducing new members to your team.

How Tuckman’s Model Helps You Understand Your Team Better

Understanding what phase your team is in at any given moment can help guide your leadership decisions—and ensure the way you’re managing your team is ultimately moving them towards their highest level of performance. For example, if your team is in the norming phase, you know that you need to work on setting clear expectations and building trust between team members. When your team is in the norming phase, you might focus more on goal-setting and pushing your team to take things to the next level.

The Tuckman Team Development Model can also give you some perspective into the effort and time it takes to build high-performing teams. “This is effective to managers—and team members—by allowing them to understand that…[building an effective team] can’t always be a smooth and quick…process,” says Shelbayah.

The GRPI Model 

Developed by organizational theorist Richard Beckhard in the early 1970s, the GRPI Model examines team effectiveness through four different elements:

  • Goals: In order for teams to be their most effective, they need to have clear goals, both on an individual and team level. 
  • Roles: When it comes to roles, there are two things to keep in mind. The team needs to be clear on who is in the leadership role and each team member needs a clear understanding of their individual role and responsibilities—and how that fits in with the team. Without that clarity and leadership, things won’t get done.
  • Processes: In order to perform at a high level, teams need clear processes and procedures for how work will get done.
  • Interpersonal Relationships: In order for a team to succeed, there needs to be a foundation of strong relationships—relationships that include trust, respect, and solid communication.

Similar to the Lencioni Model, the GRPI Model is structured like a pyramid, with Interpersonal Relationships at the base of the pyramid and Goals at the peak. “When looking at the pyramid from interpersonal relationships up, managers are then able to look for…[the] cause of a dysfunction within the team,” says Shelbayah.

How The GRPI Model Helps You Understand Your Team Better

The GRPI Model can help you identify what effectiveness drivers are missing from your team—and can give you a roadmap for what you need to do to create those drivers (and in what order to do them). 

For example, if you realize your team isn’t hitting their goals, you can look at the earlier parts of the pyramid to see where the disconnect is coming from—whether that’s a lack of clear processes for how you want work to be done or a lack of trust and communication between team members.

The T7 Model

The T7 Model was developed in the mid-90’s and looks at the internal and external factors that lead to effective teams. “The T7 model focuses on what factors affect a team’s capabilities,” says Shelbayah.

There are five internal and two external factors that factor into team effectiveness:

Internal factors

  • Thrust: The team has shared goals and a shared sense of purpose.
  • Trust: The team is built on a foundation of trust; team members trust each other and the team leader or manager.
  • Talent: Each team member has the skills, expertise, and background necessary to perform at a high level and contribute to the team in a meaningful way.
  • Team Skills: The team knows how to effectively collaborate and perform as a unit.
  • Task Skills: The team can get tasks done (and get them done on time).

External factors

  • Team Leader Fit: The team leader has a management style that works for the team. They lead the team with respect and know how to inspire their team’s best work. 
  • Team Support Within The Organization: The organization gives the team the support, resources, and attention they need to do their best work.

According to the T7 Model, in order for teams to perform and reach their full potential, all seven factors must be at play; if any factor is lacking, it can cause issues with the team and lead to lower performance.

How The T7 Model Helps You Understand Your Team Better

Understanding all of the elements that go into building a successful team can help you identify what may be missing in your team—and can help you figure out where to focus your attention to make your team stronger. 

For example, if your team is struggling with an internal factor (like Talent or Trust), you know you need to focus your attention on your employees. While if your issues are a result of an external factor (like a lack of organizational support), you know you need to turn your attention to your company leadership—and push to get your team the support and resources they need to thrive.

Tips For Using Team Effectiveness Models To Better Understand Your Team

Need more insights into how to make team effectiveness models work for you? Here are a few tips to help you use these models to better understand your team:

Pick A Model And Stick With It

Clearly, there are a variety of team effectiveness models. But if you try to implement too many at once, it can be challenging to understand what, exactly, is going on with your team. That’s why, if you want to incorporate team effectiveness models into your management strategy, it’s best to choose just one. “Pick one model to focus on,” says Wootton. “Choose one which you feel you connect with, and stick with that. There are similarities between most models, so it may be tempting to mix and match, but keep it simple.”

Get Your Team Involved

Team effectiveness models don’t just help you understand your team better. If you get your team involved—for example, by asking them for their insights into where they think they fall into a team effectiveness model—it can help them better understand themselves. “Involve the team in the process. This will help create buy-in,” says Wootton. “When a team comes up with their own ideas, they are more likely to follow them.”

Bring In The Experts

“In my experience, effective leaders recognize the value of partnering with someone outside the team to introduce, facilitate, and help bring the model to life,” says Barrington. So, if you’re new to team effectiveness models and aren’t quite sure how to use these models to drive positive change within your team, you should definitely consider enlisting the help of an expert. “Get help,” says Schmooker. “An excellent organizational expert can help you navigate the subtleties, and, most importantly, turn these ideas into operational behaviors.” 

Be Patient

Team effectiveness models are helpful tools—but they’re not going to magically transform your team overnight. So be patient with yourself and your team (especially if you’re new to team effectiveness models). “Understand that there is a large gap between understanding the theory and putting it into practice,” says Wootton. “Don’t expect it to be perfect straight away. Don’t expect it to happen overnight.

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Use Team Effectiveness Models To Better Understand Your Team—And Increase Effectiveness In The Process

Team effective models give you a framework to better understand your team, what they’re experiencing, and how you can empower their best work. And now that you know how to use team effectiveness models to deepen your understanding of your team, all that’s left to do? Get out there and apply one of these models to your team—and watch effectiveness skyrocket as a result.

4 team effectiveness models to understand your team better