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As our business worlds become more disruptive, we need teams of all types—project-based, functional, cross-functional, self-managed, virtual, and more—to be adaptive. A team that’s adaptive continually self-adjusts based on changes in its external and internal worlds at the same time it is guided by a larger aspiration.

Most leaders view their team as the unit for doing work, yet forget that the team is also an avenue for doing work sustainably. As a result, too many teams today (possibly your own) are enduring rather than thriving. They’re working harder, faster, and longer, failing to realize these aren’t useful strategies for the long haul.

Plus, when the way work is done elevates and amplifies individual and team thriving, it can have a positive ripple effect with a team’s customers, partners, and the rest of the organization, as well as with the loved ones and communities of team members.

So, it’s critical to build thriving teams intentionally.


Wisdom Works has helped advance countless thriving teams in companies around the globe—and our own team is a continual work in progress. We’ve learned that teams are more apt to flourish when five categories are given keen attention.

  • In thriving teams, the BEST TEAM MAKEUP is about the team’s size, the diversity of abilities and backgrounds that constitute it, the mutual accountability and leadership held by team members, and a balance between the what and the how.
  • CLEAR TEAM STRUCTURES supporting thriving teams are a shared purpose, an inspiring team vision and goals, values and operating principles for working together, and a well-managed workload.
  • Thriving teams develop ESSENTIAL TEAM SKILLS, such as communicating effectively, using constructive feedback, making sure ideas of team members are highly productive, and building positive relationships.
  • SELF-LEADERSHIP is vital in thriving teams. It shows up in at least these four areas: stress resilience, energy and wellbeing, a personal vision and purpose to self-author and guide life and work, and individual responsibility.
  • Thriving teams foster a POSITIVE TEAM CLIMATE through physical and psychological safety, trust, respect, and inclusion, collective resilience, and team learning.

These categories are interdependent, working together to build a dynamic system of structures in which team thriving—the team’s evaluation of itself as well-resourced, mentally, emotionally, and physically, to meet its demands and evolve—are more likely to occur.


Building a thriving team isn’t something to pencil into the calendar as a group lunch-and-learn. It is a commitment to a way of being and operating. We consider it one of the central challenges and opportunities for leadership today.

If you’re the manager of a team or the person appointed to build it, you may be wondering, “What do these five categories mean for me?” First and foremost, it means deeply reflecting on the questions: What conditions will enable this team to work most effectively and thrive? What will enable people on this team to become more capable and well while getting results?

This is about human-centered leadership, where the sacrosanct belief that “management = command & control” is thrown on its head. As preeminent leadership expert Sir John Whitmore once said, your role is to unlock the potential of people to maximize their own performance individually and collectively. Leading in this way will nourish and enrich your life, your effectiveness, and the lives of those around you. Such a path is inherently satisfying and well worth the leadership challenge.

Think of the categories of a thriving team as aspirational, as a map supporting your leadership and team journey. Your current team may have already activated some of the categories and, without realizing it, neglected others. The more your team pays attention to what will enable them to thrive, the more the team will experience itself as well-resourced to handle and grow with these changes and disruptions.

How will you harness the powerful human energy on your team? How will you create the conditions for people to thrive as they achieve positive results together?


Dive deeper into the five categories and explore resources for integrating them into your team with our Anatomy of Thriving Teams Guide. Complete the form to receive your complimentary access.

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