Team Building and Leadership

Team Dynamics

What is team dynamics?

Every day, numerous interactions and micro-interactions take place in a team among the team members in formal and informal settings both in physical and virtual spaces. Through these interactions, team members communicate and coordinate to complete tasks and accomplish goals. They may also share knowledge, debate on taking various decisions, and provide feedback and appreciation to each other. All these interactions and micro-interactions constitute team dynamics. Positive team dynamics energize us and negative team dynamics demotivate us.

A team with positive and healthy team dynamics delivers excellent results and the individual team members thrive and feel accomplished and proud for being part of this team. On the other hand, in a team with negative team dynamics, every team members are not able to bring their full self and utilize their full potential; and the performance of the team is not that great despite having many talents.

Being able to assess the team dynamics is an essential skill for a team leader that enables him/her to take the right actions and bring the team towards high performance and engagement.

Why are positive and healthy team dynamics important?

Positive and healthy team dynamics are the key to great team performance and individual growth and fulfilment. This is equally important for both established and newly formed teams. The team dynamics can change drastically or over some time due to various reasons: when any team member leaves the team; when a new member joins the team; a new project with a lot of unknowns; adoption of new technologies and processes; change in organization priorities and focus etc. A high-performing team may lose track if it’s unable to maintain healthy team dynamics in the face of various changes and transitions.

How to assess team dynamics?

How would you know that your team has developed negative dynamics and require immediate attention and coaching? There are two broad indicators: firstly, the team’s performance, it is failing to achieve its goals regularly despite having talented team members, this will also be visible from outside as the team delivers a poor quality of outcomes; and secondly, the team members are not feeling happy in general and just doing the busy work day in day out, they have unhealthy conflicts, increasing disengagement, and even turn-over.

There is a couple of simple and structured ways to assess a team’s dynamics and collect some initial data. One is observing the interaction between people of different functional roles. For example, the interactions between the business analysts and developers, or between the developers and testers. You may draw a table or a graph and classify dynamics between two groups as strong (double line), moderate (single line), and weak (dotted line). You may discover some obvious concerns between a pair of different functional groups irrespective of individuals. If there is no concern between two functional groups then you may apply the same approach between each pair of individuals as well.

One thing to be mindful of is that what you observe or your initial perception may only be the tip of the iceberg. For example, people might be showing artificial harmony externally to show compliance and avoid conflicts but not feel empowered to express their own opinion. As a result, these individuals are not using their full potential and are not as effective as they should be.

Another example, some team members might be driven by their ego and trying to drive and establish their opinions/interests and not allowing others to grow and share. They prioritize their interests over the team’s interests.

Actions towards healthy and positive team dynamics

As your initial perception of your team’s dynamics is just the tip of the iceberg, your next step is to uncover the actual reality. Some ideas include having focused 1:1 conversations; open group discussions and retrospectives; reviewing and addressing the supporting structure and basic needs that the team might be missing.

You will be able to uncover valuable insights from your 1:1 catchups if your team members feel safe to share their opinions that they don’t feel comfortable sharing in other contexts. Remember, this is only possible once you have established genuine trust with your team members (a completely different topic outside the scope of this article).

Having an open group discussion or a focused retrospective with a specific theme is another option to uncover root causes and brainstorm ideas. The role of the facilitator is very critical here in setting up the right context and ensuring a safe environment for everyone to participate and share opinions.

Finally, it’s worth revisiting and reviewing the supporting structure and the basic needs of your team, and addressing any gaps. For example, the team might not be clear about its purpose in the context of the broader organization; they might also be unable to connect their work to the immediate goals; there might be no visibility of any core values and ground rules that should underpin individual behaviours and performance; individual responsibilities might be vague and unclear; and the team might also be lacking appreciations and recognitions for their efforts and achievements.


In summary, the ability to assess team dynamics and take the right actions is an essential skill for a team leader. This is a continuous and never-ending learning process. While some leaders are naturally good at building this skill, for some leaders, this key skill remains in their blind spots. The sooner we are aware of this, the sooner we can take our teams on the journey of high performance and engagement.