23 Jan 2019


Research studies consistently report that optimal team size is 4.6 and that teams with 4 to 6 members are typically more effective at accomplishing tasks. Team members feel their voices are heard, their opinions are valued, they feel personally accountable, more central and believe they can make a significant contribution to accomplishing shared goals and objectives. At the same time, there is ample opportunity for diverse perspectives, experiences, skills and approaches.

My four children would agree that this is the optimal team size. They would argue that perhaps their best preparation for learning how to be an effective team member, collaborator and colleague was gleaned from their experiences growing up with multiple siblings. Team Hills was a well-oiled machine, whether it was in our daily routines getting ready for school and work, boarding an airplane for a family vacation, rolling dough for make-your-own pizza night, or packing duffels for summer camp, everyone had a role and contributed to making Team Hills a “high-performing” team.

What are the characteristics of a high-performing team? A great team starts with a shared vision, is aligned around its purpose, has clearly articulated goals/objectives and leverages team talent. Each team member typically plays a clear role in ensuring team success and the output of the team exceeds what any individual member could have produced on his/her own. Underlying all exceptional teams are shared values. Often un-articulated, strong teams develop from strong organizational cultures rooted in a shared commitment to what is important and a shared belief in accomplishing work goals with excellence.

Nothing has given me greater insight into team dynamics than watching how our family has evolved over time. And our well-oiled machine was tested when the kids were recently faced with the “on-boarding” of a new team member, our son-in-law. While my husband and I immediately embraced this newest recruit, unconditionally welcoming him to our family, gaining acceptance into the Hills kids’ alliance would prove to be a more difficult challenge. They wondered how this would work. Would he upset their delicate balance? Would he appreciate and respect the special bond they shared? Would he be a “good fit” for Team Hills?

Much like on-boarding any new team member, it’s helpful to provide a framework and context for team dynamics. Every team has a secret code, an un-articulated way they operate that typically goes un-explained. Groups have preferences about everything from where and when they meet, to lunchtime rituals, to how they communicate and even where each person likes to sit for team meetings. Not dissimilar from sitting in someone else’s “usual” spot at the dining room table.

Fortunately, our newest recruit was eager to please and very skillful at deciphering Team Hills dynamics. In addition to being well-aligned with the values, interests and styles of our team, he brought new skills and core competencies that were welcomed, appreciated and even admired. He respected the sibling bond and quickly found ways to engage with each person on his/her own terms. He embraced our Thanksgiving and Passover seder rituals, adding his artistic and creative talents to our long-standing traditions. He loved being part of our family milestones, jumping in as a wonderful photographer, and he was central to shaping our new shared traditions as we navigated the unchartered waters of engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelor/bachelorette parties and, ultimately, the wedding. Watching Team Hills celebrate together was a testament to both the strength of their bond and their ability to embrace their brother-in-law as a member of the family. Like any high-performing team, Team Hills demonstrated resiliency and flexibility while remaining true to its core values and shared vision.

To learn more how to become a high-performing team, please contact lisa@hillsassociates.com.