Creating a Powerful Team: Step 1


Setting the stage

At Bearing we work with our clients to create strong, connected teams.  More and more work is being done in teams and through work groups (1).  Teams work face-to-face and remotely, and each modality has its own challenges – in this post I consider face-to-face settings.  Team performance, in this case, is strongly tied to three components, average social sensitivity of the group, conversational turn taking and the proportion of females in the group.

Social sensitivity, which has been defined as the ability to accurately perceive and comprehend the behavior, feelings and motives of other individuals, is generally viewed by personality theorists, social psychologists and clinicians alike to be a psychological variable of major importance for the understanding of such basic phenomena as the development of a conception of self, the acquisition of roles and the interaction within and between groups. (2)

Its the last part of that quote that makes social sensitivity important for teams and and groups. In teams and groups where the average social sensitivity is high, people will naturally perceive each other as they truly are at their core.  With that in mind, a powerful team must create an environment where these abilities can be used to support each other in the work done by the team each day.  Social sensitivity then plays a significant role in forming strong teams and is key in supporting the models below.


Two models of how to create strong teams come to mind that have, at their core, the same characteristic.  Lencioni (3) has establishing Trust, as the first step in creating a strong team,  which is “the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group.”  Rozovsky (4) puts psychological safety at the base of forming a successful team.  For her, this means that people, “can take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed”.  At the core of both models, whether we talk about trust or psychological safety, is the ability to be vulnerable with each other, which relies on our social sensitivity to accurately perceive and comprehend the behaviours, feelings, and motives of those on our team. 

What does it mean to be vulnerable?

There are many, many articles and talks available on being vulnerable, including work by Brene Brown, one of my favourites.  The two models above incorporate vulnerability.  What does it mean to you to be vulnerable at work?  How does your vulnerability or perception of being vulnerable at home differ?  As a leader, how do you show vulnerability at work?

We all know or have heard people talk about “their work-selves” and their “true-self” – you may have used similar terms yourself.  Did you know that we, in general, behave the same at home and at work, 85% of the time?  It’s possible then that your work-self is at maximum, 15% different from your true-self?  Should there be even that much difference?

Based on your thoughts about being vulnerable, what then does this mean for your ability, your team’s ability, to be successful?  If vulnerability is at the heart of the first element in building a successful team, whether that is trust or psychological safety, what will you do to create a solid foundation for your team? For your family?

What will vulnerability look like on your team?


Take this short survey and contribute to our understanding of what your current experience is with trust, psychological safety and vulnerability.  Think of your day, your team and how it works for you.  Then take the survey.  I will share and discuss the aggregate results in a future post!


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  1. Woolley et al,, 29 October 2010 vol 330.
  2. Rothenberg, Wiley Library Online, 8 August, 2014
  3. Lencioni, The Five Dysfuntions…, 2002
  4. Rosovsky, The five keys to a successful Google team, 17 November, 2015