Reality Check: A Healthy Habit for Teams

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What is Reality for your Team?  How does knowing and agreeing on your reality affect your team’s ability to be effective?

In their landmark research on Extraordinary Teams, discussed in their book Extraordinary Groups, Geoffrey Bellman and Kathleen Ryan discovered that we all bring certain human needs to our group or team interactions. And while we no longer join together for simple survival or perpetuation of the species, we continue to enter into groups and teams with the hope of meeting our needs for inclusion or belonging; bonding with a sense of shared purpose and understanding our reality so we can make a difference.

Bellman and Ryan further suggest that only through understanding the current world and how it affects the group will a team be able to achieve their goals and fulfill their purpose. And they recognize that the world will differ from team to team as it is the most “immediate setting that is relevant to the group.” For your team, understanding your reality is about understanding your world (however you define it) and how it affects the team.

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webinar from HRDQ-U

Don’t miss this intriguing webinar from HRDQ-U

Reality Check: How the ETI Can Strengthen Team Impact and Agility

There is no question that individual and collective realities have been impacted significantly by the historic pandemic that took control of our work and our lives in a matter of weeks earlier this year. And even before that, the pace of change in organizations moved from steady to rapid so agility became a necessary element for not just success but survival.

So, what does your team’s reality look like now and how do you begin to assess it? What are some practical ways to paint an accurate picture of the present so you can navigate the rapidly evolving future?

While any assessment of reality must include both external and internal factors, we chose to look at the internal assessment of your team.

Consider the following steps in this process:

  1. Have a healthy team meeting to discuss the importance of understanding the current reality and solicit input into how the team might proceed. Make sure that all voices are heard and that team members are able to commit to this effort.
  2. Develop a design for the process that includes full participation by all team members. A frequently used approach is to develop questions that each team member can answer in writing or in a group exercise. This requires a strong spirit of collaboration as well as trust and psychological safety.

    Sample questions might be:

    > How do you see reality for your team?
    > To what extent do team members share a view of reality?
    > How clear are we about our purpose?
    > What needs to change to achieve our desired results?

    Using an instrument such as the Extraordinary Teams Inventory can also provide valuable insight into your team’s current reality using evidence-based indicators of healthy team performance.

  3. Determine how the assessment findings will be evaluated and translated to actionable items. Consider prior initiatives where new and current information led to a permanent policy, procedure, and/or behavioral change. Identify the degree of structure that will facilitate desired movement without stifling innovation or progress.
  4. Agree on a tentative timeline for completion and identify metrics to measure the effort. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities serve to increase accountability. Measurement of the effort, in some way, allows for increased learning and celebration of the experience.


The steps above outline the Doing part of the process. Of equal importance are the Being elements:

  • Be Courageous. Accept the challenge to explore what truly is rather than what you’re hoping it might be.
  • Be Hopeful. Adopt and maintain an optimistic outlook for the future.
  • Be Committed. Establish a shared purpose and codify some simple rules for ongoing focus by the team.
  • Be Connected. Acknowledge and celebrate the difference you can make together.
  • Be Open to Influence and Change. Appreciate differences and look for ways to be responsive rather than reactive.
  • Be Energized and Ready. Enter into the process with full engagement and the honest intention of acting on the findings in a way that allows the team to fulfill their purpose and achieve greater success.


Once you have completed an assessment of your team’s reality, you can continue to chart the course for your team as you face continuing challenges. Knowing your strengths and areas that can be improved will allow you to be more agile in your responses to what is now a constantly changing environment. And by having an accurate understanding of your reality, you can identify where and how your team can have the greatest impact on the organization and the world.

Now is definitely the time to shift from taking your temperature to taking the temperature of your team. A Reality Check may be the best way to keep your team in optimum health.

Headshot of Sally Starbuck Stamp
Sally Starbuck Stamp

Sally Starbuck Stamp is a certified coach and consultant who works with individuals, teams, and organizations, primarily in the areas of leadership development, communication effectiveness, culture transformation, and life/work balance. Her experience includes work for a variety of health care and technology organizations as both an internal change agent and an external coach and advisor.

Connect with Sally on LinkedIn.

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Reality Check: How the ETI Can Strengthen Team Impact and Agility

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