Organization & Leadership Consulting

A “World Cup” Team


The top women soccer players are on the world stage these past weeks. The best teams are competing to determine who will ultimately win the World Cup. Commentators have been pontificating on who the favored teams will be within their respective groups. The United States team notably looks stronger and more unified than ever. What is Jill Ellis, U.S. Women’s Soccer Coach, doing to create such a strong and competitive team?

Teams can be difficult to manage because they involve people. People are diverse, complicated, and often challenging to manage. So how do you take talent, skill, and personality to create a winning team? Step One: create a culture of psychological safety and trust. Whether you’re in the beginning stages of assembling a high-performance team and wondering where to start, laying the foundation of trust is imperative.

It is incumbent upon the leader to create a culture of psychological safety in order to achieve trust. Amy Edmonson, professor at Harvard University, has conducted extensive research to show the importance of psychological safety within dynamic teams. Combined with her research, here are a few steps you can take as a leader:

  • Demonstrate engagement – be present and focused.
  • Show understanding- recap what’s been said and validate comments.
  • Be inclusive in decision making – solicit input, opinions, and feedback.
  • Show confidence and conviction without appearing inflexible – manage the discussions and model vulnerability.

Patrick Lencioni in his book “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” asserts that trust is foundational to a team’s success. In order to build trust, team members must be willing to be honest and share their true thoughts and feelings. They must operate without fear of reprisal. How do you know if your team is a ‘trusting’ team? Here is a list that can help guide you through discovery:

  • Admit weakness.
  • Ask for help from one another.
  • Accept questions and input about their areas of responsibility.
  • Give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion.
  • Take risks in offering feedback and assistance.
  • Appreciate and tap into one another’s skills and experience.
  • Focus time and energy on important issues, not politics.


Written by Melody Cullum


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