Winning Teams – Pygmalion’s High Performance Team framework

“No man is an island unto himself…”


Having “Great People” in a team does not necessarily mean we can expect “Great Teamwork” from the team. Yes, we know you need to have the right people, but a team is by definition “a group of individuals with a shared identity who collaborate to achieve a common purpose or objective”.

This definition is inclusive in the sense that it can apply to all areas of life: from community groups, sporting teams right through to workplace teams. In the workplace, this means a defined group of employees within an organisation who are accountable for working together to achieve specific deliverables that are in line with business objectives. Often, this can also mean a ‘task group’ that has been created to deliver on a specific initiative/project – a more complicated team in that it has a more diverse set of functional/technical capabilities with members coming from across the broader organisation, and it has to ‘get going’ faster and be more agile in how it goes about delivering on its’ set of objectives.

The biggest challenge of being part of a team is the dynamic (tension) of being an individual as well as being member of a social group: of personal accountability and team accountability for getting the job done. It is expected that your team role has distinct features that define your own individual area of responsibility and that you know your place in the pack. It is also expected that you see yourself as an integral part of a collective, that you collaborate with other members of the group to achieve goals beyond your own specific area of accountability. This is a dynamic that often be-devils effective team functioning, where personal goals and accountabilities have to co-exist alongside group purpose and deliverables.

The Pygmalion Team Model High Performance Team = “Being/Cohesion “ x “Doing/Task”

frames of ref

The Pygmalion Team Development Model provides an “open framework” that will allow the team to evaluate its level of effectiveness and performance, and the implications this has for its development goals. A 2-axis model is used as it best depicts the inter-dependence of two of the critical dimensions of any team.

The Pygmalion HPT model was originally informed by Kurt Lewin’s (1939) famous two-dimensional model of how leadership practices (Task versus Person focus) impact on follower behaviour in teams/organisation. At the time, Lewin and his team of researchers were interested in understanding the rise of Nazism and Fascism in Europe and the impact of an authoritarian leadership model (highly centralised) on interpersonal relationships (participative decision making) and the performance of the group. Lewin was interested in how a focus on task on hand (as advocated by autocracy) could compromise a necessary and concurrent focus on the social cohesion of the group (people/relationships). His experimental approach to understanding leadership behaviour on the social climate of a group was ground-breaking and remains relevant. Since 2000, we have used this framework as a tool to assist teams with an understanding of “where we are now” and “where we need to be.”

The Model identifies 4 x quadrants that can define “what kind of team are you part of?”

  • A focus on task at the expense of people can be described as a “autocratic team” in the sense that leadership is imposed on the group to “get the job done”, with little consideration of creating a vibrant social dynamic based on high levels of participation, willing collaboration and mutual respect and trust
  • A focus on people at the expense of task can be described as a “lazier faire team” (warm and ineffective) in that there is total freedom without accountability, an absence of leadership to ensure team members focus on the task and co-ordinate their respective responsibilities to ensure delivery of services/products
  • A dual focus on people (participation, involvement, collaboration) and task (definition of purpose, intent, co-ordination of effort) can be called “democratic team” (High Performance Team). Here, social cohesion and the diverse contribution of individuals is considered as relevant/important as the work that needs to be done
  • The most unfortunate condition is where there is an absence of focus on both person and task, which can be described as a can be called “tyrannical team” (cold and disabling) leadership practices” where there is the absence of community/social breakdown and lack of basic service delivery

Finally, what is the game that your team plays? – Playing to Win, or Playing not to loose?

I find this an important distinction for teams to think about – how well does your team manage the inevitable tension between offensive and defensive play?  Scoring goals AND at the same time defending your gains?  All too often, I have seen teams ‘playing not to loose’ by focussing on their challenges and therefore missing the opportunities that exist.




IMG_4006 Pernod-Ricard Pygmalion Still Life Self Portraitimg_2715

Comments are closed.