“Why can’t we all just get along?”  I’ve said it innumerable times, and chances are, you have too.  Even with those we love, respect, and enjoy, we can find ourselves in situations that leave us scratching our heads at what went wrong, avoiding contact, and harboring anger and resentment.  Sometimes we choose to talk things out and open ourselves up to another point of view; other times we determine the situation is too toxic, unsafe, or hopeless; still other times, we are forced to interact because of shared environments or commitments.


I recently heard a lecture on “High Performance Teams and Relationships” by Dr. Jacqueline Peters1,2.   She presented her beautiful model of 5 specific building blocks that make a successful team.  It has had me thinking about my own life, including challenges that I have faced with family or friends, and work environments as well as situations some of my clients encounter.  The model provides a logical and scientifically-based framework for thinking about how to adjust and improve our various relationships. Let’s dive in! 


So, how would you answer the following question:


“What is a foundational need of a successful relationship or team?”


Many of you know that a key answer is “SAFETY.” In study after study of effective teams and relationships, people reported the need for a place in which they felt freedom to express relevant thinking and feelings about the task at hand without fear of punishment.  Imagine walking into a kindergarten classroom and witnessing a teacher who constantly speaks critically, only notes the negative things that children are doing, demands complete silence and then expects the children to learn and grow. It won’t happen—EVER-- in a kindergarten class or in an adult workplace environment.   Kindergartners and adults can thrive only in a safe environment.   


Safety often emerges in encouraging, life-giving, uplifting spaces.  Reflect on teams and relationships in your own life that felt safe and pinpoint specific characteristics of those situations that fostered safety and encouraged trust.  Simple safety actions that can sometimes be overlooked include taking turns and allowing everyone to speak, empathizing with others, and asking questions before making assumptions.  Are there relationships in your life that would benefit from some of these safety strategies?

Once a foundation of safety is in place, additional ingredients are essential for successful relationships:  purpose, structure, camaraderie, and repair.  A lack of purpose is a frequent reason that teams, couples, and families can easily go astray. We all achieve more with a guiding vision for our personal purpose and our shared (common) purpose in working with others. Do you know your purpose at work? Do you and your spouse know your common purpose at home?  What about your family?  If your purpose in an area is fuzzy or unclear, you are probably due for a conversation to establish or clarify your purpose.  


Without purpose that is bigger than yourself, you are more likely to serve only yourself.

Author Unknown


Structure includes roles, working agreements, resources, interdependent goals, resources, etc. and accounts for about 60% of team effectiveness. Yes, you read that right, sixty percent! For any of us to do a job well, we need to know our responsibilities, our available resources and tools, and the results we are expected to achieve.  


The structure (of a team) will automatically provide the 
pattern for the action which follows. 
~Donald Curtis


Camaraderie represents mutual trust or friendship among a group of people who spend time together.  Playfulness, humor, gratitude, appreciation, and a space of positivity help create an atmosphere of camaraderie.  When people are constantly complaining, criticizing each other, or blaming one another when things are not working, environments become less trusting and more volatile.  If people feel like they are constantly on the defense, they are less likely to feel creative and open in their thinking.  In contrast, when an environment encourages free thinking and exchange of ideas, we are more likely to achieve success.  


No one who achieves success does so without the help of others.  
The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.  
~Alfred White Northhead


Repair is needed from time to time in every team or relationship.  Things do not always turn out as planned, people become offended or hurt, and external and internal pressures can threaten members of a team or family. Repair is always made easier when it rests on a foundation of safety.  Genuine repair requires apology and authentic appreciation, a realignment in goals in order to work in a different and/or more productive manner, or other corrective actions. 


You don’t repair that relationship by just sitting down 
and talking about trust or making promises. Actually, what rebuilds it is 
living it and doing things differently- 
and I think that is what is going to make the difference.

~Patricia Hewitt


So, there you have it, effective teams, couples, and families are built on a foundation of safety, purpose, structure, camaraderie, and repair.  But, there is one more thing—commitment.  Successful teams and relationships require commitment and time.  Good group groove does not happen overnight—it’s a constant process of growth and improvement to perfect the dance!  


Self-Coaching Exercise


Identify one team or relationship in your life that is not working as well as you would like (work group, spouse, family, volunteer organization, etc.).


  1. How can you contribute to the safety of this group?
  2. Is your purpose on the team clear?  If not, request a conversation with those needed to clarify your personal and mutual purposes. 
  3. Are there issues of structure that need attention?  Do you need more guidance on roles, goals, or expected results?  
  4. Try to build camaraderie in the group or relationship by complementing others, expressing gratitude for results that have been achieved, or injecting some playfulness (when appropriate) into the environment.  
  5. Do you need to take personal responsibility for something that happened?  Has something happened to you?  Is repair needed to help move the group forward? 
  6. Do you question the commitment of the group? Is your personal commitment to the team where it needs to be?  What do you need to feel more invested?



The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is 
knowing how to get along with people.

Theodore Roosevelt


And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

~Hebrews 10:24-25



1. Peters, J. (2015).  High performance relationships: The heart and science behind success at work and home.  InnerActive Leadership Associates:  Canada.



2.  Peters, J. (2017).  Coaching teams and enhancing relationships:  The five building blocks that drive success.  ICF Coaching Science Community of Practice.




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