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Leadership development

The 3 Gets Approach to Team Development: Get Set; Get Safe & Get Strong

June 19, 2020

The 3 Gets is a research-driven, practical way to develop effective teams. Approximately 80% of senior leadership teams are either dysfunctional or mediocre at best (1) (Wageman et al., 2008, p12). All teams can improve and most teams need help to understand where to start.

The 3 Gets condenses a vast body of research and scientific literature into a simple framework to help every leader evaluate where they need to focus to help their team perform at the top of their game.

Today’s Context

The skill of individuals is no longer enough. Leaders and managers have to develop high performing teams if they want to succeed in solving tough or complex business challenges.

Teams today are highly interdependent - they plan work, solve problems, make decisions, and review progress in service of a specific project. Team members need one another to get work done. The leaders of these teams are currently facing several complexities.

  • Diversity; We need to manage increasingly diverse teams, in terms of both demographic and cognitive diversity. This can produce excellent results but is hard to get right.
  • Individualism; We face the paradox that teamwork is key but there has been a decline in connectedness and a rise of individualism in society. (2.3)
  • Mental health; Once a taboo subject, discussing mental health is becoming normalised. Employees expect this to be top of mind for those that lead them.
  • Change: Organisational structures are adapting to the digital world and the need to become more agile or flexible. This requires more cross functional team working where many of us are members of multiple teams.

We need to help managers forge team identity in this complex environment. Collectively these circumstances make it tougher than ever for leaders to build cohesive, trusting and effective teams.

Using the 3 Gets

The 3 Gets is a model describing three stages of team maturity. It’s highly actionable and evidence based. In particular it’s designed for teams that need to collaborate to reach a shared goal, rather than groups of people that may be managed by one person but have individual goals and tasks.

The 3 Gets diagnostic can provide a quick sense check as to where the main challenges are in the team. A natural place to start is to Get Set as many of the more complex team issues are solved by clarity on goals, roles & responsibilities.

Of course teams rarely develop in a linear, logical fashion, they will make progress across all three stages all at once. However, the model provides a route forward that will help teams reflect on their situation and understand where there are opportunities to improve.

Get Set

This stage is all about creating clarity and alignment on team goals and the roles and responsibilities of team members in achieving those goals.The team generates clarity and security upfront by making collective commitments, thereby ‘setting itself up’ to succeed.

Getting Set is not a one-off event. The team will require regular resetting. The leader and team will need to check in regularly as context and team membership change. It’s helpful to set up a regular routine to check-in on these foundations:

  • Agreeing the team purpose (4);
  • Defining shared goals of the team (5);
  • Ensuring there are clear plans or strategies to achieve the goals
  • Aligning stakeholder interests and communicating with them effectively
  • Agreeing the target behaviours the team expects from itself (6);
  • Agreeing meetings are effective in terms of amount, frequency, invitees etc;
  • Ensuring roles and responsibilities are clear (7)

The team leader can significantly increase chances of team success by making these commitments at the start of the journey, as they collectively accelerate the building of trust (8).

Get Safe

This stage is all about building psychological safety and trust. Psychological safety is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes(9). Trust is a belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something (9, 10). We might consider three C’s of trust:

  • we trust that team members care;
  • we trust their competence; and
  • we trust their consistency.

Psychological safety and trust are essential for effective collaboration. It’s important so that we can freely express our opinions, make contributions, challenge and speak up when we have concerns. Trust drives better decisions and creates innovation (11). Developing trust is essential for getting the best out of a diverse team. The elements of Get Safe are:

  • Developing an inclusive culture so diverse team members are accepted (12)
  • Ensuring the team remain curious; asking intelligent and genuine questions
  • Ensuring strong active listening is adopted in conversations
  • Ensuring we show vulnerability; that we disclose and ask for help when needed
  • Creating a culture and processes to reflect regularly as a team (14, 15)
  • Providing open, honest feedback and having a healthy attitude to learning from mistakes (16, 17).

Getting Set lays the groundwork for Getting Safe; agreeing goals, purpose and plans is a powerful way to start building safety and team trust (18, 19, 20). It is easier to build safety if we have clear, collective commitments in place (21, 22). We can reference back to these clear commitments and make adjustments as necessary.

Building trust and safety takes time. One of the benefits of enduring teams (21, 22) is this knowledge of each other and the trust and safety created. But in the modern organisation, teams often form and disband quickly. Taking time to Get Set can provide a jump start. However, we also need mechanisms to develop safety that we can practically integrate into our working life.

Get Strong

This stage is about stretching the team to achieve the highest standards. It involves leveraging the benefits of the clarity achieved in Get Set and the safety achieved in Get Safe, to enable effective team and inter-team collaboration to take place. The team forms strong, collaborative relationships defined by constructive and assertive interactions. The team holds itself to high-standards and is willing to challenge each other and ask tough questions when standards are not being met.

It will be much easier to benefit from Strong behaviours if we have already got Set and Safe. The clarity achieved through Getting Set means we know where, why and how to collaborate. The psychological safety and trust between team mates enables us to challenge constructively. The areas to master to get Strong are:

  • Influencing effectively; understanding difference between our positions and interests; (23)
  • Being decisive (especially with those who share goals, without unnecessary referral up the chain)
  • Volunteering clear commitments to achieve goals; holding each other accountable for those commitments; (24)
  • Contributing to team resilience by being positive and keeping emotions and self -belief in check (25)
  • Be prepared to experiment and take risks to innovate and to tackle blockages (9)


Getting Strong allows us to collaborate well and share knowledge. It creates success and value from strong, robust but respectful interactions, within the team and with other teams.

Summary: using with teams

These same basic principles apply for all teams that are working towards a shared goal. There are many different types: leadership teams, cross functional teams, project teams or teams set up to solve a specific problem.

For enduring, intact teams this might mean spending a little more time to develop strong foundations through CoachBot sessions. Often a team might not have time for a 2-day offsite but a well structured one hour conversation to discuss team purpose can be invaluable.

Fast moving project teams may need an even lighter touch approach. Using a one-page canvas or exercise from the toolbox. However, the same basic principles apply. Once we have mastered the key activities to get set, get safe and get strong we will be able to apply course corrections with a lightness of touch in all team situations.

The 3 Gets framework is both simple and intuitive to understand but also evidence based and robust - that’s why teams use it and love it.

References

1.     Wageman, R., Nunes, D. A., Burruss, J. A., & Hackman, J. R. (2008). Senior leadership teams: What it takes to make them great.Harvard Business Review Press.

2.     Kets de Vries, M. F. (2018). Living in the ‘I’ World. Kets de Vries, Manfred F.R., Living in the 'I' World (December 13, 2018). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2018/56/EFE. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3300601

3.     Twenge, J. M., Campbell, W. K., & Gentile, B. (2013). Changes in pronoun use in American books and the rise of individualism, 1960-2008. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 44(3), 406-415. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022112455100

4.     CIPD. (2009). Shared purpose and sustainable organisation performance. Research Insight, 2-14.

5.     Aube, C. & Roussea, V. (2005). Team Goal Commitment and Team Effectiveness: The Role of Task Interdependence and Supportive Behaviors. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 9(3), 189–204. Available at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/

6.     Celani, A., Tasa, K., & Schat, A.C.H. (2010). We’re all in this together: Examining Associations Between Collectivistic Group Norms, Collective Efficacy And Team Performance. Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings, 1(1), 1-6.https://doi.org/10.5465/ambpp.2010.54497579

7.     Mickan, S., & Rodger, S. (2002). Characteristics of effective teams: a literature review. Australian Health Review, 23(3), 201-208.https://doi.org/10.1071/AH000201

8.     Treviño, L. K., Brown, M., & Hartman, L. P. (2003). A Qualitative Investigation of Perceived Executive Ethical Leadership: Perceptions from Inside and Outside The Executive Suite. Human Relations, 56(1), 5-37.https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726703056001448

9.     Edmondson, A. (2003). Psychological safety, trust and learning in organisations: A group- level lens. Trust and distrust in organizations: Dilemmas and approaches, 12, 239-272. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/

10.  Mayfield, Tombaugh, & Lee (2016). Psychological Collectivism and Team Effectiveness: Moderating Effects of Trust And Psychological Safety. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, 20(1), 78-94. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net

11.  Sankowska, A. (2013). Relationships between organizational trust, knowledge transfer, knowledge creation, and firm’s innovativeness. The Learning Organization, 20(1), 85–100. https://doi.org/10.1108/09696471311288546

12.  Rehn, A. (2019). Innovation for the Fatigued: How to Build a Culture of Deep Creativity. Kogan Page Ltd.

14.  Cauwelier, P. (2019). Building high-performance teams through action learning. Action Learning: Research and Practice, 16(1), 68-76. https://doi.org/10.1080/14767333.2019.1562693

15.  Cauwelier, P., Ribiere, V. M., & Bennet, A. (2019). The influence of team psychological safety on team knowledge creation: a study with French and American engineering teams. Journal of Knowledge Management, 23(6), 1157-1175. https://doi.org/10.1108/JKM-07-2018-0420

16.  Levine, E. E., Roberts, A. R., & Cohen, T. R. (2020). Difficult Conversations: Navigating the Tension between Honesty and Benevolence. Current Opinion in Psychology (in press). https://psyarxiv.com/3rwm7/

17.  Yang, I. (2019). What makes an effective team? The role of trust (dis) confirmation in team development. European Management Journal, 32(6), 858-869. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.emj.2014.04.001

18.  Savolainen, T., Ivakko, E., & Ikonen, M. (2017). Trust development in workplace relations during change: A multi-level analysis of narratives from leaders and followers. In: Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Management, Leadership and Governance, ICMLG 2017, Wits Business School, University of Witwatersrand Johannesburg, South Africa, 16-17 March. Zanele, N. Mokoteli, T. (Eds.). Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited (ACPI Ltd.). Reading, UK. pp. 393-400.

19.  Serrat, O. (2017). Building Trust in the Workplace. In O. Serrat (Ed.), Knowledge Solutions. Tools, Methods, and Approaches to Drive Organizational Performance (pp. 627-632). Springer, Singapore https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-0983-9_69

20.  Truxillo, D. M., Bauer, T., & Erdogan, B. (2016). Psychology and Work : Perspectives on Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Routledge.

21.  Jug, R., Jiang, X. S., & Bean, S. M. (2018). Giving and receiving effective feedback: A review article and how-to guide. Archives of pathology & laboratory medicine, 143(2), 244-250. https://doi.org/10.5858/arpa.2018-0058-RA

22.  Telio S, Ajjawi R, & Regehr G. (2015). The ‘‘educational alliance’’ as a framework for reconceptualizing feedback in medical education. Academic Medicine : Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 90(5), 609– 614. https://doi.org/10.1097/ACM.0000000000000560

23. Ury and Fisher Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In 1981 non-fiction book. Subsequent editions in 1991 and 2011 added Bruce Patton as co-author. All of the authors were members of the Harvard Negotiation Project

24. Koffman, Fred Conscious Business: How to build value through values.

25. McEwen, K., & Boyd, C. M. (2018). Measure of Team Resilience Developing the Resilience at Work Team Scale.JOEM Volume 60, Number 3, March 2018


A note on the development of 3 Gets Model

We found there was an appetite for a model that was accessible for teams “out of the box”. Some of the teams that use Coachbot also access a human coach - particularly more senior teams. But many teams use CoachBot to support the team development as a pure digital solution. We therefore collaborated with the Leap Partnership to develop an intuitive model that teams could use on a self service basis.

This resulted in the 3 Gets framework which is part of the 4 Gets Leap Model. Over a period of 5 years, a team of 5 psychologists at Leap have scanned, collated, studied and extracted the secrets to running a successful team from literally thousands of scientific journals.

A note on other models of team development

There are a number of other useful and respected models for team development. CoachBot can be used in conjunction with any well researched framework. Many of the “building blocks” will be similar but the framing would change. If you’d like to discuss integrating your own team development model into Coachbot get in touch.

Respected models of team development that CoachBot can support include:  

  • Peter Hawkins: 5 Disciplines model
  • Tuckman: Forming, norming, storming and performing
  • Ruth Wageman: 6 Conditions of team effectiveness
  • Patrick Lencioni: Five Dysfunctions of a Team
  • David Clutterbuck: PERIL Model


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