Transformational Teams: Establishing a Culture to Foster Productivity, Cohesion, and Resilience

Presented by Ellen Burts-Cooper, PhD | Town Hall 2017 Highlights

How do you set up a team to be productive, cohesive, and resilient? Ellen Burts-Cooper answered this question in her 2017 Town Hall Breakout Session. Here is some of her practical advice and takeaways. You can explore these topics further in Burts-Cooper’s book, aMAZEing Organizational Teams.

What kind of foundation is your team building on?

Without the right foundation to build on, the rest doesn’t matter. A collaborative organizational culture requires a shift in mindset. These are four key components:

  1. “One boat.” Is everyone working toward the same goal? (Are you in the same boat?) If not, you’re missing the whole concept of collaboration.
  2. Know a game versus a championship. A game might be your organization’s day-to-day operations. The championship is something bigger for your organization. Individuals can win games, but it takes a team to win a championship.
  3. Realign when you have changes. The team needs to stay pointed in the same direction. Every time a change occurs, realign.
  4. “Check your cloud.” What you bring to the team matters. Do you go through your workday with a cloud over your head?
    • “Everybody complains about culture, but who creates it?”
    • “You can change culture the moment everybody intentionally and consistently does the same thing.”

The Seven Critical Attributes of a Team

1. Trust

“If you don’t build trust, the rest of the attributes don’t matter.”

Healthy trust leads to:

  • Confidence in the honesty and ability of others
  • Comfort in delegating tasks
  • Peace of mind when you’re away from the team

2. Appreciation

Appreciation is distinct from recognition. If we’re not appreciating our team, says Burts-Cooper, “forget about having an optimal level of collaboration.”

Burts-Cooper talks more about appreciating individual employees in this brief video.

3. Communication

Communication = Content (what you say) + Volume (how much you say at one time) + Frequency + How you deliver the message (mechanism + approach + audience + timing)

Watch Burts-Cooper’s short video Communicating with Our Teams for more.

4. Behavior

Use emotional intelligence to manage and deal with behavior. Bring self-awareness and self-regulation to the team.

  • “Your leadership is independent of the people around you”
  • If that were a YouTube video, how would you feel about it the next day?

5. Meeting Management

Meetings are a tool…stop blaming the tool.

“Should I hold this meeting?” Only if you can define:

  • Why you need to bring people together
  • What you want to get out of the meeting
  • Who needs to help you accomplish your meeting goals
  • How you’ll run the meeting (your strategy)
  • How long the meeting needs to be to accomplish your goals
  • When the best time to have it is
  • Where the best location is

6. Problem Solving and Decision Making

Let’s do some planning before we dive into the problem. (Click for a video)

7. Creativity and Ideation

“Open Minds Grow” (Click for a video)

  • Creativity is going to make you a little uncomfortable.
  • Be willing to fail.


About Ellen Burts-Cooper, PhD

Ellen Burts-Cooper, PhDDr. Ellen Burts-Cooper is the senior managing partner of Improve Consulting and Training Group, a firm that provides personal and professional development training, coaching and consultation. Improve has been featured in Time Magazine, Black Voices, Smart Business Magazine and Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Burts-Cooper is on faculty at Case Western Reserve University in the Weatherhead Executive Education Program and The Institute for Management Studies (IMS). She is the author of the books aMAZEing Organizational Teams: Navigating 7 Critical Attributes for Cohesion, Productivity and Resilience and Canine Instinct: A Guide to Survival and Advancement in Corporate America.  She also created the workshop curricula “Personal Positioning: Building Personal Brand Equity” and “Don’t Just Think Outside the Box, Make the Box Bigger.”

She earned a BS in chemistry from Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, AL, her PhD in organic/polymer chemistry from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, her MBA from the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Business and her Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt certification from 3M Company.

You can listen to Burts-Cooper on her segment, “Improve Your Day with Dr. Ellen,”  aired on Wavelengths, The Wave 107.3 Community Affairs Show.