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Ep. 85: Team Better Together with Bernard Desmidt

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Bernard Desmidt


Bernard Desmidt is an accomplished Coach, Facilitator, Speaker and Author. His first book is called; Inside Out Leadership: How to master the 4 Principles of Effective Leadership and become the Leader that others will follow. His second book is called: Team Better Together and is the subject of the Podcast. Bernard was born in South Africa and he lived there until he was 38 and then he emigrated to Australia where he now lives with his wife and children.


Podcast Episode Summary

To flourish as a team is a choice. It takes discipline and in this episode Bernard Desmidt helps us appreciate the 5 disciplines teams can apply to get at impactful results & meaningful relationships. In addition Bernard litters this episode with nuggets of wisdom and incites to help understand the work of teaming better together.


Points made over the episode

  • Bernard starts this podcast by sharing a story of his background that he has only recently shared publicly.
  • 3 African expressions inform his way of being and working today
  • Sibona –a Zulu word for hello, which means “I see you and by seeing you, I bring you into being. By seeing each other is this way we hold each other with respect, dignity and legitimacy
  • Ubuntu- Means to affirm an others humanity, by recognising their uniqueness and their differences. This expression acknowledges our interconnectedness
  • Hambi Gashi – means “Go well, gently in peace and carefully.
  • Bernard spent 20 years in corporate life with companies like ICI and Goodyear in South Africa where he recognised the considerable waste of time on teams and the inherent dysfunction that often resides with teams
  • After an outburst on an executive team, where Bernard was a member, the team engaged in Team Coaching. That was where Bernard met Peter Stephenson, a pioneer in team coaching in Australia at the time. Bernard recognised that he had found the work he was meant to do in the world and joined Peter’s company.
  • The motivation to write Teams Better Together was born out of Bernard’s experience working with teams.
  • The Paradox -The 80-60-20 heuristic shares that 80% of Leaders spend 60% or their organisational life on teams and only 20% of those teams flourish.
  • High performing teams are elusive because Teams rise and fall by the quality of their relationships and until this is understood it is unlikely teams will co-ordinate wall and relate well together to get impactful results.
  • It is important to invite teams to share their lived experience on teams to assess the quality of lived relationships – do team members hold each other with the same respect as they wish for themselves? Are they open to learning together? Is there sufficient trust and safety to speak concerns openly and honestly? These are some of the questions that can be asked to determine the quality of relations on teams
  • Bernard administers an assessment against 5 disciplines. Two indicators in the fifth discipline score the lowest
  • Team Behaviour & shared ways of working have been identified & consistently upheld
  • Team members are open to receiving & giving feedback to each other on performance and behaviours
  • The practice of observing a team in action whilst sitting in the corner of a room can often be the best form of due diligence of the effectiveness of a team.
  • To flourish as a team is a choice. A High Performing Team is like an elite athlete, they employ rigorous discipline
  • Teams are living systems that need to evolve, learn and adapt.
  • Teams need to be able and willing to open themselves up to new ways of thinking, being and doing
  • Teams need to acknowledge their interdepended nature, to know that relationships matter and have to be cultivated and will impact the impact of their results.
  • 4 Team Types are distinguishable with discernment.
  • Two dysfunctional teams reveal themselves as combative or competitive
  • Two functional teams can be identified as Cohesive and Collaborative or Flourishing.
  • There exists a subtle distinctions worth prising apart for our understanding.
  • Cohesive Teams converge thinking similarly, they enjoy harmony often cordial hypocrisy, they often avoid speaking the truth or sharing their real concerns. Cohesive teams have a dysfunctional relationship with Conflict, Challenge and Critic.
  • A Collaborative Team seeks divergence in thinking They are more comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. Collaborative teams dance with conflict. Collaborative teams have a positive relationship with Conflict, Challenge and Criticism. Care underpins their search for the best results and best thinking.
  • The work starts with an inordinate and unashamedly strong focus on the analysis phase. Bernard is keen to establish real commitment for the work of Teaming better together. He will do this in a few ways, by conducting in depth 1:1 conversations with each member of the team and by administering his own questionnaire against the 5 disciplines. The result is a discussion with the team that informs the work.
  • Team Building is about forming. Where a team gets to know each other. Team Development is about informing where a team learns about decision making, processes for team co-ordination etc.. Team Coaching is about transformation where a team shift their mindset, ways of being and doing, the assessments they make & how they show up for each other.
  • Team Coaching, or a typical program of work is about 7-8 months long.
  • The work involves the assessment phase, contracting, 5 day long workshops, peer coaching and individual coaching of the CEO and others on the team
  • The Five Disciplines can be described as follows;
  1. Discipline One- The Mandate. Often the mandate is assumed. Here the team discovers how their stakeholders appreciate the team, what they need more from the team and what they find difficult.
  2. Discipline Two- A Teams Purpose. Teams exist for a reason, they serve a cause and have a clear, compelling and challenging “WHY”
  3. Discipline Three – The team design This is where the team designs its culture, the ways of working, the health of team relations and the bulk of time is spent in this discipline. The work of Gloria Kelly is introduced here. Gloria Kelly is an eminent sociologist and determined 8 elements to support effective relations. Bernard has employed her work and tweaked her model to include 5 elements to support ways of being and 3 elements to support ways of doing together. Trust, Respect, Concerns, Moods & Appreciation comprise the 5 being elements and Co-ordination, Conversations & Alignment comprise the 3 doing elements.
  4. Discipline Four- This is the discipline to deliver. What are the collective performance goals that can only be delivered by the team working interpedently? In this discipline the work of Michael Bungay Steiner is employed where a team discerns between Bad Work, Good Work and Great Work
  5. Discipline Five- Team Learning & Development. This discipline involves the team giving each other feedback on performance and behaviours, reflecting on work together and developing skills and knowledge to support the teams results. This discipline has the highest predictive validity that the team will flourish.
  • An exercise for Appreciation: Here the team sits in a round and for two minutes each team member is afforded a piece of appreciation from the other team members
  • The Sequence of Learning for a team follows the 5 disciplines over time. Discipline 5 and 3 are being weaved from the beginning.
  • The gift of 1’s and 5’s is offered at the start of the assignment where Bernard encourages team members to be firm giving 1’s for development and 5’s for excellence where 3 is considered cowardly.
  • Bernard concludes the Podcast conversation by sharing a story of a client in retail who by following the rhythm of the 5 disciplines managed to move from floundering to flourishing through Covid.
  • The Podcast ends on a hopeful note & Bernard wishes that teams who chose to flourish can enjoy the results of wonderful relationships and impactful results.


Resources shared


  • Team Better Together by Bernard Desmidt
  • Inside Out Leadership: How to Master the 4 Principles of Effective Leadership and become the Leader others chose to follow
  • Do more Great work by Michael Bungay Stanier


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