Dr Amy Climer

Episode 34: Three Elements of Successful Teams

Teams need to attend to three elements in order to be successful in their work: task, relationship, and process. Balancing and attending to these three can lead to high functioning, creative, successful teams. This episode explains what each of these are and how to attend to all three.

What You’ll Learn

  • The difference between task, relationship, and process for teams
  • Why teams need to attend to task, relationship, and process, but not at exactly the same time.

Resources Mentioned in the Episode

The Weekly Challenge

Take a look at the team(s) you are in. Where can they make the most improvement – in task, relationship, or in process? Talk with your team about the importance of each of these and dialogue about how you can improve to make the team even stronger.


Feel like reading instead of listening? You can read it below. Enjoy!

Amy Climer: Welcome to The Deliberate Creative Podcast Episode 34. Today’s episode is about the three elements each team needs in order to be successful. I want to explain these three and then want to have you take some time to reflect to think about which of these three do we have and are we doing well in our team,  and which do we need to work on? So here they are: task, relationship, and process.

So let me explain each of those and talk about what they mean and what they look like. We are going to start with Task.

Tasks [1:09]

In some ways task is the easiest and most obvious. Task just means what are we doing as a team, what is our purpose, what do we need to get accomplished, what do we need to finish. That is our task. Let’s say we are marketing team, we’re trying to figure out which slogan we need for a new campaign. That’s our task to figure that out. Whether to come up with a new slogan, whether to evaluate existing option, our task is to make a decision on which slogan. Another example of a task might be that you are planning a conference. Your task is to plan that conference and to put on an amazing, awesome conference for your clients and your customers. That’s the task at hand. Most teams understand tasks, understand that, “yeah, we have something to get done, we have something to do.” Of course, understanding  and doing it are often two different things and so some teams do struggle with being successful in getting their tasks done. Part of the reason may be because of the other two, relationship and process. When you think about these task, relationship, and process, imagine a Venn diagram. A Venn diagram is when you have circles that all overlap each other. At the very center where all three circles overlap, that would be an amazing team. The cover image for this episode has a Venn Diagram on it.

So we already talked about task, the next one is relationship.

Relationship [2:37]  

Relationship means the relationships between the team members and how we relate to each other.  The relationship also is who are we as a collective? Who are we as a team?  How do we use each other’s strengths? Do we know each other well enough and even recognize each other’s different strengths and weaknesses and where we might complement each other? Teams need to know each other well enough in order to know this information about each other and then be able to figure out how do we make all this mesh well together? Building a relationship is an important part of a team’s work together.  Sometimes what I’ve seen is due to different personalities there are some people on teams that love building relationships. They get so excited if there’s an ice breaker activity, or if we are doing a share out where everybody gets to share. Other team members get frustrated because they feel like the most important is getting the tasks done. The reality is that you need both. You need to spend enough time on each of those in order to do your job well. I don’t want to say you need to spend equal time because it always depends on where the team is at, what’s the task at hand, what are the relationships like? That’s going to really ebb and flow. There may be times that you wanted to spend a little more energy and time on relationships, and then there are other times that you need to spend more energy and time at getting the job done and doing those tasks that you have to accomplish. If you exclude one or the other, you are going to have a challenge. We can come back to that in a moment.

Now when I talk about relationships, like I mentioned, it is about understanding each other and being able to work well together. It does not necessarily mean that you have to be best friends,  and spend all your weekends together. No, that’s not necessary. I mean if that happens and if that works for the team, great! That’s awesome, more power to you. It just means that there needs to be some respect amongst the team, there needs to be positive team dynamics. It means you need  to be comfortable having some conflict with each other, which we have talked about in a couple of  previous episodes, specifically Episode 23 when I talked about how conflicts impacts creativity. There also needs to be an element of trust. In Episode 28 I talked about how to build trust within a team. All of these are important factors to relationships within the team.

Ok, so we have tasks and relationships.

Process [5:20]

The third element that’s important is process. Process means how do you approach tasks and relationship? How is it that you get to where you want to be? So process might include, how do we get things done? What is the meeting’s structure? What techniques will we use to make decisions? Are we focusing on a democratic process or a consensus based process? Ideally, a team is being intentional and selecting the process that makes the most sense for the situation. There are times where a consensus decision making process makes a lot of sense because you want to have that really strong buy-in from every person and you also have the time. Consensus takes time. There are other times where perhaps a democratic process makes more sense. Maybe if there is a decision where it is not really a high stake decision like we are voting on a color of shirt for our softball team. “Well it is between blue and green. Let’s do a quick vote.” It is not a big of a deal if you do not  get your first choice, you are probably still going to be happy wearing the shirt and participating in the softball team. Cool. That’s not a high stake decision. A democratic process make a lot of sense there.

There are other times where more of the authoritarian decision making process makes sense. It is where the leaders are making a decision on their own. Again, whichever process you use can work, but what is important is the people understand the process and you are being intentional  about choosing which process is being used and why.


I think sometimes team members do not put enough thought into the type of process that is going to be used. They just select something they have seen or done in the past, maybe without understanding why it might work, or why it may be a good fit,  or a bad fit. Spending some time learning and understanding process can be really valuable for a team, particularly a team leader. You know different teams will handle this differently. For some teams the team leader will make this decision and present the process to the group. In other teams it might make sense for the entire team to work together to figure out like “what is the process we want for our meetings?  What’s the structure we want? Do we want to have an opening inclusion activity where we do share something related to the topic. Do we want to just dive in, or how can we build relationships within our team? What can we incorporate into our team meetings to build those relationships?”  So you can see that the type of process you use and how you approach process, can impact the relationship building process and the success of getting the tasks done. All three,  task, relationship, and process, are very important to the success of the team.


In my experience, what I have seen, if you ignore one of those three, the team tends to suffer. They tend to either not be productive, or the productivity is very short lived and people are not very creative. They are not very invested or they are not just getting anything done. They are sort of wandering and they are not going towards a clear path. So paying attention to task, relationship, and process is important. The other thing I have noticed with teams is that usually, there are certain people because of their communication styles, their personalities who have a preference for one or more of these. Some people are really good at focusing on tasks and some people are really good at focusing on relationship, others might be really be good at focusing on process. A high functioning team can recognize those different strengths and perhaps even invite for instance, the person who is good in relationship to take the lead on that. “Could you help us develop a good relationships amongst our team? Can you help us set up some structures and processes for that?” The task person can help the group stay on task so we do not go all over the place and we do not  get caught up in the relationship building at the expense of forgetting about the task and our main purpose. Same thing with the process person. The process person may be able to see things differently or be able to make suggestions that can really benefit the team. The most successful team, those who are highly functioning recognize the different strengths. Even if say, I am the person that really  focused on tasks I can recognize  that  “Oh I might not see the relationship piece or the process piece so when those suggestions are made, I want to make sure that I acknowledge those and bring those in and provide that space for them.” Actually, if you have never been a part of a really highly functioning team, it can be so amazing. Particularly if you see how people respect each other,  how they allow the different personalities to emerge and to support the whole team functioning. It is so exciting, it is so amazing!  If you have had that experience, think back: were you focusing on task, relationship or process? All three of those? When did you focus more one over the other? How did you make that shift?


I just started reading “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan and it’s an excellent book, highly recommend it. I’m only about a third all the way through, but he is talking about the fallacy of multitasking. This has come out quite a bit lately that we can not actually multitask. We might think we can multitask, but when we do, when we try to do two or more things at the same time, we tend to do both poorly. When people are multitasking, actually what they are doing is they are task switching. So they are moving back and forth between two different tasks very quickly. We can only focus on one thing at a time. I say this because within your team it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to actually focus on all three of these things at the same time. To focus on task, relationship and process at the same time is difficult. There will be times where you want to basically switch and you want to switch where your focus is. This could happen very quickly, or it could be “Hey let’s spend half an hour really focusing on relationship and let’s explore each other’s strengths a bit more” Or, let’s do something like FourSight which is the tool I talked about in Episode 8 when I interviewed Blair Miller. He talked about the power of using a tool like FourSight to understand each other’s strength around creative problem solving. Maybe that is a tool that you spend some time using to build relationships which in turn will help you build your productivity and your success at tasks. Another piece of the process is the creative problem solving process which I have talked about many times in these podcasts, but particularly Episodes 3- 7 where I go in depth. That is an example of a process that  you may choose to use if it fits what you are looking at, if you are trying to be more creative, if you are trying to come up with new ideas. Look at that process and maybe then that is the ideal process for you to use. So my point is you want to pay attention to task, relationship, and process because you need all three of those in your team, but you can not pay attention to all those at the same moment. So you have to essentially switch back and forth. Which one you are paying attention to is based on your needs and based on where your team is at in its own development, or based on your deadlines or other tasks that are going on.

The Weekly Challenge [13:21]

Think about a team that you are a part of. Think about a work team or think about even a sports team or any group of people that you spent time with. What do you focus on in that team? Let’s take for instance for a work team. Do you equally focus on task, relationship and process? Which do you feel is lacking within your team? Are you too heavily focused on process and trying to figure out what approach you are going to use for something, maybe to the extent where you are not focusing on actually doing the task that you are going to use the process for? Do you spend so much time focused on the task that you do not have relationships with each other and there is no level of respect amongst the team? Or do you spend too much time on relationship that your meetings actually are not that productive and you do not really get much done. I have been a part of teams that were like that. It is easy to happen especially if people do get along and they do enjoy each others company. So think about where can your team grow? Where do you need to spend more time? Talk with your team this week. Present this concept of task, relationship and process. Perhaps draw a Venn diagram up on a white board labelling each of the three circles task, relationship and process and ask your team what they think?  Explain the definition and engage in the conversation about “Where do you think we are at?” Do you feel that we are doing this equally? Where can we spend more time on? See where that conversation goes. It might be surprising in a really good way. So I hope that is helpful. I hope that gives you some ideas about the importance of balancing these three elements within the team. As I said before the teams that I have worked with are really successful and are really high functioning they are doing a great job of focusing on these three. Even if they do not know what the language is, they have figured out how to focus on task, relationships and process.


Good luck to you this week. Go out and have that conversation with your team if you can.  At the very least reflect alone by yourself, but hopefully you will have that conversation with other members of the team. Help your team grow. I think that is one of the responsibilities of every team member – to help your team grow and become better at what we do. Good luck everyone. I hope this was helpful. If you have not yet, I would encourage and invite you to go to iTunes page and write a review for The Deliberate Creative Podcast. I welcome your honest and sincere review. There have been a number of five stars review up there which I am so thankful for. Let me know what you think because that gives me more ideas and that helps makes this podcast even better. You can also find me on Twitter @amyclimer. You can find me on Facebook at Climer Consulting. This week’s show notes you can find at climerconsulting.com/034. Thank you everyone have a wonderful week and I will see you next time. Bye.

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Rave Reviews

  • Amy Inspires Creativity Growth in Everyone
    January 5, 2022 by cjpowers7 from United States

    Amy Climer’s show helps all of us grow our creative muscles. She is authentic and cares about her listeners. Amy empowers us with tools that work in the office, training sessions, and our communities. The best part is her ability to make what feels out of reach, something that can be accomplished with simple steps forward.

  • A great way to get inspired!!
    March 8, 2021 by binglish from United States

    Love listening to Amy’s podcast! Her guests are awesome and conversations are full of inspiring information.

  • A must for people who want to think better
    May 26, 2019 by Dhensch from United States

    Amy Climer hit a home run with this podcast and continues to get hits with every episode. I was hooked with the first one and binge-listened to the four solo episodes about the Creative Problem Solving process. Her knowledge of the subject of creativity and innovation is incredibly deep. And, she makes it easy for others to learn and apply. I have listened to other "expert" podcasts and Amy's is different in that she holds nothing back. Episode after episode offer practical insights, tips and tools. She has a generosity of spirit that is contagious.

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