High Performing Teams

CLIMB Case Study: Building a high-performing global team

In this case study, we describe the challenges faced by a leading Financial Services provider, and how the MatchFit CLIMB model was used to deliver the objective of building a culture of trust and positive team relationships.


Managing a virtual global team of 40 people presents many challenges, even for an experienced leader. The Head of Marketing managed a team of very capable individuals working globally, but there were a number of ingrained behaviours across the team that needed to be addressed.

Lack of face-to-face interaction, together with working across cultures, time zones and with different nationalities created challenges that were difficult to manage. This resulted in mistrust among team members, a lack of team identity, poor collaboration and communication, and not having a sense of control over the collective agenda.

Aware that there were some complex personalities in their leadership team, the Head of Marketing recognised this as an opportunity to develop the team further. She sought a professional development solution that would enhance trust and drive increased collaboration and high performance at an individual and team level.


MatchFit’s expertise in working with global and virtual teams meant we were able to create a bespoke programme (CLIMB – Building a High Performing Global Team) that would deliver against defined success criteria:

  • Engender a sense of trust among the team by exploring and resolving issues
  • Support the development of a team identity which embraces the dynamic of ‘I have your back’
  • Explore individual and team collaboration and identify measurable progression
  • Ensure control and governance over the collective agenda
  • Develop commitment, intensity and motivation towards the above objectives through a development pathway.


Due to the virtual nature of the team, some of the sessions were conducted remotely and materials were available through a cloud platform. The marketing leadership team followed the three-phase MatchFit Development Pathway over a two-year period, which ensured careful analysis, design, delivery and measurement.

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Working with senior leaders and the wider team 

  • Focused on the ‘Identify’ and ‘Innovate’ phases which included:
  • Base Camp team workshop
  • Online survey
  • Interviews with managers and team individuals, including reflective feedback
  • Development of bespoke training modules.

Base Camp team workshop

A face-to-face offsite workshop for 40 people focused on the challenges and good practice of working in global and virtual teams. It generated conversations around some of the challenges and focused on what the team could do to move forward in order to build trust, identity, collaboration and gain a sense of control.

Online Survey

Post Base Camp, we conducted an online survey across the whole team, asking a series of questions relating to:

  • Their objectives and the challenges they thought were blockers to success
  • What support they might need to unlock those challenges
  • What development they might need to take them to the next level of maturity in their career.

Interviews with managers and team individuals, including reflective feedback

A series of interviews at a senior leader and team level were carried out to dig even deeper. This helped identify individuals’ development areas and we were able to reflect back what their line manager thought they were, to see if they were aligned.

Development of training modules

Based on all the research and feedback gained, we designed 10 training modules that could be delivered virtually to address the key development areas that had been identified. Examples included: building trust, collaboration and your role, developing your leadership style, black box thinking etc.


Working with the senior leadership team

Based on the ‘Initiate’ phase of the MatchFit Development Pathway, the key areas of focus below were agreed with the aim of strengthening relationships, collaboration and communication. In particular, unlocking tension between specific individuals within the team was also highlighted as an objective:

  • Leadership team dynamics
  • Individuals within it and their styles
  • Supporting the team through change.

This was delivered through:

  • Leadership team group sessions – setting personal commitments to change
  • One to one coaching including targeted development work with individuals to address behaviours that impact negatively on the team dynamic
  • Sensitive coaching and intervention work with individuals at a lower and more senior level to unlock tensions.


“A lot of the time, this kind of support feels like a ‘nice to have’ when you have a certain amount of budget for CPD. But what I would say now, going into year three, it has to be there. It’s enormously helpful to me as a leader and the people on my team. I don’t think we would want to do without this support. The coaching support I received has helped me navigate some of the complex personalities in my team who all demand a different approach.” Head of Marketing

The impact of CLIMB – Building a High Performing Global Team has been a success story for the Marketing team. The Head of Marketing has seen a dramatic difference across all of the team and in some individuals in particular. In the 2018 company Employee Survey, the marketing team’s Leadership Survey results were the best in the whole business by quite some measure and better than the ‘Best in Class’ external benchmark.

The programme leader and coach, was viewed as an external sounding board and ‘critical friend’ who helped team members focus on their goals and put strategies in place to address their development needs. The Head of Marketing was able to gain an external and independent view of their team.

In relation to the objectives set out at the beginning of the programme, success can be demonstrated in all areas:

Engender a sense of trust among the team by exploring and resolving issues

  • A significant shift is now evident regarding the level of trust within the team. Individuals are instantly more open and honest with each other about ‘work stuff’, so issues can be resolved before they escalate.
  • The team are now more open about sharing accountability across some of the delivery areas and less protective of their ‘turf’
  • The Head of Marketing has gained more trust with their team by empowering staff to manage the agenda on projects.

Support the development of a team identity which embraces the dynamic of ‘I have your back’

  • Most team members have ‘dusted off their sharp edges’ and are now demonstrating collective trust and accountability across marketing projects relating to a number of vendors and internal stakeholders.

To explore individual and team collaboration and identify measurable progression in this area

  • Three team members working together on the customer experience agenda have demonstrated great collaboration, trust and accountability which is delivering benefits to their customers.
  • As a result of the personal one-to-one coaching and intervention work, one individual has made the biggest change in their approach and behaviour, unlocking tensions within the team which has been noticed by the Executive team.

Ensure control and governance over the collective agenda

  • The one-to-one coaching sessions were extremely helpful in enabling team members to have a private space to talk about what was stopping them from doing/achieving certain things, and this has been helpful in guiding the collective agenda.

“There are a lot of facilitators and coaches who run programmes, but Bradley builds trust and engagement. He is not superior towards people, he comes down to people’s levels and that openness is what leads to results. People are not scared of being vulnerable with him – he is independent and not part of a big organisation” Head of Marketing

Do you have a team challenge we can help with?

Please contact Bradley Honnor:

EMAIL: [email protected] TEL: +44 (0)20 3145 0580

Is competition holding the team back?

Most of us will have witnessed this scenario at some point in our working lives: the goals are defined, team members are talented, capable, motivated, and ambitious. And yet – the team isn’t achieving its potential. All that ambition and energy is being delivered in different directions.

Whilst competition within a business can be healthy, it can also be the source—or symptom—of a deeper conflict within teams. Such conflict is something we come across quite regularly when delivering our programmes for clients, and there are a number of reasons why that can happen.

For a start, if people within a team are prioritising their own personal agenda over the team agenda, then that’s certainly something which can sabotage team performance. We see this a lot in senior management teams when egos get in the way, when a lot of time is spent in battle with colleagues rather than trying to work together and collaborate.

Sometimes, the competition is more passive-aggressive. An issue we come across is that people will say ‘yes’ when they mean ‘no’. In a meeting with the team, everyone nods their head and commits to their actions, but some will have no intention of supporting that action and will even report back to their own team that this strategy is not going to work.

There is a degree of competitiveness that is inherent in human nature which might be an underlying factor. It’s the responsibility of a leader, then, to address this culture of disruption. The problem, however, is that leaders have often achieved their position due to their competitiveness, and much of this disruption can actually occur within the senior teams.

An example we’ve seen recently involved a long-term strategy that was due to be rolled out across an organisation. Within the senior leadership team, two or three members objected to the concept, and sabotaged the process by pulling the plan apart in an unhelpful way. As a result, that strategy was abandoned, resulting in indecision about how they might move forward.  Those individuals have since left the team!

Business culture can clearly be quite individualistic. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but in the type of work we do, we look at those dynamics and help people to understand when this can be a disruptive element of team relationships. While a degree of competitiveness can be positive, it can also be a symptom of something deeper going wrong within an organisation. Sometimes, people are so dissatisfied with their role, they are just looking to be heard. They might feel their opinion wasn’t sought in the first place, and so haven’t engaged in the idea. This can be a symptom of people misunderstanding what they need to be competing on or knowing who they need to be competing with.

For instance, why would the marketing director compete with the sales director? Clearly the collaboration between those people would be more effective than competing for recognition. If they were both competing to be the best in their role, then the organisation benefits.

Even within departments, competition can happen. For instance, in sales, it is often about who gets the leads or makes the sale, and it’s actively encouraged. That’s good and healthy, but it can cause destructive rivalry as well. It’s something that needs addressing directly to recognise the origins – for example, a fear of someone else’s success, or of not getting the credit; anger at being overlooked for a role, or reason for a success.

It’s a complex dynamic, but we see it an awful lot, and it really affects the performance of teams. In contrast, when you look at high-performing sports teams, the need for individual glory usually takes a back seat to the success of the team.

So what steps can be taken to mirror this in a business context?

It starts with having direct conversations. That’s very often the most critical part of the work we do with organisations. We look at the dynamics in the team and if people don’t get on with each other, then we need to understand what that’s really about. Having those conversations is fundamental, but often business teams aren’t doing it. They’ll talk about projects and tasks, and even objectives and goals for the team, but they don’t sit back and look at ‘how are we actually getting on together?’.

We can go into an organisation, and someone will say ‘Oh yeah, the manager and the deputy manager have got real issues with each other’. The staff know it, it’s been like that for a long time, but there’s no real plan to overcome it. It’s really quite interesting, because if those managers aren’t aligned, it has massive implications in terms of how things get communicated and followed through, and how people view the leadership. It can have a very negative ripple effect.

In some organisations, and indeed sectors, there is the problem of blame culture. The focus is on who is at fault rather than seeing things going wrong as an opportunity to improve. In such an environment, it’s natural to try and avoid being the one to be blamed, so problems get hidden, mistakes are made and issues don’t get found out quickly enough.

In a recent documentary on Boeing, this was illustrated very dramatically. Boeing had a reputation for quality and safety first – if an engineer raised a problem, they wouldn’t release the plane until that problem was solved.

But as the commercial drivers became more about pleasing the shareholders, more mistakes were happening. People were still speaking out, but they were told by management ‘we don’t want to know about that, stop causing trouble’. As a result, two planes crashed within five months of each other, which had never happened in the history of aviation, since the introduction of safety protocols.

Rather than working for the good of the company, the leadership were working on behalf of the shareholders, and indeed were themselves major shareholders. That agenda took Boeing from the most respected airline manufacturer in the world to being massively overtaken by Airbus.

Sometimes organisations can’t have these difficult conversations without external help and support, because generally people don’t like conflict. It can be uncomfortable raising issues, and it’s often easier or more of a priority to just get the job done. But this overlooks the benefits of improving those dynamics.  Getting that team working more effectively together impacts the overall success of the business.

A leader really needs to be able to address these dynamics, but like anything, there’s a skill in facilitating that. It’s not necessarily just the responsibility of a leader either – two members of the same team may be having an issue that is making them negatively competitive, but they may not have the skills to have it out with each other.

There are frameworks that can be implemented to address issues as they come up, but there is a skill to doing it, and it does require candour and trust. For example: we worked with a client who had a leader that was very unpopular in their organisation. We had to ask their team and colleagues ‘why don’t you like them; why are you cutting them out?’ We delivered some difficult feedback – they were considered to be rude, demanding, and difficult. That’s challenging to address and difficult to hear.

Of course, people don’t get on from time to time, and we find some people easier to get on with than others, but it’s part of our professional responsibilities to deal with that, to operate authentically. When a leader becomes aware of these situations, they really should address them as a performance issue.

But fundamental to this all happening successfully, is for people to be comfortable enough to change. That requires trust. With the work that we do, over a period of time, working both one-to-one and in the group, our consultants earn the trust and foster the trust of and between those individuals and that team. So then, at that point when potentially contentious changes are suggested, or the need to address certain dynamics are raised, people are ready to hear that message.

The founder of Person-Centred Therapy, Carl Rogers (1957), talks about creating the core conditions for personality change, which are empathy, congruence, and unconditional positive regard.  When you create these three conditions, it facilitates the foundation for the open communication and trust that ultimately enables positive change. We would argue that these are just as relevant to business psychology as to psychotherapy.


Rogers CR. The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. Psychotherapy (Chic). 2007 Sep;44(3):240-8. doi: 10.1037/0033-3204.44.3.240. PMID: 22122245.