The Loyalist Team

How Trust, Candor, and Authenticity Create Great Organizations


By Linda Adams

By Abby Curnow-Chavez

By Audrey Epstein

By Rebecca Teasdale

With Jody Berger

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$35.00 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 12, 2017. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Great teams are built and maintained with great intention, though they can make it look deceptively easy. Too many teams engage in dysfunctional behaviors or fall into territorialism, apathy, and unproductive relationships. The result? An overwhelmed, unengaged, and stressed-out workforce that settles for average or poor performance.

Here, four authors with a combined century of management experience show readers how every team can be extraordinary. The authors introduce their field-tested Loyalist Team 3D assessment that allows anyone to get to the heart of why teams break down, identify the weaknesses in their own team, and build a Loyalist Team. This kind of team has members who ensure each other’s success as they work to ensure their own, operate with absolute candor, and value loyalty and authenticity to deliver results, create a healthy work environment, and help companies succeed. The Loyalist Team is a must-read for anyone who wants their team to achieve extraordinary results.



When any one of us starts working with a new team, the first absolute truth we share is that every team can be an extraordinary team. We begin by asking each person to describe their best team experience—one in which everything was clicking and the team was working hard, having fun, and exceeding expectations.

Occasionally all four of us are on hand to meet with a team, but more often, two or three of us work together with one client, depending on their needs and our individual areas of expertise. We get together regularly to discuss our work, share ideas, and brainstorm strategies.

One day recently, Linda described a new team with whom she'd just started working. "A team of eight," she said. "And guess how many had to go back to high school to name a great team experience?"

"Four?" Audrey asked.

"No, I'm thinking six," Rebecca said.

Linda shook her head and looked at Abby.

"Okay," Abby said. "I'll split the difference and say five."

"Nope," Linda said. "Seven out of eight had to think back to high school. One talked about his basketball team; someone said softball and another said hockey; and one talked about a high school theater group. But the eighth person? He had never been on a great team. Never. He couldn't name one time when he had teammates who respected each other, trusted each other, and delivered great results. And he's probably fifty years old.

"This man's been in the workforce for nearly thirty years, and he thought the whole concept of a great team is like a unicorn, something people talk about but no one's ever seen," Linda said.

All four of us sat with that for a moment and let it sink in.

"It doesn't have to be that way," Audrey said. "It doesn't."

And all of us agree: being part of a team can be a great experience for every team member, but let's be honest—most often, it's not. When we ask people about teams they've been on, almost everyone has a story about a team that fell short. We've heard stories about teams in which every member mistrusted or avoided everyone else, the leader was disconnected, or a lack of communication killed any attempt at collaboration.

We've worked with teams that come close to optimal performance and teams that are worlds away. But wherever a team is on that spectrum, it doesn't have to be (and probably shouldn't be) the final destination.

When we tell people this, they look relieved. When Linda explained all this to the man who thought great teams were as likely as unicorns, he cracked an incredulous smile. Like so many people who serve on dysfunctional teams, he'd been feeling overwhelmed by the experience and had resigned himself to suffering through it.

In the first session with this team, Linda listed a series of specific and concrete actions they could take to improve their performance. As she outlined the process and provided the research to back it up, everyone in the room leaned in to listen as if she were sharing some centuries-old secret family recipe. She guided the group through a discussion to identify their precise goals and then walked them through the steps to attain them. By the end of the day, everyone in the room understood the group's desired outcomes and had a road map to get there. They wouldn't reach the destination overnight, but if they made conscious choices along the way, they would arrive there in the near future. As they learned more about Loyalist Teams, they grew confident that they could become one. And as Linda told us about them, we were confident too.

Even teams that destroy value for the company and create misery for everyone involved can improve. No matter how dysfunctional a team is, there is hope. And we can help.

We have worked with thousands of teams in pretty much every industry and on six continents. The highest-performing teams in any organization and any industry are the ones we call Loyalist Teams. They are the teams that create new markets, lead existing ones, and skillfully maneuver through any and all challenges. The envy of their peers, they create a strategic advantage that's impossible to replicate.

The individuals on these teams are skilled, accomplished, and driven, but what sets them apart is that they trust, challenge, and push one another to exceed expectations. They are loyal to one another, the team, and the larger organization. These individuals work to ensure each other's success as they work to ensure their own. They run toward the tough conversations, not away, and refuse to let each other fail. Team members give honest feedback and support. And regardless of the challenges faced and the hard work required, members of these teams are having fun.

There are teams that may function at this level for a limited time, but only Loyalist Teams consistently deliver extraordinary value. In today's complex business environment, only Loyalist Teams can weather the storms that teams predictably face because they know how to self-correct. They know how to reconsider the options and regroup when necessary.

These teams are rare, but they don't have to be. Every team can become a Loyalist Team. In this book, we will show you how to build and maintain one. We will draw from our research, our extensive database, our consulting work, and our own experiences serving on, building, and leading teams.


We built and operate our consulting firm, The Trispective Group, using the Loyalist Team concept. We believed so strongly in what we knew about Loyalist Teams that we wanted to prove the principles. And more than that, we wanted to live them. We wanted to go all in and commit to each other's success. We even set up our financial model to honor and uphold that commitment. Each of us works with different clients on projects of varying size, but we split all income evenly among the partners. Other firms may track who worked on what and for how long, but we divide every dollar equally among us so that the shared goal is obvious and indisputable.

We started on this road almost twenty years ago when three of the four of us first joined forces and started developing these concepts. At the time, Linda had a track record of success leading HR teams in marquis global companies. She'd built her career and reputation inside Ford Motor Company, Thorn EMI, and PepsiCo. Rebecca arrived with credentials earned through her work with a variety of clients at Accenture Consulting. And Audrey had built leadership and development functions for both nonprofit and corporate organizations. Our different career paths converged at a well-funded technology start-up, Level 3 Communications, where we were charged with creating a world-class human resources and leadership development function.

We worked with really young, green leaders who didn't have a lot of leadership experience but had a lot of smarts. Our goal was to coach, mentor, and provide leadership development experiences that would accelerate their growth. We were a part of their leadership journey. It was incredibly rewarding work.

Rewarding and challenging.

As the start-up's workforce exploded and operations extended around the globe, pressure and expectations scaled accordingly. At the highest levels of responsibility in many companies, a person's time is no longer his or her own. For executives in a fast-moving organization, it doesn't matter whether it's your anniversary or your kid's birthday. If you need to be in Hong Kong, you're in Hong Kong.

Each of us understood that the needs of the business came first for executives, and we agreed to make the personal sacrifices that were the price of admission. We caught the flights to Hong Kong and beyond, competed in the daily "my ideas are bigger and brighter than yours" contests, and endured the episodes of anger and aggression that scar a competitive corporate culture.

Year after year, we put on our game faces and excelled in the workplace. From the inside, we studied the ways in which corporate America functioned and we analyzed the areas in which it did not.

Outside the office, we were wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters whose relationships with family, friends, and communities were built on trust, mutual respect, and collaboration. Those relationships gave more energy than they took.

The more our careers progressed, the greater the divide grew between who we were at work and who we were in the rest of our lives. Bridging that gap became exhausting and harder to justify. The more each of us grappled with challenges and achieved success in corporate America, the more we wanted to live and work in a culture that felt less foreign. We wanted to be our authentic selves with family and friends and at work.

In 2008, at the height of the Great Recession, the three of us, each of whom was the primary earner in our families, decided to leave our corporate careers behind and commit to each other. Together, we committed to the dream of building a consulting firm that would support us and our families, while also allowing us to live the Loyalist Team model and teach it to companies everywhere.

At the time, most companies were scaling back budgets and forgoing anything that wasn't essential and proven to impact the bottom line. The market for newly minted business consultants looked bleak.

Still, we believed.

We had built something extraordinary at the high-tech start-up. By acting intentionally, being explicit about what was acceptable and what was not, and holding ourselves and our teammates accountable to those high standards, we had built a Loyalist organization. We knew we could teach others to build similarly high-performing teams and organizations.

We believed in each other, and we believed that what we had to offer would make a difference. We named our new firm The Trispective Group because we would address an organization's needs from three angles: we could coach executives to sharpen their leadership skills, we could improve an organization's effectiveness, and we could teach teams of people to work better together. We decided on a logo for our new firm and thought about creating a glossy brochure. But first, we needed clients.

At the time, Abby was leading the global talent management function at Newmont Mining Corporation, one of the world's leading gold-mining companies. Founded in 1916, the company held tight to a traditional corporate culture—the same competitive, sometimes aggressive culture that Linda, Audrey, and Rebecca had experienced throughout their careers.

As Abby looked to the future, she knew that the culture needed to change, and as an executive at a Fortune 500 company, she could have hired any of the well-known, established business consultants. Instead, she met with Audrey and Rebecca, took a leap of faith, and trusted.

Newmont became Trispective's first client. Immediately, Audrey, Linda, and Rebecca embedded themselves within the organization. The three women brought their passion for building capacity in people and teams. And they focused only on Newmont's success, not their own. Together, The Trispective Group partnered with Newmont to change the culture in this century-old business.

Word spread, and Trispective quickly built a roster of clients that spanned the corporate, nonprofit, and public sectors across North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and in one instance, the Arctic Circle. As our business grew, we three partners continued to take care of each other and our clients as Loyalists: We put others' success before our own, we had honest conversations, and we gave the support that allows people to innovate and push boundaries.

Five years into the firm's relationship with Newmont, Abby decided to accept a new role as head of HR for another Denver-based business. She started with endless optimism about the new opportunity and soon realized it was seeped in executive dysfunction and sabotage. Many lived by maxims learned in business school (or maybe on the football field): "Win at all costs," and "Hold your ground, no matter what."

After twenty years in corporate America, Abby knew there was a better way. Like her current partners, she thought honesty and trust could trump bravado. And that collaboration could lead to accelerated, sustainable growth.

Abby wanted to continue the leadership, team, and culture change work she loved without the exhausting exercise of keeping her game face on day in and day out. She wanted to play to win while being her authentic self.

When Abby looked at Linda, Audrey, and Rebecca, that's what she saw. They were exactly who they are. Every day they got to do what they loved and show up as themselves—funny, smart, creative, and multidimensional.

The four of us landed on the obvious solution: Abby would join Trispective as the fourth partner.

Together, we offer a full range of consulting services across a wide range of globally diverse industries. While we consult with leaders in every field, our work has given each of us unique opportunities to find and follow our individual passions. Linda, for example, often works with health care clients, where the stakes are high and the benefits of better teamwork are infinite. In exploring the connection between patient outcomes and effective teams, Linda saw a pattern clearly and repeatedly: when health care teams collaborate more effectively, patients lead better lives.

Audrey likes to take the lead with school systems and other education-based clients. She is inspired by mission-driven individuals and the thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of students who benefit when administrators and educators can leverage each other's strengths and work together more effectively.

Abby thrives working with large institutions that have long histories and are facing monumental challenges. And if there's a high level of complexity to the issues, all the better. Abby's sweet spot is finding ways to tie leadership and team effectiveness to business results.

Rebecca is equally at home in any number of industries where she can work with leaders who feel like they are stuck. She's skilled at getting them unstuck so they can see a new world of possibilities. She excels at connecting the dots and demonstrating how leadership behavior shapes the culture.

With any client, all four of us prefer to work the way we worked with our first client—Abby at Newmont—by embedding ourselves into the team, learning the system, and collaborating with the client to provide the most powerful tools available for improving their performance. And because we develop long-standing and personal relationships with clients, we find different clients respond to each of our different approaches and styles.

Leaders facing really tough challenges tend to respond to Linda's direct but empathetic style. With Audrey, clients can expect to be encouraged to reflect at a deep level on their limiting mindsets and beliefs. She helps them to look beyond any excuses or easy answers to find the exact reasons for the way their team works. For clients who appreciate an intellectual or academic approach to the Loyalist Team concept, Rebecca is skilled at guiding them into what they might consider a "soft topic" in an effective way. And because Abby is constantly considering the strategic business aspects of our work, she affects clients by ensuring they connect healthy teams with better business results.

Since launching the firm, all of us have expanded and strengthened our skills and abilities to deliver extraordinary results for clients. And the reason is simple: we are a Loyalist Team, so each one of us and each client benefits from the full scope of all our skills and wisdom and the synergy that comes from combined forces. As we teach clients, and as we will teach you to do in this book, we share information and resources, we hold one another accountable, and each of us ensures that her partners don't fail.

When we work with clients, we collaborate with them. We join their team and behave as Loyalists, holding them accountable to high standards. Many clients have told us that since they started working with us, they have experienced a period of accelerated growth. New clients show up at a steady pace, and existing clients ask the team to design more programs, coach more executives, and continually expand the relationships.

CEOs don't always hear the unvarnished truth, but they know we will challenge their assumptions, question their conclusions, and deliver honest feedback.

We credit the profound level of trust our clients bestow on us to several factors. First, as women working with an overwhelmingly male population of executives, we offer something separate and distinct from other consultants. The Trispective Team never shows up as ego-driven gurus, with the corresponding air of condescension or a "This is how you do it" set of commandments.

We show up as authorities who care. We know what works and what doesn't, having learned the inner dynamics of team and professional development through decades of study. We trust our abilities and have nothing to prove. And because we're not trying to win the "our ideas are bigger and brighter" game, we don't play offense. Clients, then, can stop playing defense.

When any one of us walks into a boardroom or executive team meeting, she is often the only woman in the room. More importantly, she enters the room absolutely comfortable in her skin and clear in her role. She knows she has the goods to move a team forward, and she knows that is her only goal. Because of that clarity, everyone in the room can relax and participate with an openness that allows for candid conversations and real progress.

The four of us meet clients at the client's point of need and study the team and business dynamic without judgment. We ask open-ended questions and listen. Because everyone in the room—client and consultant alike—knows we are not listening for a right or wrong answer, the client can provide the real data that leads to better decisions and more intentional actions.

We never consider anyone or any team beyond reach. We know that with the right tools and resources, every individual, team, and organization can improve performance. And those tools and resources are embedded in the Loyalist Team concept that we as partners live every day. With clients, we strive to share our passion so others can experience the power and joy of serving on a Loyalist Team. And with this book, we offer the same empowering lessons to you.

In Chapter 1, we will provide an overview of the Loyalist Team concept and introduce four teams that exemplify the four team types. In Chapter 2, we show how we diagnose teams and give you the tools to diagnose your own.

Chapters 3 through 6 are deep dives into each team type. We pick up with the team we introduced in Chapter 1 and add a second team to show some of the diversity that exists within each category. All Saboteur Teams, for example, include at least one person who believes that he or she wins only when others lose. The impact of that belief can vary, and the keys to resolving the problem can differ from team to team.

We also wanted to add teams to answer some of the questions we hear all the time: My team is a virtual global team; can we become Loyalists? Or, I work for a nonprofit and we're all committed to the mission; does that make us Loyalists? And finally, what do I do if I think my boss is the Saboteur?

In Chapters 3 through 6, we answer these questions and give direct guidance for leaders and team members.

The teams in these chapters are composites of real teams with whom we've worked. We've changed the names of people and altered the names and details of each company so we could share the full truth about teams. And we've combined characteristics of various teams in order to show you the best examples and most prominent features of each team type. Also, each of us has worked individually with teams in each of the four categories. Combining actual teams into the composite teams in these stories allowed us to give you the collective wisdom of all four partners in Trispective. And we hope that, after having diagnosed yourself or your team in Chapter 2, you can use these middle chapters to learn more about your team, what makes it function the way it does, and what steps you can take to move toward a more productive dynamic.

We'd been observing teams for years and noting the traits that high-performing teams consistently exhibited. We created an assessment tool that allowed us to quantify and record these traits. We collected all the assessment scores in one database, and when we analyzed the data we were astonished. The traits and characteristics of Loyalists so consistently correlate with extraordinary results that we see no reason for any member of any team to settle for anything less. In Chapter 7, we share this data, and it seals the argument on why you can and should encourage your team to become a Loyalist Team. In Chapter 8, we'll make the case once more for becoming a Loyalist Team, respond to the questions we often hear, and address how to sustain your team once you've become Loyalists.

In our book, as in our practice, we strive to demystify the keys to building a high-performance team because these extraordinary teams are not made by magic or rocket science. After gathering data on these teams for years, we can assure you that the formula works: if you learn and practice the Loyalist behaviors, you will vastly improve the performance of your team.

This is true for every person on every team. Whether you are the team lead or a team member, you can use the action plans outlined in this book to improve your team's performance no matter who's on your team now, the difficulty of the situation, and the audacity of your goals.

So let's get started!


The best teams make it look easy. They perform together so well and so consistently that it appears as if they are one single organism instead of a group of disparate personalities with varied backgrounds. It can look, from the outside, as if skilled and talented people came together and blended their skills and talents effortlessly.

If it were the case that no effort was necessary, building a high-performance team would be as simple as pulling smart people together and saying, "Go." But of course, that's not the case. We all have served on or seen teams of extraordinary individuals who come together and fail, sometimes spectacularly. But the missing ingredient—the difference between the high flyers and the failures—is more than luck or good timing.

Building a high-performance team is like building a stunning skyscraper. There are laws of physics, and rules of engineering. There are also predictable patterns by which teams break down.

From the least effective to the most productive, teams break down or succeed in specific, identifiable, and replicable ways. We've worked with thousands of them, and they all fall into four distinct team types.


Tim Barnes arrived in California eager to take the reins and lead the Los Angeles office of North Star Financial Services. A Santa Monica native, he'd moved east for college and started his career on Wall Street. Twenty years later, he'd built a solid reputation as a man who could focus a diverse group of people around a common goal to achieve extraordinary results. Recruiters called him often to discuss opportunities in New York, London, and Hong Kong, but none of those interested him.

The opportunity with North Star offered something more appealing: a chance to move home. It was an established firm, and according to the executives in New York, the LA office held a cohesive if slightly underperforming team.

His first week on the job, however, Tim wondered about that assessment.

His first day, he had asked his team to meet in the conference room. "I'm glad we're all together," Tim started, "and to be honest, I don't have a detailed agenda for this meeting. I just want to hear from you, to learn what you all are focused on and what you're excited about."

His new team had no response. Nothing. Tim could hear the clock on the wall.

He tried again. "Really, I just hoped we could have an informal conversation so I can get up to speed on the office, the team, and the business." He looked around and saw a few hesitant smiles, one blank face, and at least one person studying the grain on the table.

"C'mon, give the new guy a hand," Tim said, and looked around again.

Finally, Matt Stone broke the silence. He looked to be about the same age as Tim, with thick, dark hair and deep green eyes.

"I think you'll find that we're all real excited to work with you," Matt said. "As you know, I've been running the office for six months as interim Managing Director, and I think I can speak for all of us. We've built a lot of momentum and can't wait to hear how you're going to keep that going, or add to it."

Tim decided to hold back any response and continued with the same easy tone that he'd started the conversation with. He told the team about his early career, his previous position, and growing up with his mom and two brothers in a two-bedroom apartment just a mile from the office. "My mom still lives here," he said. "I'm grateful to be home."

Tim tried again to generate conversation and received the same anemic response. He shut the meeting down early and shifted tactics, deciding to get to know each person individually. That evening, when the office sounded deserted, he wandered down the hall and caught Jorge at his desk.

"Hey, do you have a minute?"

Jorge cleared a stack of files off a chair and said, "Sure, have a seat."

"Thanks," Tim said. "I'm just trying to get a handle on how this team works. Can you tell me about what you're working on and what you think is going well?"


  • "The Loyalist Team,provides a pragmatic approach to understanding how your team works and how you can help it work better. The authors draw from their vast expertise with thousands of teams to tell engaging, real-life stories about how teams of all types and sizes function and provide proven insights about how to achieve extraordinary results."—JudithE. Glaser, bestselling author of Conversational Intelligence and CEO ofBenchmark Communications, Inc.
  • "An honest, straightforward analysis of how to identify and celebrate not only what makes companies successful, it also tells us how and why we can experience failure. After reading this book, you'll know exactly how to build a winning team, a happy team, and above all how to create genuine and lasting loyalty."—Nina Tassler, advisor, former chairman of CBSEntertainment, and author of What I Told My Daughter
  • "The Loyalist Team brings to life the essence of team identity and culture, and how analytics and evaluative tools can drive self-awareness and future team success. An excellent guide for CEO's, talent management executives, and anyone looking to understand and improve team performance."—Barbara Krumsiek, senior industry fellow at GeorgetownUniversity Women's Leadership Institute, McDonough School of Business, andformer CEO of Calvert Investments
  • "With the Loyalist Team Model, I am really clear what is required of me as a leader and as importantly what is required of the team to build a really successful loyalist organization. I know I can never take the human dynamics on a team for granted."—Mike Goodwin, SVP and Chief Information Officer,PetSmart
  • "This is a must-read for anyone who wants to know how to actually build a great team. It is centered on the foundation that great teams are about great relationships that are built on trust and candid feedback. The authors showcase their insight by walking through the good and the bad from the thousands of teams they have worked with, sharing concrete, practical steps any leader
    can use to improve the culture in their workplace. The Loyalist Team introduces a new paradigm for leadership that is required to compete in today's business world."—Rob Katz, CEO, Vail Resorts, Inc.
  • "Right now, this team, my team is the best team I have ever led. We're not perfect but we are working really hard with the support of Trispective to become a Loyalist Team. I know that we are making progress because of the reactions I see when we are under stress. In recent months, as a business, we've faced some really tough challenges. As we address those challenges it will create significant opportunities for us. We're charting new territory for this team. The stakes are high and we have to move quickly. The team has come to me and said, 'We've got your back. Let's move forward. We can do this.' It feels great and we are being successful."—Enrique Escalante, CEO Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua

On Sale
Sep 12, 2017
Page Count
240 pages

Linda Adams

About the Author

Linda Adams, Abby Curnow-Chavez, Audrey Epstein, and Rebecca Teasdale (with a century of combined experience) honed their expertise inside some of the largest and most powerful businesses operating today. The four authors have led the human resources, talent management, leadership development, and organizational effectiveness functions of multiple Fortune 500 companies like Ford Motor Company, Pepsi, and Target. Currently, the four comprise the TriSpective Group, catering to companies like PetSmart, Kaiser, Orbitz, and others.

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