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Trexler Proffitt, PhD, Assistant Professor, Emory University Business School & CEO of Team Diagnostics, LLC.

#047 – The Team Diagnostic Survey: Coaching Teams for High Performance

Join Dr. Krister Lowe and today’s interview guest Dr. Trexler Proffitt for this special episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast. Trexler Proffitt, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Practice in Organization and Management at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University in Atlanta Georgia. He is also the CEO of Team Diagnostics, LLC.–the provider of The Team Diagnostic Survey (TDS), a scientifically validated and reliable instrument that assesses teams on 6 essential conditions that drive effectiveness. Dr. Proffitt holds a Ph.D. from Northwestern University, a M.S. from Northwestern University and a B.A from Yale University. He is a passionate and innovative teacher with a range of experiences in: strategic management, organization behavior, negotiation, social responsibility, and entrepreneurship. He is grounded in rigorous academic training while focused on fostering socially responsible leadership and entrepreneurial thinking. He also values being a team player and is comitted to teaching a variety of courses and meeting students where they are in their learning path. In this episode of the podcast, Dr. Proffitt provides an overview of the origins of The Team Diagnostic Survey at Harvard University with the late Dr. Richard Hackman as well as a team of researchers including among others Dr. Ruth Wageman. He shares insights into the academic as well as applied purposes of the instrument. Trexler walks listeners through two sets of factors that comprise the model and instrument. The first set–The Essentials–looks at 1) Real Team, 2) Compelling Direction, and 3) Right People. The second set–The Enablers–looks at 4) Sound Structure, 5) Supportive Context, and 6) Expert Coaching. Throughout the episode Trexler provides rich examples that provide context to the instrument and how it can be used to help teams increase their effectiveness and performance. The episode provides listeners with an excellent overview of the essential factors that drive team effectiveness and also with a tool that may be an essential addition to every team coaches toolkit!

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Contact Trexler: trex@team-diagnostics.com


  1. Team Diagnostic Survey: www.Team-Diagnostics.com
  2. Hackman, J.R. (2002). Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances.
  3. Wageman, R., Nunes, D. A., Burruss, J. A., & Hackman, J. R. (2007). Senior Leadership Teams: What It Takes to Make Them Great (Canadian ed edition). Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Review Press.
  4. Hackman, R.J. & Wageman, R. (2005). A Theory of Team Coaching. The Academy of Management Review. 30(2), 269-287.
  5. Wageman, R., Hackman, R.J., & Lehman, E.V. (2005). Team Diagnostic Survey: Development of an Instrument. Free online version: http://team-diagnostics.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/TDS_development_techpaper.pdf  Published the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science. December 2005, vol 41, no. 4, pp. 373-398.




Part 1 – Getting to Know the Team Coach

  • Trexler Proffitt, Assistant Professor of Practice, Organization and Management, Emory University, Business School, Atlanta Georgia
  • CEO of Team Diagnostics, LLC.
  • PhD in Organization Behavior from Northwestern University, M.S. in Organization Behavior from Northwestern University , B.A. in History, Yale University
  • Has been a professor at a number of universities in the US and in Copenhagen, Denmark
  • A squash enthusiast: plays and coaches
  • At Emory he is mainly teaching, last 10-12 years has emphasized teaching, does some writing, researching and publishing

Part 2 – The Team Diagnostic Survey

  • Origins
    • Trexler has been CEO of Team Diagnostics, LLC. since 2007
    • Based on work done on teams at Harvard: Psychology Department and Business School; a working group on teams
    • Richard Hackman, PhD: disconnect between theory and research on teams and world of practice
    • Partly funded with government money: careful review of literature on the factors that actually make a difference in teams
    • Ruth Wageman, PhD also contributed to the instruments development.
    • 90-95% of tools use has been with researchers, teaching and learning.
    • Goal was to have the paid uses off set the costs of the platform: Hackman was concerned about making the tool accessible and not just to the highest bidder
    • Team-Diagnostics.com
    • Technical paper on the validation of the instrument available on the website for free: reliability and validity; peer review article in the American Behavioral Scientist journal
    • Books written that explain the dimensions/factors underlying the tool: Leading Teams by Hackman (five factors) and Senior Leadership Teams by Wageman, Hackman and others (added a 6th factor)
  • Team Effectiveness Model/Framework
    • 6 total factors divided into 2 categories: Essentials and Enablers; when all 6 are present/high then team effectiveness is more likely to occur. Visual of two triangles.
    • Typical report is about 25 pages long and provides a number of charts and visuals bases on the 6 factors as well as additional areas.
    • Tool is meant to be used by a coach or leader to help the team over time; to help stimulate discussions among team members.
    • 3 ESSENTIAL CONDITIONS – lot of teams don’t meet these essential criteria; when these are missing, coaches should focus on these first.
      • Real Team: tend to use teams wrong in practice; not all groups or “teams” are teams or need to be a team. Core elements: Stable, Bounded, Interdependent, Authority. Stable membership, clear boundaries and work that requires interdependence is what is measured here in terms of being a real team. Another dimension assessed is whether the team has the authority to execute its task. Finding the appropriate level of team authority vis-à-vis the team’s task. Ideal size for teams: 5 +/- 2
      • Right People: Diversity of Skill and Diversity of Perspectives. Irrelevant skills sets or too similar on skills across team members? Team composition matters: more than just throwing a group of smart people together.
      • Compelling Direction: People need to feel like they are part of something. Creates energy for the work. Need to specific, a Clear, Challenging and Consequential direction. Linkages between a team’s work and its contribution to the larger mission of the organization. Work that really requires a team.
    • 3 ENABLING CONDITIONS – also very important.
      • Sound Structure: think of a well-organized team; procedures, communication norms, expectations of one another. Combo of task and team procedures to get the work done. Authority structures, scheduling, preferred modes of interaction, communication norms, etc… 3 components assessed: Task Design, Team Size, Team Norms. Task design: often lacking; teams crave having enough information to organize their work. Most team process interventions look at this. Team size is directly correlated to communication challenges. Smaller size teams help facilitate communication. Above 6-7 people it gets challenge and process loss is more likely to occur. Notion of process loss and process gain. Norms about communication and coordination important. Also important for norms to be appropriate for the task. Relates to how a team is designed. Structure should be fluid or fixed depending on the task. For example a jazz band (i.e. flexible, improvisation, etc…) vs. an orchestra (i.e. improvisation would be a problem). Shaping this into the task itself.
      • Organizational Support: Too often teams are created and let loose without clear feedback and support infrastructure/resources/time to do their work. Many senior leadership teams don’t support themselves or find ways to support themselves. Components assessed here: Rewards/Recognition, Information Flow, Education, Consultation, Resources.
      • Expert Coaching: Doesn’t specify who the coach should be but more focus on the availability of coaching to the team. It can be the team leader, the team members or an external/internal team coach; coaching can happen from any direction. Especially important when teams are working over time, when they are risk of conflict, etc… Retention on peer coaching can be very strong.
    • Other components that the assessment provides feedback on:
      • Intermediate factors: effort, strategy, knowledge or skill; a double check. When the 6 factors are present they should feed into these intermediate factors.
      • Three Outcomes or Criteria of Team Effectiveness: 1) product/output that satisfies key stakeholders; 2) individual team members grow and learn; 3) team capacity-development – does the team get better.
      • Other: team leader; team psychological safety; team learning orientation; team communication modes; How many people are on the team? Who is the team leader?; qualitative question: what is the intended goal of this team?
    • Pricing: $395/team for most detailed report. Have a generous policy towards research, teaching and non-profit uses. Do provide support for report interpretation for additional fee.
    • Using the Instrument & Certification: different levels as needed; contact Trexler at trex@team-diagnostics.com. Can use the instrument without being certified. If you want training on certification on the tool as well as supervision in its use, Team Diagnostics, LLC. can work with you.
    • Future: the goal is to have enough benchmarking data in order to compare teams in varies industries and sectors. Future reports may include benchmarking comparisons. Would like to build some large scale studies on teams based on the use of the instrument.

Part 3 – Recommended Resources

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