New book from Rice psychologist offers guide to creating successful teams

What makes a team effective? A new book from a Rice University psychologist examines that question and identifies ways leaders can foster successful organizations.

“Teams That Work: The Seven Drivers of Team Effectiveness” (Oxford University Press, 272 pages, $29.95) by authors Eduardo Salas, department chair and the Allyn R. and Gladys M. Cline Professor of Psychological Sciences at Rice, and Scott Tannenbaum, president of The Group for Organizational Effectiveness, draws on more than 35 years of combined experience working with high-stakes and high-risk teams in fields such as health care, aviation, oil and gas, the military and at NASA.

“Present-day workplaces are very collaborative spaces,” Salas said. “However, everyone from teammates to managers can face struggles, and no more so than now, amid a global pandemic, which has introduced all kinds of new challenges. These struggles are not only frustrating, but they can waste time and resources and harm organizations.”

The authors say effective teams generate positive results over time; work through challenges and bounce back from adversity; and maintain energy, vibrancy and resources necessary for future success. Their seven drivers of effectiveness are:

  1. Capability: Does the team have the right people with the right mix of knowledge, skills and other attributes?
  2. Cooperation: Do team members have the right beliefs and attitudes about their team?
  3. Coordination: Are team members exhibiting the teamwork behaviors necessary for success?
  4. Communication: Do team members communicate effectively with each other and with people outside the team?
  5. Cognition: Do team members share an understanding about key factors such as their priorities, roles and vision?
  6. Coaching: Do the leader and team members demonstrate the necessary leadership behaviors?
  7. Conditions: Is the context in which the team operates favorable for performing effectively? (For example, does the team have ample resources and a supportive culture?)

The book concludes with advice on how leaders can promote teamwork, including tips on specific issues such as conducting a debriefing session, assessing a team’s needs and avoiding  toxic behavior.

“Almost everyone works on a team and most people are on multiple teams,” Salas said. “That’s why it is increasingly important that leaders know what really drives team effectiveness.”

More information on the book is available online at

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.