From the professional field

Personnel management: what is «team spirit»?

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Team work, team player, team focus. In clinics, team spirit is a high priority. But how do we define «team spirit» and what is the ideal team composition? 
We present nine team types – from Co-ordinator to Completer Finisher – in our checklist.

In hospitals, teamwork is a decisive factor in employee satisfaction and quality of care.1 Observational studies in surgical departments show that approximately 30% of team interactions include a failure in communication.1 Where there was less communication, for example during surgery or handovers, patients were five times more likely to suffer complications or death.2 Functional teamwork, on the other hand, leads to increased patient safety and also boosts commitment, resilience and satisfaction in employees.3 A team is therefore more than just a group that shares a manager. Real teams are intact social systems, whose members work together to achieve a common goal.3 But who is suited to working this way – that is to say, who has team spirit?

Team spirit has several dimensions

Team spirit cannot be assigned or denied to an employee as a general character trait. Although some people have a greater ability to operate within groups than others, the overall cohesion depends on more than just one individual. The team itself, with its members and its setting, plays a key role in determining team success. Team spirit therefore describe a person’s aptitude for being a member of a community.4 The person who succeeds in contri­buting their skills and personality to the team can be said to have team spirit.5 The following three dimensions determine how a team cooperates:

1. Personality

First and foremost, personality dictates whether a team works in harmony: studies suggest that, of the so-called ‹Big Five› personality traits, high levels of proficiency in the categories ‹openness to change›, ‹conscientiousness›, ‹tolerance› and ‹emotional stability› as well as a moderate level in the category ‹extraversion›, will facilitate team spirit.4 In the high-risk environment of the operating theatre, different personalities have to be able to solve conflicts and problem situations, for example – be they specific questions during a surgical intervention, or differences that actually belong outside the operating theatre.

2. Competencies
Specific abilities foster team spirit: for example, effective communication, targeted planning and good organisational skills have a positive effect on the team.4 But independence and empathy are also beneficial to a team. The importance of communication skills and active information-related behaviour is demonstrated by the issue of medication: without a good culture of discussion between doctor, pharmacist, nurse and patient, serious mistakes can occur in dispensing medicines. In some circum­stances, specialist knowledge has to be ‹repackaged› in order to be understood.

3. Fit
The team composition determines whether your own team spirit is right for a specific team: it requires a certain flair to combine skills and personalities in such a way that cooperation runs ‹like clockwork›. According to British psychosociologist Raymond M. Belbin, the ideal team is composed of a variety of heteroge­neous personality and role types6 (see checklist). Differing skills also complement each other well: it was possible, for example, to raise the quality of care, shorten the stays of trauma patients and improve communication and mutual understanding, by introducing multidisciplinary rounds by doctors, case managers, nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists and other specialists.1

Nurturing team spirit

In the clinic, it is part of a manager’s job to consciously nurture team spirit, for example by selecting appropriate team members. You should also pay attention to the following factors:7

  • A team leader who is accepted by everyone provides a firm foundation for team spirit. A doer who is ready to learn and has good social skills makes a good choice.
  • Define common goals repeatedly and very clearly. Only if there is clarity about them can everyone strive to achieve them, which develops a sense of togetherness.
  • Each person in the team must know their role and their tasks. Otherwise, work ends up being done twice, or conflicts can arise over responsibilities.
  • Set standards and set an example, so that your employees can experience and learn what is expected from them in terms of team spirit.

Download our checklist and read about the personality types that can clash in teams, and how important team composition is for team success.


Further reading

Valerie Patrick, Anita Williams Woolley
When Bad Teams Happen to Good People: Your Complete Repair Guide for Successful Teamwork. 
Career Press; 2021.

Donna Weiss, Felice Tilin, 
Marlene J. Morgan
The Interprofessional Health Care Team: Leadership and Development. 
Jones & Bartlett Learning; 
2nd Edition; 2016.

Theresa J.K. Drinka, Phillip G. Clark
Healthcare Teamwork: 
Interprofessional Practice and Education. 
Praeger; 2nd Edition; 2016.



  1. Rosen M A, DiazGranados D, Dietz A S, et al. Teamwork in Healthcare: Key Discoveries Enabling Safer, High-Quality Care. Am Psychol. 2018;73(4):433–450.
  2. Mazzocco K, Petitti DB, Fong KT, et al. Surgical team behaviors and patient outcomes. Am J Surg. 2009;197(5):678–85.
  3. Lyubovnikova J, West MA, Dawson JF, et al. 24-karat or fool’s gold? Consequences of real team and co-acting group membership in healthcare organizations. Eur J Work Org Psych. 2015;24:929–50.
  4. Teamfähigkeit stärken: Drei Handlungsfelder. Verfügbar unter: [22.02.2021].
  5. Franke, M. Teamfähigkeit – Sind Sie wirklich teamfähig? Verfügbar unter: [22.02.2021].
  6. Teamrollen nach Belbin. So stellen Sie ein perfektes Team zusammen. Verfügbar unter: [22.02.2021].
  7. Teamgeist fördern – 7 Tipps für mehr Teamfähigkeit. Verfügbar unter: [22.02.2021].


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