Leadership experts Robert Brown and Carlos Venegas explain their simple and versatile team building tool.
Fit together puzzle pieces, representing team building tools

A Team Goal-Oriented, Team Building Tool

Every member of a team has something important to contribute.

As a leader, bringing together diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and skill sets to enable and point those contributions toward meaningful team goals can be challenging.

The 4-Part Teaming Model is a simple, adaptable process designed to engage your team members and drive results.

Sports psychologist Robert Brown first learned The 4-Part Teaming Model from Rudy Williams, a colleague who originally created the tool to support corporate teams. He applied the tool to his work with Olympic athletes, and then shared the model with Carlos Venegas, who recognized its potential as a versatile team building tool for groups and organizations of every kind.

According to Robert Brown and Carlos Venegas, the 4-Part Teaming Model doesn’t just create better teams—it helps team members develop as people. This makes it perfect for youth activities where the goal isn’t just to help team members develop athletic, artistic, or academic skills, but life skills as well.

“People in high school are there so they can prepare to be an adult. If you don’t take that into account in an after-school program, it’s really short sighted,” Brown and Venegas explain.

In this sense, they believe that a high school program leader has two jobs: to build a successful program and to develop better human beings. This means helping students build the skills to communicate and problem-solve effectively, to be part of a team, to work hard, and be resilient.

Brown and Venegas point out that with most competitions, there’s ultimately only one winner; even the highest achieving teams will experience losses at some point. It’s not just the program leader’s job to teach students how to win; it’s also their job to teach them to handle loss. These skills of perseverance and collaboration will help prepare students for adulthood.

Finally, Brown and Venegas note that the most important thing to keep in mind when using the 4-Part Teaming Model is to be flexible. It’s a versatile team building tool that is designed to be adaptable rather than prescriptive. This means that there is no rigid sequence to the “parts” in the model—instead, they can be applied fluidly, according to the unique needs of each team.

Brown and Venegas urge youth coaches and educators to experiment with the 4-Part Teaming Model in order to figure out what works best for their team. As they often say, “a leader is someone who enables others to be successful.”

If you’re hoping to create a successful foundation for your program, the 4-Part Teaming Model is a great place to start. Follow the four parts and “In Practice” sections below to experience truly effective team building like never before.

Part 1: Identify a Compelling Task

To be successful, every team must first identify and agree upon a set of team goals—whether that is winning a championship, completing a project, or establishing a new team culture. But what may be less obvious is that teams also need to ensure that this objective is compelling, engaging, and meaningful to every team member.

Part one creates a foundation for team members to work efficiently with others to achieve a goal, encouraging accountability to the team and to themselves. When everyone fully understands the goal and finds it to be compelling, the foundation for success is set.

Team members may have very different reasons for finding a certain task compelling, or not compelling. That’s okay. Allowing team members to communicate their thoughts about each task will help the team arrive at a more refined objective that is universally compelling.

“If every member isn’t fully bought into achieving the team’s goals, the entire team will suffer from a lack of effort and accountability.”

Part one creates a foundation for team members to work efficiently with others to achieve a goal, encouraging accountability to the team and to themselves. When everyone fully understands the goal and finds it to be compelling, the foundation for success is set.


Team members may have very different reasons for finding a certain task compelling, or not compelling. That’s okay. Allowing team members to communicate their thoughts about each task will help the team arrive at a more refined objective that is universally compelling.

IN PRACTICE: Identify a Compelling Task

Organize a workshop in which you contribute a list of team goals and tasks that team members can score on a scale of 0-10 (0 being completely uninterested, 5 being neutral, and 10 being most compelling). If the task is not compelling to most of the team, have them rewrite the goals and tasks in a way that makes sense to them. Next, ask why the task is compelling, and give the team members time to share their answers with the group.

Venegas once worked with a team in which most of the participants rated the task 7 or below. Though a score of 7 out of 10 seems pretty high, after discussing the scores with the group he recognized that there was still room for improvement. Venegas helped the team define a new goal and enjoyed the efforts of fully engaged team members. “Have people bring their own assets and make the task compelling for themselves,” he recommends.

Part 2: Sense of Membership

Membership in a group or team is about more than just showing up. It’s a sense of belonging that is supported by the feeling that each team member has something to offer. This could be experience, knowledge, skills, work ethic, leadership ability, or a unique perspective—anything that the team could use in order to achieve its goals.

The purpose of part two of the 4-Part Teaming Model is to help each team member develop a better understanding of their unique role on the team, which will encourage buy-in and result in a more cohesive, confident team.

This process builds on the skills of self-reflection introduced in part one and gives team members a chance to put those skills into practice while working with others. This is what makes the 4-Part Teaming Model a powerful team building tool: taking this opportunity to reflect on their roles in the group helps team members build confidence in themselves and become more connected with each other.

IN PRACTICE: Sense of Membership

There are two ways Brown and Venegas recommend approaching this step.

One way to facilitate a sense of membership is to ask your team members to reflect on what they bring to the team and how these assets will help the team achieve its goals. If they do not feel they have skills, help them understand how their unique perspective contributes to the team.

Most people have an idea about what they bring to a team, but some don’t—more often than not because they are lacking confidence. That’s why creating the space for each team member to feel a sense of membership helps them understand their intrinsic and extrinsic value.

The other way to create a sense of membership is to actively guide the process as a coach. In situations where team members have been specifically chosen to participate, begin by telling your team members why you have selected them and what they are expected to contribute. From there, work to build the identity of the team around the core strengths of each team member.

This approach also works in situations with younger team members who might not have as much experience assessing their own strengths. Brown and Venegas note that it works well to start with this team building step when bringing a new member on to an already established team. Introduce new individuals by sharing their role on the team and the assets they bring, and let the established team members introduce themselves by explaining their role.

Part 3: Influence on the Team

Having “influence” means involvement in the team decision-making process. Some teams have more room for members to be active decision-makers than others, but finding at least a few ways for each team member to influence the team is essential to team building

According to Brown and Venegas, “If you don’t have influence on the team, you’re not a part of the team. In other words, you’re inert.” 

Venegas explains that when he was on the track team in high school, his coaches never asked for his thoughts about anything. “If you look at these activities as training grounds for later in your life, there’s a big gap there,” he says. 

That’s what makes this team building tool so useful: allowing players to influence team decisions creates the opportunity to teach important life skills.

“If you learn to participate as a team member, you’re way ahead when you’re out in the workplace,” Venegas continues. “As you’re developing a team to win a game, you’re developing a team that will win at life.” 

This third part of the 4-Part Teaming Model shows each team member that, no matter their role, their voice and presence matters. By simply meeting standards as minimal as focus and working hard for and with their team members, they receive the opportunity of feeling their contribution and influence on the team. 

IN PRACTICE: Influence on the Team

Tell your team members what basic agreements and behaviors are required of them in order for them to have influence on the team. Start with the essentials: being present, actively participating, arriving to class or practice on time. Like all components of the 4-Part Teaming Model, this step is adaptable.

Ask questions in a way that fits the program you are leading: What ideas do they have? Even on a team in which the leader is making most of the decisions, team members can still establish foundational agreements around participation that will help make the program stronger.

Part 4: Personal Reward

No matter how compelling a task may be, or how connected to the team a participant feels, team members may still ask: “What’s in it for me?”

At the end of the day, every team member will have a personal reason for wanting to participate. These reasons will probably relate to why they find the goal team’s goals compelling in the first place.

As such, this final part of Venegas and Brown’s team building tool provides a chance for individuals to discover how contributing to a team can bring personal fulfillment. It also provides structure around how to align team goals and personal goals, a life skill that will benefit students in the future both personally and professionally.

Understanding this step of the 4-Part Teaming Model especially can be especially impactful for team members who are struggling with motivation. Brown recalls leading a customer service workshop at a simulated worksite for some unenthusiastic participants.

When he asked about their reasons for showing up, it turned out almost all of them were there only because their bosses required them to be. Brown facilitated a conversation that gave them the opportunity to find more compelling personal reasons for participating. They ended up discovering personal motivations that helped them have a meaningful discussion about the good they could do by being there.

IN PRACTICE: Personal Reward

Start by having your team members answer the following question: “How can I personally benefit from the output of this team?” Any idea is a good one. The point is to make as long of a personal list they can come up with.

Depending on the type of program you are leading, you might even ask how their participation benefits other groups like their audience, supporters, or younger peers. Give them the opportunity to share their reasons publicly so their fellow team members can better understand their motivations and help them achieve their goals.

Robert Brown, Ph.D., is the founder and president of Collective Wisdom, Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in organizational development, group problem solving, and leadership. He has worked with elite athletes, top companies, and local and state governments, to build cohesive teams that achieve results.

Carlos Venegas, M.A., leads a consulting, coaching, and training organization using behavioral science to help clients implement processes that generate results. Learn more about his work with at carlosvenegas.com.

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