Stellar Team Diagnostic

What is the Stellar Team Diagnostic?

The Stellar Team Diagnostic is an on-line assessment for teams. There are 80 items in the assessment. Each item asks the participant to assess the team from the perspective of the whole team. For example, “On our team we have a shared commitment to open and honest communication.” Or “As a team we have developed sound strategies for accomplishing our goals.” Participants are asked to score the statement on a 1 – 9 scale where one is, “does not describe our team” and nine means, “completely describes our team”. In addition, each assessment includes three open-ended, essay style questions customized for that team by the facilitator who will be working with the team. This is key: the assessment is designed to provide a profile of the team that will be used as the basis for on-going work with the team. It is a bench-marking tool and a team development tool. When all team members have completed the assessment a report is created that presents the collected data. Individual responses are anonymous and confidential.

What does the Stellar Team Diagnostic measure?

The Stellar Team Diagnostic measures the team’s perception of the conditions that impact the team’s productivity and positivity. “Positivity” is a word adapted from the Emotional Intelligence work of Daniel Goleman.
“The fundamental task of leaders is to prime good feeling in those they lead. That occurs when a leader creates resonance – a reservoir of positivity that frees the best in people. At its root, then, the primal job of leadership is emotional.”
— From Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee

The term “positivity” quoted here refers to individual leaders; we have applied the same concept to teams as a whole: conditions that free the best in people create successful teams.

For the purpose of our model we define productivity team strengths as the capacity to perform the functions required by the team. Productivity measures include the existence of adequate resources and expertise, clear goals and strategies to reach those goals, a sense of alignment and cohesion on the team, clear roles, an effective decision making process, a commitment to innovation and change, and flexible, appropriate leadership.

Positivity team strengths relate to the process and interrelationship among team members to perform as a team. Positivity measures include optimism, vision, trust, respect, clear, direct communication, the ability to include and work with conflict, a sense of camaraderie, seeing the value and contribution of diversity.

The selection of these criteria is based on extensive research into factors for team effectiveness, including research conducted by R. J. Marshall and J. M. Lowther for the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization (CSIRO) working with R&D teams, and the work of Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith in their book, The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization.

The Stellar Team Diagnostic is built on a model that has as its premise that productivity and positivity are both necessary in order for teams to be high performing and sustainable. Furthermore, increasing positivity on teams will increase productivity.

What is the Stellar Team Diagnostic based on? 

Systems Thinking

The assessment is built on the assertion that a team is a system.  A system is defined as a set of interacting units with interdependent relationships among them.  System’s thinking has been applied to organizations for years; Peter Senge’s work with learning organizations is a prime example. In the case of the Stellar Team Diagnostic we look at a particular system the team, and the human interrelationships that comprise this system. We apply what research shows about individuals within a system to the system as a whole. For example, Peter Senge in his book, The Fifth Discipline, discusses Mental Models of individuals and how those models impact the individual’s effectiveness on the organization. We believe there is a mental model of the system itself, a team mental model that has impact on every member of the team.


In the 1960’s, Blake and Mouton presented a management grid that provided a way of describing leadership/management styles on two dimensions. One axis is the manager’s concern for task or production and the second is a concern for people. Again, extrapolating from the individual to the system, the Stellar Team Diagnostic model portrays the team’s commitment to productivity and the team’s commitment to positivity.

A team that scores low on productivity and low on positivity is a team going nowhere and not getting much done. This is typical of teams in transition; for example, during a reorganization or merger/acquisition or when a company is in bankruptcy.

A team that scores high on productivity and low on positivity is a team committed to results at any price, in human terms. Project teams on a deadline are often in this quadrant; however, this is not a sustainable for teams or organizations for the long term. The consequence is burn-out and break-down in the essential relationships necessary to be productive.

Teams that score high on positivity but low on productivity are committed to interpersonal relationships, getting along, consensus, but are often not producing results. Again, there may be times in the life cycle of a team or organization when this oasis is appropriate but it is not sustainable from a business point of view, long term.

The ideal situation for teams is a combination of high productivity and high positivity where relationship, personal satisfaction, and results for the team and organization are in alignment.
Why the emphasis on positivity?

In recent years there has been an extraordinary growth in publications that describe the power of positivity, in various forms, for individual effectiveness and relationship effectiveness. We have taken these elements and applied them to the team as a system.

Dr. John Gottman has been studying relationships for more than 25 years. His research is a rigorous, scientific approach to the question, “what makes relationships work?” His conclusion: positivity is one of the essential components. His primary focus at the Relationship Research Institute at the University of Washington has been on marriage and family relationships. In fact he is able to accurately predict the success or failure of relationships on the basis of the level of positivity. We believe that the fundamental insight into the positive conditions in a family or marriage system that leads to sustainability apply to teams as well.

Daniel Goleman’s work with Emotional Intelligence focuses on the emotional skills and abilities necessary in order to relate to others effectively; EI only exists in relationship. We have taken the core of this work and applied it to the interrelationships that make up the system. Emotional intelligence must exist in the system as a whole in order for the team to work at its best and produce optimum results.

The Stellar Team Diagnostic is designed to reveal the team’s strengths. This aspect of the model is based on Appreciative Inquiry, an approach to organizational change that focuses on the strengths of an organization and what is possible rather than diagnosing the dysfunction and fixing the problem. The AI emphasis builds positivity and stronger interrelationship on the team where a traditional problem-analysis approach typically creates blame, defensiveness, and separation of relationship.

The Stellar Team Diagnostic is also based on the fundamental model of positive psychology. This field, founded by Martin Seligman in 1998, makes a strong case for the longevity and effectiveness of individuals and relationships that are built on a positive orientation. A widely used application of the tenets of positive psychology is the book and assessment included in Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton Ph.D. Positive psychology provides the theoretical underpinnings for their Strengths model, supported by the vast research of the Gallup Organization.

We believe that increasing positivity leads to productivity and profitability improvements and increased employee retention. A positive environment improves receptivity to communication, inspires and rubs off on the organization, and facilitates conflict resolution. We believe increased positivity creates more permission for risk taking and thereby encourages creativity and innovation, making the team more agile and more adept at change. Research by Gottman and others demonstrate that positivity leads to sustainability.

How is the Stellar Team Diagnostic Used?

The Stellar Team Diagnostic is used by coaches, consultants, HR and OD professionals and others experienced in working with teams. By teams, we include intact, virtual, cross-functional and project teams; we include teams in corporations and non-profits and NGO’s; we include management teams in small businesses and start-ups.

The assessment performs two important functions. One, it is a benchmarking tool. It provides the team and facilitator with a snapshot of the team as it exists today. It is also valuable as a way to measure progress for the team as they focus on areas of opportunity and development that are revealed by the assessment.

The second function is its value as a tool to provide insight for intervention and clear direction for goal-setting and on-going follow-up. The assessment is designed to reveal the system to itself. The facilitator works with the team to design development plans and structures for accountability. The data itself is a starting point for follow-up.

What plans are in place for on-going research? 

We are constantly gathering experience and feedback working directly with teams, utilizing the Stellar Team Diagnostic, and gathering feedback from trained facilitators who also use the assessment. We are in the process of designing primary research that will include interviews and field studies focused on validating the model and the instrument itself. Research papers will be published on the Team Diagnostic web site and in appropriate journals.


How do I sign up?

Call Xponents now at 303-238-9733.