About synodal teamwork

Democratic teamwork is not synodal

Synodality is not a synonym for “efficient teamwork”. I’d even say that a wide-spread or classical understanding of “teamwork” is rather the opposite of synodal conciliation.

Differences between democratic teamwork and synodality

democratic teamwork

synodal teamwork

During our meetings we don’t waste time with emotional discussions when there is no solution in sight. We cannot let others hinder us from doing our work peacefully if they are just emotional and do not even understand the topic.

When one member of the community insists that “something” is wrong, the community needs to listen. Synodality requires consensus, not majority. [SR1]

We know what we want. We have a clear plan.

We can have a mission, principles, strategies and plans, but we actually never know everything in advance and each of these documents may change at any time.

Consensus rather than majority

One of the differences between (classical) democracy and synodality is the following rule:


as long as one member of the community insists that “something” is wrong, the community needs to listen. Synodality requires consensus, not majority.

When a community has a problem that a majority fails to see, saying “let’s be polite and not speak about, let’s avoid discord and battle” is not a sustainable solution.

What makes a synodal team successful?

My cheat sheet for the leader of every synodal community. Inspired by HaasMortensen201606 and other sources (e.g. Natürliche Gemeindeentwicklung).

  • The personalities, attitudes, or behavioural styles of the team members don’t matter. What matters are certain enabling conditions.

  • Add members only when necessary. Larger teams are more vulnerable to poor communication, fragmentation and “free riding” (due to a lack of accountability). Not more members than the minimum. (More than good enough is too much).

  • Teams are vulnerable to two “corrosive problems”: “us versus them” thinking and incomplete information

Enabling conditions

  • Compelling direction – we have a goal that we want to reach

  • Strong structure – well-designed rules, norms, tasks and processes. Discourage destructive behaviour.

  • Diversity in knowledge, views and perspectives. The right mix of “cosmopolitan” and “local” members.

  • Supportive context:

    • a good reward system (reinforces good performance)

    • a good information system (provides access to the data)

    • a good educational system (training)

    • material resources (funding, technological assistance)

  • Shared mindset (not each member needs technical or social skills, but the team overall needs a healthy dose of both)

Destructive behaviour

  • withhold information

  • pressure people to conform

  • avoid responsibility

  • cast blame upon individual members

Other texts

See also Democracy doesn’t like visionaries