There has been a lot written about teams and team work. Yet many companies struggle to have healthy, high functioning teams. Most often that is the result of an unhealthy culture or misguided leadership. There are some fundamental elements of great teams that allow organizations to get things done quickly with excellence.
- A Sense of Purpose – The great teams I’ve observed and served on have had a sense of purpose, they all knew where they were headed. That sense of purpose allowed the team to want to be great not just average. The first step in building a great team is to make sure everyone knows the big picture purpose of what they are trying to accomplish. Does everyone know what a win looks like and are they celebrating the right things and changing the wrong things?
- Empowered – Great teams are given the ability to do their jobs and the decision making power to get things done. They don’t have to check with the boss before every decision, because the boss trusts them and has given them their purpose and goals. When a team is empowered and trusted great things can happen very quickly. When they are told what to do and how to do it they tend to move slow and become average and apprehensive.
- Humble – Great teams might have superstars on the team but everyone knows the team is more important than any individual. People are willing to defer to others if they have more experience and knowledge. They also learn how to push back on ideas without attacking individuals. The team is always trying to find the best and so everyone is open to feedback and evaluate everything together.
- Transparent & Honest – Great teams talk to each other and are honest with each other. If they are on the same page as far as purpose and are clear on the objectives they can push each other and hold each other accountable. This can only happen if they are also humble and trust each other.
- Cross functional and diverse – The great teams have different personalities, skills and strengths. Team members know what each others strengths and skills are and allow people to work in their area of strength. Great teams communicate about who should be involved in certain projects based on their skill and strengths and not on politics. Team members understand what others are doing on the team and therefore can help each other if needed.
Teams are only as great as the leader. Leaders that try to control and direct instead of casting vision and empowering tend to have average teams. As a leader don’t get caught up in telling your team what to do. Instead make sure they know their purpose and what the wins are. Establish clear goals or outcomes and then allow your team to figure out how to get there. If you can’t trust your team then you have the wrong team and need to find people you can trust.
As the leader you are there to coach along the way and not get involved in the how. This means encouraging people, redirecting people, refocusing people and backing your team up even if they make some mistakes. Building a great team takes great leadership. If you have a very new team or inexperienced team you may have to spend more time with them and give them some of the how. Getting your teams to great is a process, there is an ideal yet you need to work with reality. Start with yourself as the leader and then your team members. The better you lead the better your team becomes.
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