The Characteristics Of Great Teams
May 19, 2015
We are in business to win. Winning is the only desirable outcome. The secret to winning, and to the continuation of winning, is to build the best team. It is essential to form a cohesive group of individuals all working to achieve the same goal. Having a bullet proof strategy and precision execution are essential components of winning but we can think of many examples where businesses seemed to have everything they required and yet were unable to win. As I think about why, it always comes back to the people… not any one individual, but the collective group. You win when you have the best team in the competition and you lose when you don't. When you walk through the doors of a radio station (or any business) that is winning -- and is sustaining that performance -- you can feel it.
There must be something winning teams do either by design or instinctively that if we all emulated would improve our chances of winning.
Now, having the best team is different from simply having the best players. A great team would be defined as a group of individuals working together for a common goal. These individuals come together and strive hard to achieve the objective. Having a great team is about ensuring the collective is stronger than any individual superstar.
I looked to the past and the present to see what I could learn from the great teams I had observed and worked with. What did all these teams have in common that propelled them to win and then continue winning? It wasn't hard to find the answers; it was almost like they were there just waiting for me to discover. Many of the conclusions I uncovered were almost instinctive but equally as easy to overlook.
- Stand for a noble cause. They have extreme clarity when it comes to knowing what it is they seek. They share a common vision that has emotional meaning beyond simply winning or making a profit. The team is seeking to make a profound difference in their field. They're on a mission to make the lives of their customers better.
- Have a desire to win. The team is compelled by their aspirational cause. The cause speaks to each team members' own beliefs and values. It becomes so deeply entrenched in the psyche of the team that they purse it with unrivalled intensity. They love the work they are doing; it's their passion.
- Are comprised of individuals who want to grow. Each person on the team wants to stretch themselves. They have their own inbuilt desire to do their best. They have a work ethic to be envious of and a determination to improve. They want their contribution to make a significant impact. They are committed to personal development.
- Act like a family. They look after and support each other. Loyalty is one of the most important traits to the team. Team members will challenge each other; holding one another accountable to the team's higher purpose. Everyone is driven to ensure the family is united and strong.
- Challenge the norm. In the pursuit of excellence great teams don't settle for an "it's always been done that way" or an "If it ain't broke don't fix it" mentality. The team seeks improvements and advancements in everything they do. They take calculated risks. They try new things. They seek to develop and enhance the tactics they have always used. To be the best they understand that they must be prepared to innovate. Constantly.
- Sweat the details. Great teams are obsessive about everything. Team members feel responsible and care about the work they are doing so no detail is too small to consider. They make sure everything is accounted for - nothing is left to chance. The smallest detail could mean the difference between winning and losing. A great team would never be heard saying "that doesn't matter".
- Build for the future. Great teams are committed to winning not just today but tomorrow. Winning is an "always" thing to a great team. They are always looking to build a better team; they know tomorrow's competition will be stronger so they must be as well. They are focused on team development; putting a lot of effort, time and resource into improving. They are always looking to recruit individuals who could enhance the team. They are never complacent with the team they have.
When teams demonstrate these characteristics there is an aura around the team…a sense of energy and momentum that feels exhilarating to be a part of. Building and maintaining a great team is essential if you want to experience and sustain superior performance. People have always been the most important ingredient in winning -- an aligned and empowered collection of individuals is a fundamental.
There are two questions that seem crucial for leaders to be asking; "How effective is our team?" and "What are we doing to ensure our team grows to greatness?"
Why not try auditing the current performance of your team?
There are two possible ways you could do this. Firstly, you may consider this an exercise to complete on your own. Grade your team against the above characteristics. Score the team on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being "this is not evident in our team" and 5 being "our team excels at this"). Then consider the areas you need to improve in and set yourself the goals for making those improvements. The second -- and more courageous -- approach would be to do the same audit but with your team. Have each person rate the team against the characteristics. Together identify areas for improvements and the steps you will take. After all, building a winning team is not just the responsibility of the leader but of every team member.
Winning is a journey, not a destination. The team is the engine that takes you on that journey. A bad team won't get you anywhere!
Building a great team should be your number one priority!