How effective is your team?
Recently, I had the honor of working with a truly high-potential, non-profit team. This group had all of the right pieces of the puzzle regarding talent, skillsets, and personalities. While the formation of this team was relatively new, the relational history among its members was seasoned and meaningful. Teams like this have enough credibility and skin in the game to make enormous strides toward their collaborative work. In addition, they can get away with certain traits and behaviors that many other teams can’t because of their tightness and respect for each other.
In fact, when examining teams from various settings including sports, non-profits, and military...one will begin to pick up on the common themes or threading that directly correlates with their effectiveness. In my research and experience, I have found 4 distinct secrets of highly effective teams. For this week’s action article, I will briefly unpack them.
4 Secrets of Highly Effective Teams
1.) Highly Effective Teams Keep Their Eyes on the Prize.
It’s no surprise that highly effective teams are, also, highly motivated. Their success is fueled by an insatiable desire to win. One way these teams keep motivated is by maintaining focus on both their vision and primary objectives. Popular thought leader and author, Simon Sinek, writes, “All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.” I fully agree with this statement. From my observations, it’s especially true for teams. To rework Sinek’s quote...most teams start with their why...but only the great ones keep their why clear year after year!
Furthermore, Chris McChesney, author of The Four Disciplines of Execution, writes on the importance of focusing on your organization’s WIG’s (wildly important goals). He writes, “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, unapologetically—to say no to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.” ― Chris McChesney
Highly effective teams are only as strong as their weakest link. If teams are simply a collection of individuals...it only makes sense that highly effective teams are a collection of highly effective individuals. As a whole, the team has a deep trust that each member can “hold their own” - not just in terms of competency and follow through but also with drive, motivation, and energy.
2.) Highly Effective Teams Hold Each Other Accountable.
This is where the rubber meets the road. For highly effective teams, accountability has high visibility. Team members do not shy away from healthy confrontation nor do they deny one another the opportunity to be a smashing success. Across the board, we see highly effective teams utilize key behaviors and practices such as having frequent or scheduled check-ins, placing individuals in the “hot seat” for collaborative troubleshooting and brainstorming, and implementing both group and private conversations regarding performance, excellence, and follow-through.
3.) Highly Effective Teams Know How to Disagree.
A benchmark for both deep trust and respect among teams is the welcoming, presence, and comfortability of disagreement. Highly effective teams make it safe to share opinions, creativity, and data. Their primary concern is not the affirmation of a team member’s feeling but, rather, the pure success of a team member’s idea. Success can’t fully be achieved if the people ever only agree. True innovation and ingenuity require the grinding of thoughts, the bouncing of multiple ideas, and the use of the devil’s advocate when good concepts rise to the surface. It’s important for those who are naturally inclined to prefer agreement or people pleasing to remember that disagreement is not necessarily a sign of discord or friction. Often times, it’s just the opposite - a sign of deep respect, trust, and appreciation. It’s also the stamp of true safety among the team.
4.) Highly Effective Teams Pursue Innovation and Growth
The last secret is perhaps the most neglected among teams today. It’s easy to become complacent...even if you’re on a winning team. When it comes to leadership in particular, if you’re not growing...you’re reverting. There is no standstill or in between. It’s crucial for team leaders and managers alike to continue prioritizing opportunities for development, innovation, and growth. Don’t rule out the power of playful activities, outside the box conversations, participating in group learning through resources, courses, or conferences. While I strongly urge leaders to prioritize this...be aware that fatigue and overkill are also very real factors. Sometimes, highly driven leaders add too much to the plates of their team members by piling on book readings, webinars, conferences, group brainstorming, etc. When it comes to advancing development, balance is key.
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