Note: I am currently working with a medical group where the best description I can come up with is that they have no team spirit. As always, you can find all my blog posts from 2013 to the present on my website at http://stevemarshallassociates.com/steves-blog/
You know it when it is there, but it is hard to discern what "it" is that determines the difference between a high performing team and just a collection of people working together. Added to that, everybody agrees that "teamwork" is crucial to business success--but few people bother to define what "extraordinary teamwork" really is. I read a great book a few years ago, by Phil Geldart (author of the classic In Your Hands, the Behaviors of a World Class Leader), which helped me to understand the set of principles that allows teams to overcome even the most difficult business challenges.
Based on that conversation, here are the seven characteristics of truly extraordinary teams:
1. Extraordinary teams have a leader
Regardless of whether team members come from the same organization or are collected from multiple organizations, there must always be a designated and recognized team leader. Even though the team leader needs rest of the team to deliver the result, the team leader--not the team--is responsible for that result.
2. Extraordinary teams have quantifiable goals
Teamwork requires that every member of the team understand exactly what the team is supposed to achieve. That sense of exactness is only possible when the team's goal can be measured objectively--which means the goals must be quantifiable rather than vague.
So, for example, a goal to "Build better customer relationships" is meaningless mush. By contrast, "Increase re-order rates by 50%" is precise and understandable.
3. Extraordinary teams have well-defined roles
Each team member should know exactly what he or she must do on a day-to-day basis so that the team achieves its goals. Without that clarity, team members will work at cross-purposes and trip each other up.
The intersecting roles of the team members should be thought through carefully at the inception of the effort; they can then be refined as the team moves forward.
4. Extraordinary teams share resources
For a team to be successful, members must be willing to share whatever resources they control that are required for the team to achieve its goal. These include physical resources (money, materials, office space, computers, etc.) as well as mental or emotional resources (like ideas, suggestions, encouragement, or enthusiasm). When team members hoard, teams are weakened--often to the point of total failure.
5. Extraordinary teams communicate effectively
Depending upon the goals and time frame, teams should meet at least once a week, and more often if necessary. More importantly, team communications must be tooled (or retooled if necessary) so that each team member understands what's going on--and, perhaps more importantly, what is expected of him or her before the next meeting.
6. Extraordinary teams are 100% committed
Commitment expresses itself through consistency, particularly in behavior of the team members. They're willing and able to what needs to be done in order to achieve the team's goals.
While extraordinary teams are committed, however, they aren't obsessive: Members shouldn't be sacrificing their private lives for the team. In fact, team members can't perform consistently when their lives are out of balance.
7. Extraordinary teams discourage big egos.
A strong ego is a good thing in many business situations, but not inside teams. For a team to function effectively, individuals on the team must hold their own egos in check and make both the team itself and the team's goals more important than individual members--or their individual contributions. Otherwise, grandstanding and prima donna behavior can short-circuit everything.
Bring it In
Needless to say, these "habits" do not emerge automatically. You need to make sure you're fostering the kind of culture that helps these teams develop--because teams founded with these habits in mind are far more likely to succeed that teams that just meet periodically and hope for the best.
Next week: This is what gets me up in the morning!