From Manchester United to Netflix, and Apple through to the Oakland Athletics baseball team that was so vividly depicted in Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball, there’s a lot we can learn from the world’s most successful teams. It’s in looking at the common threads between them that we can establish the qualities of a great team.
1) A great team has a clearly defined, positive goals
When you look at the qualities of a great team, one thing that stands out as a common thread is that the team is unified behind a single goal. In a great sports team, players are less concerned about their own personal performance, and more motivated by the performance of the team as a whole. A great sales team doesn’t incentivise its staff to “steal” sales from other team members (which happens frequently when sales teams are not structured well.
All team members on the team understand the position the team is in, and what the endgame looks like. Goals will be ambitious, but achievable, and there should be a singular focus on achieving that goal from everyone within the team.
2) Great teams have clearly defined roles
Every person on a great team knows exactly what their role is within the context of the team. This isn’t an issue of seniority, or about establishing hierarchies by ensuring everyone
knows who their “bosses” are, but more a reflection that each member on the team has specific skills and is on the team for a reason, and it’s important that they – and everyone else they work with, remember that.
Look at a football team. You don’t want your backs running up to take the strikes on goal away from the strikers. You want a disciplined team where the backs can move forward to support an attacking effort, but remain focused on their own roles. You need to structure your teams in business in much the same way. Everyone should have a set-down and agreed-upon role.
3) High levels of trust
The very best teams invest heavily in team-building activities and other initiatives to generate a sense of goodwill and trust within the organisation, and the reason for this is simple; a team that is low in trust will dismiss the ideas and input of colleagues, or waste time in micro-managing juniors. A team that is low in trust will also avoid having conversations with or working with their team-mates, which lowers the overall creative energy and productivity of the team.
You don’t need to have a team of friends (and indeed if the inter-personal relationships between team members becomes too close this can be a problem in itself). But you do need there to be a high level of trust and comfort in collaboration between staff.
4) The lines of communication are clear
Nothing shakes the confidence of a team more quickly than a leader making a snap decision and then communicating it to the team at the last moment. A truly winning team is open in its lines of communication, and is sure to communicate major decisions to its teams with plenty of time to digest and adjust to any changes in approach or strategy before they’re implemented.
A great team also has an open feedback loop in which managers are getting regular feedback back to them – not only does this provide a useful way to gauge employee satisfaction, but it also allows for a greater flow of ideas around the team.
These four qualities can be found within any great team. If your team lacks for any of these qualities, it’s important that you step back and consider what leadership strategy you could take to help your team find these qualities. The results – once you’ve got a truly great team working – are more than worth the effort.