I was once told – and believe to this day – that the word TEAM stands for “Together Everyone Accomplishes More”. It’s a great way of looking at the word as well as the actions of a unified and purposeful group. I have read about and also been a part of some great sports, academic, business and civic teams that accomplished great things.
As I reflect on the common elements within the successful teams that proved to be most effective, a consistent pattern emerges and repeats itself no matter the purpose or construction of the team. Successful teams are not about superstars, although having a Michael Jordan or LeBron James in any group is always a plus. It is not about leadership where dynamic individuals like Colin Powell, Steve Jobs or Lee Iacocca can bend the will of the group to the task at hand. What strikes me here is the dynamics and organization of average people challenged to complete an above average task. My experience is that great teams always seem to have certain elements in common. These elements cut across sports, business and civic organizations and are always there in one form or another. Specifically:
Great teams have common goals with clear objectives
It is almost as though they start at the end and work backwards. What do we want the end result to look like? League Champions? Raise $400,000 for the hospital? Then, a considerable amount of time is spent parsing the goal into smaller, clear objectives as to how the goal will be reached.
Great teams focus hard on the most critical elements
Great teams love challenges, but they know how to focus on the heart of the issue. For example, when SMU needed a new $150 million football stadium they didn’t start by selling $100 bricks with alumni names on them. They went after 3 key alumni who contributed the vast amount of the funding almost immediately. Those were “must wins” for that team and they knew the goal could not be reached without that critical support.
Great teams constantly support each other
Just as sports figures back each other up on throws, great teams move resources to the area of greatest need. The division of labor and degree of difficulty cannot always be accurately estimated up front and extra help, when needed, can make the difference between success and failure should one part of the project bog down.
Change is hard, big change can be very hard, but great teams manage it. Consider having to put in a new game plan or series of plays every week for Saturday’s football game. Championship teams adjust to the change and then execute it on the field. They don’t work on plays that they are not going to use or defenses they never expect to put in. I recently spoke to a company that completely changed their strategy from being a SAN device company to being a blisteringly fast storage company… and it took them two years to fight through it!
Great teams are built around success regardless of the task
There are no failed, great teams that I know of – only teams that were unable to reach their potential in some way, or had the wrong people in the job at hand. Those are often the “should have / could have” folks. In fairness, there has to be talent and skill lining up with the goal. On the other hand, great teams build on the progress they are making, and continually reinforce this as success. They create a positive energy that expands into a sense of purpose and accomplishment that they all share. A 2% improvement in the measured results can start to show the team that they are making a difference. And they work to get that to 5%. So when you are in your next meeting, think about these points – and the factors I have mentioned that contribute to making teams great. Because in that meeting you are a part of a “team” that is working for a purpose (goal). and I hope the above points can be of help and work for you.
Let’s always be the best team on the field and remember that Together Everyone Accomplishes More!