What Makes A Great Team?

What Makes A Great Team?

By: Christina Barr

A senior manager I know, Cheryl, recently found out that she has been given an opportunity to work on a new team. She wonders which team she will be assigned to and hopes it’s the team that is focused on the new product launch, made up of people she knows and trusts. Cheryl learns the “great opportunity” team she is assigned to is the team that is known in the company for their cliques, silos, and individualistic attitudes; they meet their deadlines with the bare minimum of effort and the maximum amount of complaint.  Cheryl is disappointed and wonders what she can do. She knows being reassigned is not an option.

Almost everyone can relate to her situation and these dysfunctional behaviors. Think back to a team that you were a part of that just could not get it together–a team that had a difficult time working together, achieving its objectives, and really making a mark. As you think about this team, recall the way this team interacted, communicated and behaved. What made it so difficult for this team to be successful?

  • Bad attitude
  • Side bar conversations
  • Judgement and blame of each other
  • Victim mentality
  • No direction
  • Personal agendas
  • Lack of engagement
  • Distrust
  • No safe place to go
  • Lack of collaboration/sharing

Like Cheryl, everyone wants to be a part of a team where everything works well. The team is seamless, and greater-than-imagined achievements occur. Think about what makes this possible on a team. Recall a team you were a part of that was like this. What do you notice about this team?

  • Kindness
  • Passion
  • Knowledge and Skill
  • Openness
  • Encouragement
  • Reliability
  • Opinions heard
  • Commitment
  • Trust
  • Respectful candor
  • Fun and sense of humor
  • Follow through

When we think about it, we all know and want the qualities that make up great teams. Then what makes it so difficult to create these great teams time and time again?

When we look at the behaviors and qualities of these great teams, they require each team member to fully show up and fully participate; this requires trust and vulnerability and that is not easy. Vulnerability is a kin to showing someone your soft spots (underbelly), but we are wired to want to protect ourselves.  This protection make take the form of fear of failure, fear of speaking up, fear of  being wrong, fear of emotions and getting hijacked by them, fear of being incompetent, and so on.

Sometimes, in situations like Cheryl’s, it’s easier to maintain the dysfunctional status quo.  The risk to ourselves just seems too big.  It is not that the dysfunctional team can’t produce good work, they just never reach their full potential – and the cost of dysfunction can have a huge impact on engagement with customers, the company and ultimately on themselves. Like Cheryl, most people do not find working with these types of teams fulfilling, inspiring and a place of reaching your highest potential. When we are able to fully show up, and create great relationships with in our teams,

When we act as a fully aligned team, We…

  • actively build trust with team members so that it is safe to share more of ourselves, things that are important to us – our ideas, talents, solutions, goals. Where we fully support a decision after healthy debate and help to make it successful, whether we agree with it or not.
  • create a common vision that benefits the good of all – our teammates, our company, our customers, and ourselves.
  • operate from a belief in mutuality – that there is more than enough for all of us. There is an abundance of possibilities. We are willing to create in an environment that is healthy for open dialogue, making decisions, providing feedback, having accountability, and handling breakdowns.
  • take ownership for our role in any team drama and shift it to a more empowered stance.
  • understand the context we operate in, as it will shape our choices.
  • take risks and know that there will be bumps, there will be falls and we will get back up.

Showing up, being vulnerable and stepping in to create a great team isn’t always easy.  Cheryl chose to do the hard work and, as a result of her courage, there has been a change in this once dysfunctional team. Just recently, they created a new vision for themselves and a new journey has begun.

Today is your invitation – How do you want to show up, be seen and be courageous on the teams you are a part of?

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