The Magic of a Great Team
Great teams feel almost magical.
These rare teams build with care and intention. They operate at an incredibly high level of productivity and achieve extraordinary results.
Dysfunctional teams are unproductive, draining, and stressful. You’re always watching your back, focused on managing up, and fighting outside your silo.
Linda Adams, Abby Curnow-Chavez, Audrey Epstein, and Rebecca Teasdale honed their expertise inside some of the largest and most powerful businesses operating today. The four authors have led the human resources, talent management, leadership development, and organizational effectiveness functions of multiple Fortune 500 companies including Ford Motor Company, Pepsi, and Target. Currently, the four comprise the TriSpective Group, catering to companies like PetSmart, Kaiser, Orbitz, and others.
The best teams perform so well it appears they are one single organism.
Their book, The Loyalist Team: How Trust, Candor and Authenticity Create Great Organizations, tackles the difficult subject of teams. Their work on creating high-performance teams has yielded expertise and results for all of us to learn from. I recently asked them to share some of their research.
What are some of the characteristics of a great team?
We studied thousands of teams in dozens of industries and found that the highest-performers had the same set of traits and characteristics. On these teams, individuals trust each other without reservation and assume positive intent, put the team agenda ahead of any personal agenda and hold each other accountable. We call them Loyalist Teams because they are loyal to one another, to the team, and to the organization as a whole.
Study: high performing teams put the team agenda ahead of personal agendas.
You outline four different types of teams in this book. If you’re the new leader, how do you know your team’s persona?
A new leader can use one of our team assessments, including the Loyalist Team Snapshot that’s available for free on our website. We also suggest learning about the characteristics of Loyalist Teams and looking for them on the new team.
Leaders can ask themselves a series of questions including: Are there only pockets of trust on my team or do all team members trust one another? Do team members believe that “We only win together,” or are they more likely to think, “I look better if you lose”? How often and how well do team members put the real issues on the table and discuss them candidly and productively?
If trust is consistent across the team, individuals know their success is tied together, and they readily discuss even the tough issues, then the new leader is starting in a great place. If those elements are missing, we suggest the leader learn more about the less effective team types and determine actions to take to move the team along the spectrum to becoming a Loyalist Team.
Team is not a destination you permanently reach, but more a way of working together.
Characteristics of a Toxic Team
On the other side of the equation are the toxic, dysfunctional teams. What characterizes them?
We call the least effective teams Saboteur Teams because on these teams, someone is always trying to sabotage someone else’s effort. Team members spend as much time watching their back as doing their own work. There’s a “Get them before they get me” mentality, and people often dread going into work. Bad behavior and poor performance go unchecked, and there is an overall sense that nothing will change.
What most contrasts a Saboteur Team with a Loyalist Team?
Loyalist Teams face winning and losing together. When the heat is on and the team is under pressure, Loyalist Teams find ways to come together and prevail. They learn from mistakes and losses, adjust and move on. Saboteur teams, already splintered, disintegrate into heated factions and waste time assigning and avoiding blame during the toughest times. While individual team members focus on self-preservation at all costs, the team’s performance spirals out of control.