5 Conditions for an Effective Team

team

The Most Effective Teams

Rodger Dean Duncan’s latest book LeaderSHOP: Workplace, Career, and Life Advice From Today’s Top Thought Leaders is a collection of lessons from his many leadership interviews. I reached out to Rodger to provide his perspective on world class teams.

 

“Teamwork is more common as a buzzword than as an actual practice.” -Rodger Dean Duncan

 

Tips for Building Teams

Building a world-class team is the job of a great leader. Share a few tips you’ve learned about building great teams.

Teamwork is more common as a buzzword than as an actual practice. Without benefit of nuance, teamwork is one of those catch-all terms often extended as the magic elixir for the moment’s most pressing execution issue. In a bid to boost performance, teamwork is touted in corporate vision statements, on wall posters, T-shirts, key chains, and coffee mugs. Teamwork is the subject of banal pep talks by goofy managers in TV sitcoms (The Office comes to mind). Teamwork has been given a bad name by a world of bad practitioners.

But when we’re strategic about putting both the team and the work into teamwork, beautiful things can happen.

Here’s a helpful metaphor. The suspension bridge is one of the most impressive accomplishments of modern engineering. It begins as individual wires not much stronger than the ones you’d use to hang pictures on your living room wall. Spun together, these individual wires become strands. Then several of the larger strands are combined into giant wire rope or cable that can bear thousands of tons of weight and safely cross obstacles like canyons and rivers.

This same principle is part of the marvelous results that can be produced by genuine teamwork. Ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things when they discover strength in unity.

 

“Some people hesitate in speaking up to avoid being ostracized or being viewed as ‘not a team player.’” – Rodger Dean Duncan

 

5 Conditions of an Effective Team

So what are the ingredients of an effective team?

A team is most likely to be effective when five conditions exist:

 

1. It’s a real team, not just a team in name only.

A collection of people is not necessarily a team. In this context, “team” is used to describe a carefully selected group of people who work interdependently, who are mutually supportive, and who bring out the best in each other as they strive to accomplish a set of specific goals.

Composition matters, and more is not necessarily better. Go for quality over quantity.

 

2. It has a compelling purpose.

Why Your Success is Fueled by Your Peers

surround people

The Discipline of Success

 

If you want to be successful, it seems to make sense to get around successful people. The people we are around have an immeasurable impact on us. It’s one of the major themes in my book, The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future.

That’s why I was drawn to Leo Bottary’s new book, What Anyone Can Do: How Surrounding Yourself with the Right People Will Drive Change, Opportunity, and Personal Growth. He covers this important aspect of success. Success is available to everyone who pursues it with discipline. I recently spoke with Leo about his work.

 

“Self-help doesn’t mean by-yourself-help.” -Leo Bottary

 

The Importance of Peers

Since it is so central to your area of study and expertise, would you start by talking about the importance of peers. Why does it matter more than ever?

Trust in our institutions is low across the board (business, government, media and even non-governmental organizations) — because of this, it creates a vacuum.  If we can’t trust our institutions, where else do we turn?  For example, in the workplace, employees were found to trust their co-workers more than either the CEO or any of the senior leadership team members (Edelman Trust Barometer).  When we lack trust in our institutions, and the people who lead them, we look to one another for reliable counsel.  It’s why in today’s environment, our peers matter more than ever.   It also points to why it’s so essential for leaders to communicate horizontally as well as vertically.  The biggest influencers in today’s organizations are not always identified by job title.  In an era where creating “alignment” is the challenge of the day in so many of today’s companies, getting ALL your key influencers involved early and often is essential to making real alignment possible.

 

“Who you surround yourself with matters.” -Leo Bottary

 

What is the Aspen Effect and what does it teach us about leadership? 

The Aspen Effect speaks to a phenomenon in nature.  We see individual Aspen trees, yet it’s not evident they share a common root system and that thousands of Aspen trees can be one organism.  We are all connected.  If we thought of ourselves more often in terms of being part of a larger whole, we would be more successful more often.

 

“We need our peers more than ever.  The less we trust institutions, the more we must rely on one another.” -Leo Bottary

 

Factors of High Performing-Peer Groups

How Leaders Achieve Radical Outcomes

outcomes

 

Do you want to create radical outcomes?

 

Juliana Stancampiano, author of RADICAL OUTCOMES: How to Create Extraordinary Teams, is an entrepreneur and the CEO of Oxygen. For more than fifteen years, she has worked with Fortune 500 companies, both in them and for them. Her firm’s clients include Microsoft, DXC, Delta Dental (of WA), Starbucks, F5 Networks, Avaya, and Western Digital, among others. Her in-depth experience, along with the research that Oxygen conducts and the articles she has published, has helped to shape the perspective that Oxygen embraces.

After reading her new book, I reached out to Juliana to learn more about her work.

 

“You cannot defend your design without knowing what you’re designing for.” -I.M. Pei

 

Set the Vision

What’s the role of the leader in the team to produce radical outcomes?

The leader sets the vision and acts as the guard rails. The leader remains outcome-focused yet allows flexibility to achieve the outcome.  It’s not commanding and controlling your team.  It’s knowing their strengths and ensuring roles and abilities are aligned.

 

“Teams must understand and focus on outcomes, not on tasks.” -Juliana Stancampiano

 

Face Team Obstacles

What are the obstacles many teams face in becoming an effective ensemble?

Lack of role clarity. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities avoid internal disagreements.  Teams must understand and focus on outcomes, not on tasks.

Structure and process that prevent ensembles working effectively. We’ve seen performance management that rates people in comparison to their peers, not based on outcomes. When people are rated on a curve, they constantly compete with each other to improve their own rating.  This prevents meaningful ensemble work.

Lack of visibility of work product. Teams must share, even before the “thing” is completed. Early sharing allows teams to iterate together and stay focused. Lack of sharing produces work that often doesn’t meet the stated outcome. It also causes unnecessary re-work.

Various modes of communication.  Effective teams must communicate differently – fast communication, phone communication, chat communication – depending on topic and need.  They embrace different modalities, at different times and with different people.

 

“Lack of sharing produces work that often doesn’t meet the stated outcome.” -Juliana Stancampiano

 

How do team members become collaborative and not competitive?

8 Core Elements of High-Performance Teams

team
This is an excerpt from Team Quotient: How to Build High Performance Leadership Teams that Win Every Time by Douglas Gerber. Doug is Founder and CEO of Focus One, a consulting firm that helps leaders create High Performance Teams.

 

High-Performance Teams

Culture defines us in our family units, businesses, and organizations. It distinguishes who we are and how we are described. Employees can readily describe their organizational culture, using such words as supportive, open, results focused, etc. Much of that culture is built up over years or even decades. Yet we don’t have decades to build a successful team culture; we endeavor to create a strong and powerful culture within one to two years. We do this deliberately and consciously by defining the culture we want and then bringing it to life. When team members start to identify strongly with the team, we know that the team culture has become embedded.

 

THE 8 ELEMENTS OF HIGH – TQ TEAMS

As a result of working with hundreds of teams over many years, I have found that there are certain elements of High-Performance Teams that can be summarized by the acronym VIVRE FAT!

The idea of VIVRE FAT is not to create a group of ‘bon vivants’ or ‘gourmands.’ It’s rather about focusing on the ingredients that will create a great team that fulfills its mission and realizes its vision. Let’s examine each of the eight elements more closely.

 

Vision (Mission)

High-Performance Teams know where they are going and have a keen sense of direction. The Vision syncs with the overall company vision yet is distinct to the team. The Vision is not something created and communicated by the team leader alone; rather it reflects a core team effort, allowing all to feel ownership. The Vision is a motivating factor that propels the team forward. It allows team members to set clear goals, and targets and measures success. The Vision encompasses not only the business but also other aspects, such as team, people, key financial metrics, industry, and stakeholders. Besides Vision, we may also want to define the ‘purpose’ or ‘mission’ of the team, which essentially defines its ‘raison d’être’ or reason why the team exists.

 

“Every company needs to nurture its own culture organically, developing a distinct personality.” -Douglas Gerber

 

Identity

High-Performance Teams identify with the team and are proud of it. This sense of pride is due, in part, to the personal efforts that each team member has invested in moving towards High Performance. Identity forms an important part of one’s own self-perception and may even be more powerful than company or industry Identity. Identity places the team first and knows that team effort is a key to overall success. The sense of being part of something much bigger drives team members the extra mile. They believe what they are doing has meaning and creates value.

How to Build an A Team

a team

Build an A Team

Those who aspire to be successful quickly realize that individual performance isn’t usually enough. Only a team of committed individuals can accomplish great things. So a leader’s job turns to finding, selecting, and cultivating an amazing team.

If you wonder whether you are performing at your best, look at your team. My philosophy has always been that, if they are growing, your company will follow.

 

“Successful business leaders prioritize talent-development as a recruitment tool in the same way top athletic coaches do.” -Whitney Johnson

 

One way to tell whether you are growing is to look at where your team falls on the S curve. Based on Whitney Johnson’s proprietary research around disruption, every organization is a collection of individual S – or learning – curves. You build high performing team by optimizing these individual curves, including yours. In her book, Build an A-Team, you will learn how to manage people all along the S-curve and what to do when they reach the top of the curve. As employees are allowed, even required, to surf their individual S-curve waves, disrupting themselves, you will not only be less vulnerable to disruption, you’ll also be a boss people want to work for.

 

“The mind and skill-expanding opportunity motivates great engagement more than money or accolades.” -Whitney Johnson

 

After the release of your last book, Disrupt Yourself, you traveled and met the leaders of many organizations. As you spoke with them, what surprised you most?

Many people feel stuck, like a genie corked in a lamp; if somebody (usually their boss) would just pull that cork, they could make magic. They say, “I’m ready to disrupt myself. How can I persuade my boss to let me?” Or, “How can I get my team to disrupt themselves? How can I get my boss on board with that?” In Build an A Team I answer these questions and address the fact that, in most cases, fear of failure is the cork. We may be the cork in the bottle—our own, and our employees’.

 

“Want to know if you are about to be disrupted? Take the pulse of your workforce.” -Whitney Johnson

 

Be the Boss People Love to Work For