Productive and high-functioning teams share several traits. They almost always have a clear vision of the purpose and goals they’re striving to fulfill. They share norms around communication and levels of professionalism. They also establish values and expectations around performance and improvement. These values and expectations are not only understood by all team members, but they also are internally regulated as a matter of culture.
All these traits allow great teams to accomplish their objectives and continue on journeys of excellence.
The Dynamics of a Successful Team
A collection of great talent does not directly transfer into the emergence of a high-functioning team. Instead, when team members can see a bigger purpose in their contributions, they’re more willing to put aside personal desires for the greater glory of their team’s success.
A great team can be recognized by the highest performing members’ willingness to express appreciation and recognition for the work of those in more contributive roles. President Harry Truman once said, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you do not care who gets the credit.” A team that’s functioning at the top of their game is often a living example of this quote. They demonstrate selflessness, commitment to the long-term, and a willingness to adhere to established norms and values.
Leaders must understand the conditions that allow their team members to excel, and they must demonstrate that they’re working to create such an environment. Everyone wants to be on a great team, but few people know what it means to be a great team member. Fewer still will find their way to that place without the help of a leader who nurtures and directs them.
As a leader, it is your role to help a collection of individuals become a great team.
Adding a New Member
When the make-up of a team changes, sometimes there’s an assumption that everyone will simply carry on, and the new members will magically assimilate. This assumption is false.
As a leader, you must understand that each time a team member is added or replaced you have a whole new team. Use these changes and transitions to pause and reaffirm your team’s core understandings. Take time to clearly define expectations to new team members, giving them context into how your team has achieved success in the past and how the new member’s contributions will allow that success to continue to grow.
You should also hold long-standing team members to the standard of being welcoming, accepting, and positive. Be deliberate in assigning mentorship and support responsibilities. A successful leader knows that, if their team is to prosper and gel, there’s no room for bullying or petty positional games.
Great teams do founder and lose their ways. While these downfalls can be traced to a number of different factors, the largest is the assumption that a culture of success will simply take care of itself.
Great teams are created with intention. High productivity emerges when a positive culture, focused plan, and nurturing environment are present. Everyone involved must believe that the team’s success will far outweigh any individual accolades.
Reestablishing Core Understandings and Norms
High-functioning teams are committed to their specific ways of doing things, because they know their shared commitments create success. When you commit to reestablishing your team’s norms and values during periods of change, you send a message of caring and investment. Don’t allow yourself to become too busy to attend to the foundational principles of your team. Instead, demonstrate the same commitment you expect from your team members.
Keep your team focused on the reasons for their collective success and you’ll reduce the opportunities for selfishness and petty jealousy to emerge. The moment your team members begin thinking, “I’m going to get mine,” the magic is lost. A collection of talented individuals focused on personal success will never match the achievements of a great team.
Long-term success is achieved through a relentless adherence to collectively agreed-upon norms, values, and commitments. Understand and nurture these dynamics, especially during the addition or replacement of a team member, and you’ll ensure that your team’s success continues to grow.
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Tim, with his extensive background in education and management, is a great part of our Fired Up! team dedicated to inspiring teams and leaders. At Fired Up!, our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams, and align operation practices to engage organizations and drive breakthrough results.