What Do Good Teams Look Like?

Where there is a team, there is bound to be dysfunction. And that is good to an extent. We need to get rid of fake harmony. Very simply, conflict of ideas is healthy, but a conflict of personalities is cancerous. Argue about the ideas as much as you like, but don't demonize one another or someone's point of view. The permission to do this comes from the trust you have built.

Since everyone has had a say and has been listened to, commitment comes more easily. People do not demand that their point of view be accepted, but they do want to be heard. Whenever people feel they have had an input into something, they feel committed to it. The outcome becomes "ours."

With these steps, people embrace personal accountability. Even more importantly, they hold their teammates accountable for the goals that were assigned to them. Everything then is about team goals and not about me, what I did and what others did not do. Remember people do like to accomplish things and do like to be held accountable as long as everyone is being held accountable.

Not surprisingly results improve. While good results can never be guaranteed, the likelihood of better results is enhanced. More importantly, the journey becomes fun.

My good friend, Professor Adam Goodman, Director of The Center for Leadership at Northwestern University, makes several suggestions to my students as they embark on forming teams.

    • Get to know each other by spending time together.
    • Talk in person whenever possible as opposed to emailing and texting.
    • Come to the team meetings on time.
    • Come prepared having done all the homework you were supposed to do.
    • Come ready with your questions and suggestions.
    • Learn to have honest conversations, not polite ones.
    • Clearly define the tasks and roles for each member.
    • Demonstrate your commitment through small wins as opposed to trying to impress people with big things.

Does anything seem like brain surgery here? No. It is simple. It is a lot of singles and very few, if any, home runs. But why is it so hard then? The reasons lie in our impatience, which has been made worse by the onslaught of the 24/7 tools of technology. Slow down, breathe and finish what you have committed to doing, now.

Professor Goodman further counsels: speak less, listen more, ask questions, talk about mistakes and seek feedback. Understand differing perspectives; pick what is best for the team and self-reflect often. Embedded in this advice is a lifetime of wisdom.

Building a team is akin to cultivating a garden. It takes time, energy, water and a big dollop of nourishing. Every human being is both similar and different. We need to work with both ends of this spectrum to discover and unleash the richness that lies within.

Before asking others to do something, I have often found it better to set the example myself. A leader does not do what he wants to do; he does what is required to be done. I once witnessed a team that was in total disarray come together quickly, productively and joyously, when the leader took the feedback to heart and changed the way she approached the team.

Are you a leader? If so, you must lead the change.

Verinder Syal, Author: Discover The Entrepreneur Within