As children and teenagers most of us have played on a sports team. Can you remember what it felt like to be part of a winning team or a losing team? Remember the elation you felt when your team won a big game and the despair of losing the big game or championship? It is something special to experience being part of something bigger then yourself.
In my experience the concept of a “team based culture” is something a lot of entrepreneurs, business owners and executives want but find very difficult to achieve. The difficulty begins with the definition. Plato said that wisdom begins with the definition of terms. So what does Webster’s Dictionary have to say about teams: “a number of persons associated together in work or activity”. Webster’s goes on to describe teamwork as: “work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole”. This is a good start but does not give us enough practical detail and guidance in the business world. Steven Yelen a New York based Business Coach with over 20 years experience in supporting organizations and teams give us some guidance with his ideas on fundamental principles and behaviors that work.
Fundamental Principles of a Successful Team:
-Clear and mutually agreed to working approach
-Appropriate balance of task focus and relationship focus
-Agreement on Measurements and Aligned Rewards
Behaviors that support Successful Teams:
-Push for high quality communications
-Help create a climate of trust
-Play your position and bring talent to the team
-Help drive discipline into the team
-Be prepared to sacrifice for the team-be a good sport
-Help new members make the entry
-Strengthen the leader through good followership
-Play down yourself and build up others
Why Teams fail to deliver results?
The biggest root cause of team failures in business can often traced to the lack of establishment of clear purpose, goals, measurements and rewards. Without these foundation pillars in place trust is often the first casualty followed by a lack of energy and sense of helplessness. Finally, if the leadership is not walking the talk then you can expect cynicism to spread quickly and undermine any opportunity for success.
There are many examples of organizations that have achieved excellence and delivered exceptional results by creating a team based culture. Some examples include GE, Motorola, McKinsey and Pall Corporation. Do your research and look at the top players in your industry and you will often find a team based approach separating the leaders from the followers.
A great resource for helping you understand and build high performance teams can be found in the book “The Wisdom of Teams” by Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith.