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7 Habits of Extraordinary Teams

Want better teamwork and greater success? Make sure your employees are following these easy guidelines.
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Everybody agrees that "teamwork" is crucial to business success--but few people bother define what "teamwork" really is.  A few years ago, Phil Geldart (author of the classic In Your Hands, the Behaviors of a World Class Leader) explained to me a set of principles that allow teams to overcome even the most thorny business challenges.

Based on that conversation, here are the seven characteristics of truly extraordinary teams:

1. Extraordinary teams have a leader. 

Regardless of whether team members come from the same organization or are collected from multiple organizations, there must always be a designated and recognized team leader. Even though the team leader needs rest of the team to deliver the result, the team leader--not the team--is responsible for that result.

2. Extraordinary teams have quantifiable goals.

Teamwork requires that every member of the team understand exactly what the team is supposed to achieve. That sense of exactness is only possible when the team's goal can be measured objectively--which means the goals must be quantifiable rather than vague.

So, for example, a goal to "Build better customer relationships" is meaningless mush. By contrast, "Increase re-order rates by 50%" is precise and understandable.

3. Extraordinary teams have well-defined roles.

Each team member should know exactly what he or she must do on a day-to-day basis so that the team achieves its goals.  Without that clarity, team members will work at cross-purposes and trip each other up.

The intersecting roles of the team members should be thought through carefully at the inception of the effort; they can then be refined as the team moves forward.

4. Extraordinary teams share resources.

For a team to be successful, members must be willing to share whatever resources they control that are required for the team to achieve its goal.  These include physical resources (money, materials, office space, computers, etc.) as well as mental or emotional resources (like ideas, suggestions, encouragement, or enthusiasm). When team members hoard, teams are weakened--often to the point of total failure.

5. Extraordinary teams communicate effectively. 

Depending upon the goals and time frame, teams should meet at least once a week, and more often if necessary. More importantly, team communications must be tooled (or retooled if necessary) so that each team member understands what's going on--and, perhaps more importantly, what is expected of him or her before the next meeting.

6. Extraordinary teams are 100% committed.

Commitment expresses itself through consistency, particularly in behavior of the team members.  They're willing and able to what needs to be done in order to achieve the team's goals.

While extraordinary teams are committed, however, they aren't obsessive: Members shouldn't be sacrificing their private lives for the team. In fact, team members can't perform consistently when their lives are out of balance.

7. Extraordinary teams discourage big egos.

A strong ego is a good thing in many business situations, but not inside teams.  For a team to function effectively, individuals on the team must hold their own egos in check and make both the team itself and the team's goals more important than individual members--or their individual contributions.  Otherwise, grandstanding and prima donna behavior can short-circuit everything.

Needless to say, these "habits" do not emerge automatically. You need to make sure you're fostering the kind of culture that helps these teams develop--because teams founded with these habits in mind are far more likely to succeed that teams that just meet periodically and hope for the best.

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IMAGE: Flickr photo courtesy of Adam Scotti
Last updated: Jun 25, 2012

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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