When you see someone who knows how to grab a group and make it a team, stop and pay attention. It doesn't matter if it's a sports team, work team or even an elementary school spelling bee team. Look for the characteristics that make that leader stand out. Listen for the words they use to encourage their players. Feel the sense of elation just being in their presence.

Here are the key areas that make outstanding leaders and amazing teams.

  1. They really care about growing those they manage. They encourage and are not afraid to speak out and put in place a corrective action. They understand that behavior patterns from our original organization, the family show up at work and they help staff transform what is outdated and no longer useful. The 'all about me' types are helped to become collaborators. Those filled with fear transcend this scary place and become filled with confidence. Those who are always arguing and fighting back, learn about cooperation. The 'blame game' crew gets taught the language of accountability.
  2. They challenge the status quo. This is the key to honest feedback. Everyone gets stuck with old ways of doing things and these behaviors are so constant they become invisible. Asking the "why" question is a start and then listening without judging is the next step. Great leaders help victims who are too timid, to move to new ways of thinking and to become explorers. This means that fear is eradicated and replaced with at least three suggestions of how to do things differently. Then at least one new option is put into place and even the weakest victim learns to be stronger.
  3. They encourage passion and opportunities. The rebels on the team who cannot accept authority are given the opportunity to become community builders and pull people together for positive change. Rather than send the rebels or the bullies to HR to get reprimanded, these folks are helped to become the visionaries of the team and use their forceful personalities to keep going in a forward direction that will benefit everyone.
  4. They hold people accountable: The natural tendency to play 'see ya' at work stems from the childhood fear of being sent to your room or having toys, phones, car keys, or other special privileges taken away. It is easier to judge, blame or attack others rather than own up to what is not working properly for oneself. Leaders help martyrs who always do someone else's work and want extreme recognition, share the work load. No martyr buttons on this team.
  5. They recognize contributions and give positive awards. There is a healthy systems of rewards and earned pats on the back. This is where appreciation is distributed so there are no favorites. Everyone is encouraged and applauded in the right time and in the right way. Super achievers are respected more for working together than playing the "me, me, me" card. And rescuers are only offered a high five when they change their 'jumping in too fast to help' manner, to asking the right questions and letting someone else figure out what needs to be done.
  6. They let conflict take place and teach others how to stay present and resolve issues. When procrastinators keep holding up the team projects great leaders permit honest dialogue to come forward so that these folks who have some deep behavior patterning of fearful to finish, can begin to see the important role they are playing in the success or failure of the team. Telling the truth in a disciplined way helps the 'never get it done on time folks' become strong enough to see new routes to completing what they start. The avoiders learn to stay rather than run and find strength in actually initiating difficult conversations. Pleasers are encouraged to tell the truth rather than stay in the no-man's land of saying yes to everything.
  7. They know when it is time to "un-hire" the wrong fit for the team. Not everyone is willing to change and when there is a team member who is tainting the rest of the mixture, the leader is compassionate, yet clear about what is not working. Thus, splitters who are the most divisive members of a team are offered an opportunity to change and yet if they continue to undermine the good will of the rest, they are helped to leave and it is done with honorable closure.
  8. They know good fun from excessive drama and over the top humor. While emotional outbursts can show up in even the most cooperative work settings the overuse of drama and clowning is put to rest quickly. It gets in the way of real work and emotional scenes along with an overdose of clever comments can become boring. Drama queens and kings are helped to become good story tellers. That way the adrenaline can still be pumped up, however time is not wasted. And the comic in the group takes a lesson from Jon Stewart and makes a few sharp pithy statements and then stops so work can get done.
  9. They are eager to create a fair work life balance. There are always times when there is an all hands on deck requirement. However, this is occasional and teams will show up if there is an emergency. Leaders who discuss the issues with the team and tell them straight out what is needed and why, are the winners. They face all problems with confidence and do not hide behind the denier mask (think Captain of the Titanic). They know that family is as important as work and that there is no amount of money that can replace the health and happiness that comes with a fair balance of important relationships.

Moving forward.

Look again at the list and at the behavior patterns and see which ones you need to work on to change for yourself or to help those you work with. I can promise you that teams treated with dignity and respect, and given the opportunity to grow personally and professionally, are the ones that are the most successful.

What other important aspects of leadership do you think make for extraordinary teams? I know the list could be much longer and would love to have your input.