Building great teams is a foundational goal of all leadership positions.  Truly great teams are so very difficult to come by, with most people never experiencing the feeling of being a part of such a team.  As with all great teams, it has to start with a great leader. Great leaders are able not only to get the most out of an individual, but they are able to surround themselves with enough great people who work well together to experience synergy; where the team’s output is greater than the sum of their parts.  The great teams that I have been fortunate to see over my career all have had a few things in common.

Pacesetting Performance

Great teams don’t need to concern themselves with competition with other teams in the organizations.  These teams redefine possibilities in their organizations.  These are the types of teams whose worst days would be considered fantastic by others’ standards.  They never seem to have difficult times, when viewing them from the outside.  Even smaller sized teams of this nature can greatly impact an entire organization’s results due to the extreme highs they will experience compared to the rest of the field.  What others consider a goal, these teams consider basic functions of their positions.

A Winning Culture

Great teams are represented by the great culture their members share. They appreciate what they have, and understand that no one person is bigger than the team.  Because of this, they support each other better than teammates in more competitive environments.  There is no jealousy here, only support. Part of the reason the performance is so good on these teams is the fact that no members will let another member fail.  Do they do this for their leader, yes, but they do it for each other and they do it for themselves; which is the culture that the leader has brought to them.  A leader of a team likes this understands that they are successful because of the team; and will see to it that his/her people are rewarded.  Teams like this have staying power when the losing of a member causes minimal disruption that quickly becomes a memory.  Surprisingly, personnel changes on teams like this aren’t always less frequent than other teams, as organizations look to members of these teams to take on new challenges.  When an entire team is aligned with the need for a culture of development, there is never a shortage of talent large enough to keep others from taking the step outside of the team in hopes to re-create what they have learned in another capacity.

Organizational Influence

Great teams continue to make an impact on organizations long after they are dispersed.  You see this a lot in sports when looking at the coaching trees of famous coaches like Walsh and Parcells. This is equally true in business, and just as common.  If you were to trace the steps of all leaders in an organization back to where they first started, you would undoubtedly find at least a few truly great teams that existed in the past.  The biggest success of any team occurs when someone moves on to take the next step in their career.  Great teams do this exponentially better than anyone else, and as a result, the teachings and culture of those teams live on through its former members.  Organizations benefit from the influence of these great teams for YEARS after they are no longer together, through the influence those team members have on the company throughout their ascension of the organizational ranks.

It takes a specific type of leader to be able to build a team like that.  You cannot be a micro-manager and hang on to talented people long enough for a team to gel like this.  You cannot be a tyrant and maintain a high enough number of free thinkers to round out your team.  You cannot accept mediocrity on a team like this, so if you aren’t driven, you won’t succeed.  A great team will weed out poor performers for you, but only if you make your expectations clear from the onset.  Everyone brings something different to the table on a great team; avoid trying to find carbon copies of yourself.  You need people to compliment you if you want to be successful; when an entire team shares the same weakness, that weakness will keep the team from ever becoming great.