S**t, Average or Outstanding Team?

‘It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.’ – John Wooden


A great number of teams are basically shit. Most are average and a few realize their potential and become great. In a shit team most of the fundamentals are wrong. In an average team some of the fundamentals are wrong. In a great team the fundamentals are as solid as iron and guide everything the team does. Great teams result neither from alchemy or luck. In over 20 years of being part of every sort of team, here is quick flash of things I’ve noticed.


  1. Complete clarity of purpose. That should be a statement of the obvious but ask your team what it is for? And you’ll likely be surprised by the range of answers. Great teams not only have purpose they also know how to navigate. Purpose implies a different future and therefore a journey from where we start out. That journey wont be straightforward, it will be an obstacle course and navigation is going to be critical. Another word for navigation is leadership.


  1. Most teams have leaders but great teams prize leadership over leaders. That means leadership occurs everywhere regardless of rank, grade or experience. In great teams, leadership begins with individuals who have learnt to lead themselves. Individual leadership is about choosing a mindset of personal accountability, positive energy and a determination to take responsibility for everything that relates to the goals of the team. This means proactive problem solvers who aren’t afraid of grabbing crappy jobs if it helps the team win.


  1. In great teams relationships are not treated as an uncontrollable phenomena. Weather is an uncontrollable phenomenon, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. Team relationship can’t be like that. In great teams we invest in our relationships to build something that bears strain. For example relationships strong enough to bear the strain of honest disagreement – vital in any context that values high quality decision-making and innovation. Relationships strong enough to engage with feedback. Honest enough to call the truth as you see it, courageous enough to check egos & engage in a dialogue of personal improvements.


  1. Great teams are exceptional learners. That demands personal humility, curiosity and courage. These teams are highly adaptable because they are able to learn quickly and in the face of adversity. They are responsive to threats but just as quick to sense and respond to opportunities. Team members have ‘unlearned’ a bunch of bad stuff – like the fear of failure, misattribution, and speaking dishonestly.

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