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This past Monday morning, very first thing, I got a frantic call from a CEO client. She said she was troubled all weekend and needed help.
Her top team was imploding. Even several critical departments in the organization were malfunctioning. Customers were complaining, orders were late, and she smartly recognized that the problem was lousy team structure, poor team management, and broken down team cohesiveness.
She asked me the question, “What must I do to create team brilliance?”
And I thought that was a very astute question, and I loved her term “team brilliance.” We had a great conversation, and I’d like to share with you here some of what I told her.
If you, too, struggle with what my CEO client did, here are 9 critical components of “team brilliance”:
- You have to determine a common purpose, preferably a higherpurpose – a worthy cause. Human beings by nature are all pack animals, we are not loners. We prefer to be part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s rewarding, even necessary, to have a worthy pursuit. So, we have to build our common purpose on team success, not on individual success… something that serves the greater good.If you don’t, instead of a unified team, you’ll have a collection of independent loners acting solely for personal gain. And that’s not what you want.
- They need a shared fate. In other words, if one loses, we all lose. You have to have a ‘Three Musketeers’ mentality – one for all and all for one.
- You have to determine required behaviors to be in the group. I like to call these non-negotiable traits. They are behaviors that are required. They’re not up for debate. Yes, we will debate them in the beginning to create them as a team… but once created, from that point on, they become non-negotiable. They become law.Anytime you have a new member joining the team, they now must comply with the non-negotiable traits. In fact, newly-joining members should be told upfront: Here’s who we are, this is how we behave. Are you okay with this? If you’re not, it’s not a reflection on you as a person. It just means we’re not a good fit, and you can’t become a member of the team. We won’t extend the invitation to join.
- You have to be clear about the benefits you are passionate about to be on the team. You could call this compensation… just as long as you realize that compensation comes in many forms, not just money.Always know the behavior you reward is the behavior you get… so the benefits for being on the team could be… well, they could be money, but beyond that, could be recognition, could be trophies, plaques, certificates, prestige, could be a champion’s title, could be greater self-confidence, your own enhanced self-esteem, or it could just be filling an altruistic need from within you to give backJust be clear on what that is.
- Every team member must have a commitment to constant improvement. In my view, no one can stay on the team who doesn’t get better. Improvement is the name of the game. And I mean eager improvement, not reluctant, go-along improvement.I want people who are going to give their all, not people who go through the motions. Spectacular performance is always preceded by spectacular preparation.If you look at a sports team, it means you show up for practice, and you practice like you play. You don’t give a half-hearted effort in practice because it’s not the real thing.
- Great teams must have clear goals. Everybody has to know where we’re headed. And what do we need to do to accomplish the goals. That’s a big thing.
- You must have clear responsibilities for each person. I’ve got to know what I’m responsible for, what I’ll be held accountable for. You need to know what you will be held accountable for. In fact, we all need to know what each of us will be held accountable for. Full transparency.Now, #8 will sound like it contradicts #7, but it doesn’t, and I’ll explain why.
- Team members must be willing to back each other up. This means we negate ever hearing the words, “It’s not my job.”
I hate hearing those. I don’t want somebody on my team who uses them.
So you might argue, “Well, wait a minute, Rick. If we have clear responsibilities for each person, but we also have to back each other up, then maybe we don’t have such clear and separate responsibilities, because it sounds like everybody does everything.”
Well, no – not true. Everybody has clear responsibilities, yes, but there will be times when you need help. Times when someone else is needed to step in and help you. Same goes for me – there will be times when I’ll need help. Maybe from you.
If you look at a baseball team, here’s the thing. There are 9 players on defense, and anytime a ball is hit and put in play, every player – no matter where the ball is hit – has a job to do. The ball may be hit nowhere near you, but there is something you do in that play that adds value to the team.
When you’re in business, whatever team you’re on (it doesn’t have to be sports), you have a role no matter what’s going on. You need to know that role, and you need to back up others who need the help.
Team member help team members out.
- You need frequent progress checks. Everybody needs to be plugged in and kept in the loop. Don’t keep people in the dark.Look at a football team. What does the offense do before every single play? They huddle. They get their act together. It doesn’t take long – it’s about 8 seconds and they’re done. But when they leave, everyone knows the overarching play AND his specific assignment. That’s beauty.But business is often different.
Most business meetings suck. They’re horrible! Well, if yours suck, stop it! Fix them. Make sure you have an agenda. Make sure you have a clear purpose for the meeting. Make sure you make clear decisions. Make sure everybody leaves the meeting knowing what they’re responsible for doing. Then follow up to check progress and make sure everyone did what they said they would do. These ‘meeting disciplines’ are simple to install, and vitally important to execute.
So, there you have it. Nine powerful components of team success.
If you put all 9 of these together, relentlessly, passionately – and don’t let up! – you’re on the road to a high performance team.
Life is a team sport, so as leaders, we’ve got to get this right.