How to Develop Outstanding Teams

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If you have more than one person working on something, it’s just a matter of time before there’ll be conflict.

From working with organizations employing small, medium, and large numbers of people, I’ve learned that as individuals with different likes and dislikes, we’re naturally hardwired for judgments.  Those judgments, if not managed, can lead to unproductive conflict.

The goal isn’t peace, but, instead, for a productive expression of differences of opinion that lead to a better result.

How can a leader foster collaboration in a way that keeps things moving in a positive direction?

Whether you’re leading a department or a cross-functional team, there are ways you can engage the team to amplify the members’ positive impact on one another and minimize the negative.

Let’s walk through 5 steps you can take to prevent or repair the potholes on the road to effective teamwork.

Case Study

I’ve worked on both outstanding and marginal teams.  Although I worked harder when on it, I’d pick the outstanding team all day long.  A high-performing team infuses its members with energy and enthusiasm.

As I think about the differences between the two, it’s clear that it was the way we were organized–not the individual players–that caused the gap.

The most impactful team I was on was one that evolved from being an average team to be a stellar team, through the work of the team members themselves.

The leader of every department in the organization sat on the team. Although assembled by the organization, there was no active oversight.

For years, we bumped along with frequent discussion detours, slow decision-making, and frustration among members.  Finally, we hit a crossroads where we were all fed up with our lack of productivity.  At that moment, when we were able to admit that the way the group was operating was not working, we saw a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

The work of becoming a truly high-performing team took a year or so, but every day we got a little better.  Here are just a few of the significant things we did to make the change.

1)    Created a shared goal so we were all moving in the same direction

2)    Set clear roles to avoid stepping on each other and to rely on each other to hold up our own end of the work

3)    Identified incentives and consequences to stay on track and follow the team norms

4)    Established transparency in communication so discussions involved the entire group, rather than outside, exclusive ally meetings

5)    Verbalized appreciation so we focused on each other’s strengths, not our weaknesses

Leaders Lead

Most teams are not this self-aware.  They won’t notice that there are things they are doing as a group that are leading to their problems; they’ll continue to point fingers at individuals.  If you wait around for that to happen, you might retire before it does.

However, by finding the group’s pain points, we as leaders will have an entry to give the group support.

The biggest pitfall to avoid is trying to impose on the group the goal you think they should have, the system for communication, etc.  Rather, by posing questions, you can support the group in coming to solutions in each of these areas that are best for them.

Your job is to guide and advise them to enable them to do it for themselves.  When you do, you’ll find stalemates and hurt feelings give way to a highly motivated, productive team that enjoys what they are creating together.


Which of the 5 synergy creators above have you seen in action on a team?

You can leave your answer in a comment below.

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