Characteristics of a Successful Team

- July 2021 -

Written By: Bill Pierce

The characteristics of a successful team (one that is effective and efficient in accomplishing their objectives and maintaining morale) will not surprise you. They are a summary of what we have been talking about in personal leadership and excellent teams. They are:

Ideal Team Standards:

  1. High level of Communication among all members - When in doubt send it out! Anticipate the personal and professional needs of the other members and constantly check in with each member to see if you are meeting their needs. Tackle the tough issues as well by confronting team and goal issues when they surface and solve them through excellent communications. Remember the 9 month planning effort at Redwoods National & State Parks where we had to eliminate 13 vacant positions? As we began the process, a number of employees wanted to attend the planning meetings even though they were not on the planning teams. This could cause some of the meetings to have over 50 participants and could slow the process down. However, after reviewing our core values and much discussion, we decided that all meetings would be open to everyone who wanted to attend. It was cumbersome at times but it was the right thing to do. The rumor mill and grapevine were greatly reduced and correct information got out to everyone quickly. There was also a much greater buy in by the employees who came to the meetings.
  2. High level of Trust - Each team member wants team success, not individual success. Your word is your bond on the team and each member expects the other members to be honest and forthright at all times. This is only built through time and communications and new members will need help in achieving this trust when they join a functioning team.
  3. Team Management - The team is self-conscious about its own operations, sets its own standards, ground rules, goals and principles. The team continuously critiques its process and products (objectives) so that the highest levels of teamwork and effectiveness is maintained.
  4. Team Goals - The team sets clear and demanding performance goals with well defined and measurable milestones along the way. These should be goals (objectives) to accomplish the mission of the team and goals to strengthen the workings of the team.
  5. Team Members know their job and do it with Excellence - Each member is qualified to accomplish the objectives of the team and is respectful of the mechanics of the team. New members will need the other members to bring them up to speed on the team dynamics, ground rules, etc. as well as the objectives that the team is working on. Mutual respect assures that each member is on time, prepared and completes all tasks assigned with the other members.
  6. Feedback - Is frequent, frank and relatively comfortable. It is focused on solving issues and accomplishing goals, never personal. It is specific, tactful and constructive. Feedback should be freely given and accepted so that issues can be addressed and solutions found to reach the truth and accomplish objectives and team dynamics of the team.
  7. Decision Making - Is accomplished through completed staff work and open discussions by everyone on the team. Tactics are solved among members based on strategy and objectives so that discussions are focused and decisions are timely. Team consensus is reached, the team does not accept simple majority decisions.
  8. Leadership - Shifts from person to person depending on the situation and the knowledge of each member. There is an informal atmosphere where everyone participates in the discussions and focuses on the objectives and the team dynamics. The leadership issue is not about who but how to get the goals accomplished effectively and efficiently.
  9. High Team Morale - Each team member maintains and promotes team confidence and well being. Each team member exhibits loyalty, pride and enthusiasm for the team. This does not mean there is blind faith or following by team members. They are clear eyed and aware of team issues and short comings, and constantly work to solve them.

An outstanding team does not happen simply by the assignment of team members. The forming, storming and norming phases must be worked through and each team member must be committed to the success of the team. Some questions to ask yourself to see if you are committed to a high performance team are:

Do I communicate honestly and openly?
Do I share authority?
Do I trust the other members of the team?
Do I carry my share of the team load?
Do I let other team members take credit?
Do I practice candor in our team critiques?

The good news is we, individually and collectively, have the opportunity to be a member of great teams if we are willing to make the commitment to make it happen!

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