Monday, June 13, 2011

Super Teams - Why Are they Better?

Jim Collins wrote, "Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline."  So what choices do superior teams make and how do they stay disciplined?   More importantly, how can I lead that conversation in my organization so we can beat them?  The answer to the second question is embedded in the quote from Jim Collins.  It will take knowledge, smart choices, and rigorous discipline to change your team's culture and results. But if you are ready for the challenge, here is a very brief summary of the key differences between Super Teams and their competition.


Super teams are passionate about what they are doing and why they are doing it.  Individual and team passion contribute to an energetic, optimistic, and productive environment.  People want to work to succeed.  The passion of the team is contagious and sustainable.  The effort and sacrifices required for success are a small price to pay to achieve their objectives.  It's so much more than checking a box; it is about pushing yourself and each other to be better than you thought possible in order to achieve something meaningful and fulfilling.  Envision the most passionate person you know.  They are committed, energetic, and serious about making a difference.  They cannot turn off their passion.  They are swept up in a noble pursuit until they become an embodiment of their passion.  This drive leads to success.

Group Clarity, Commitment, and Intentional Activity To Reach a Specific Goal:

Great teams share a meaningful commitment to a measurable objective. This objective, when considered in the situational context of the competitive environment and other obstacles to be overcome for success, dictates the level of commitment, preparation, and standards of performance required of each individual and the group as a whole. Each team member is fully aware and accountable for the objectives, the plan, the team's performance standards, expectations, and goals.  The team as a whole understands the challenge and they are committed mind, body, and spirit to work as a group to succeed.  Group clarity, commitment, and intentional activity happen in times of crisis or great opportunity.  This is when people tend to put aside their egos, selfishness, and reservations.  When the thirteen American Colonies decided to declare independence from Great Britain, the fiercely independent colonies banded together against the greatest economic and military power of the time to gain their independence and form the United States of America. 


The team has the talent, experience, tools, and resources to succeed as individuals and the willingness to work with others as a team.  Great teams don't have weak links or holes.  These teams have the capabilities to consistently get the right people, with the right skill set, in the right place, at the right time to succeed.  There is always someone who has the ability to do the right thing at a crucial time which contributes to progress.  These teams have the discipline, skill sets, knowledge, and timing to effectively evaluate each situation and determine the necessary resources, organization, and action plan to succeed without wasting time, energy, or money.  The combination of experience and skills makes them extremely effective and efficient.  Think about a heart transplant team in action.  This is a team of experts who is always operating in life or death situations.  These teams must have extraordinary capabilities to perform their life giving work.

Foresight and Creativity:

The best teams solve problems faster.  They are connected to their competitive environment, they understand the condition and position of their organization, and they plan continuously.  Great teams have systems thinking that can evaluate multiple possibilities simultaneously.  They can creatively imagine the consequences of decisions small and large, in the short term and long term, and evaluate critical patterns that could impact the organization and it's ability to reach it's objectives.  The best teams encourage diverse thought, creative thinking and information sharing.  Proper foresight, creativity, and innovation require the blending of many perspectives and ideas. Imagine NASA when the United States decided they would put a man on the moon within ten years.  They had to solve problems for a complete alien environment - space.  The organization's foresight and creativity were essential to contemplate and conquer challenge upon challenge.


Great teams have a deep burning desire to succeed.  The group is committed to meeting every challenge, solving every problem, and making the required progress, together.   The team's sense of urgency and relentless pursuit of it's goals seems extraordinary and unnecessary to outsiders.  This uncommon resolve translates into focused energy, discipline, and resourcefulness.  The team is driven to finish; they will not surrender.  They will do what it takes to win.  The team has a collective cultural resilience, and determination that becomes inspiration to it's members.  They take great pride in knowing they won't quit.  Uncommon resolve is a common requirement with elite military units.  Army Rangers, Marine Recon Units, Navy SEALS, and Army Green Berets must consistently display resolve and intestinal fortitude to perform their missions.  Almost everything they do would seem extreme to someone outside the Special Operations community; people outside Spec Ops don't understand how they do what they do. It all starts with resolve - a willingness to drive on toward the objective, though they may be the lone survivor.


Great teams respect, trust, support, and care for each other.  They look out for one another, help each other succeed, and lend a helping hand to ensure they are successful together.  Individual goals and rewards are secondary to the team's success.  Selflessness and service are requirements for team members; selfishness and entitlement are not accepted.  Roles are defined to ensure success and team members play their parts to the best of their ability and contribute to the success of others without ego.  Great chemistry can be felt when you listen to a musical band when they blend their talents with others to create art or when you are in the presence of great friends whose joy in being with each other is evident for all to experience.


Great teams have great leaders.  These leaders are connected to the objective, the team, and the situation in a manner in which they can be, do, and cause what is necessary for progress.  These leaders lead by example with words, actions, and deeds.  They set the proper standards, the necessary pace of progress, the proper tone in the environment. They constantly look to improve every member of the team, they position the team for success at every opportunity, and they seek to understand and serve the needs of the individuals to maintain peak performance of the team. These leaders are a unique breed.  They value achievement over power, can blend the needs of the objectives with the needs of the teams on daily a basis, and are willing to take risks, be strong and decisive when necessary but humble enough to constantly drive themselves to be better.  They know the team will follow if they lead, so they push themselves to the next level before they expect the team to follow. They carry the burden of service to the cause and the team easily.  They are accountable for all that happens or doesn't happen.  They don't make excuses for failure but seek to learn.  They share rewards and credit generously and create opportunities for others to lead and grow.  Steve Jobs, George Washington, Martin Luther King, and Colin Powell are personal examples of strong, capable, leaders who serve well.

Do you have a Super Team?  Could you have a Super Team?  These characteristics -passion, clarity, commitment, capabilities, foresight, creativity, resolve, chemistry, and leadership, exist to some degree in all teams and organizations.  The question is, how do you enhance these crucial characteristics to meet your objectives? 

Give us a call - we can help.

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