Teams: The Five Essential Ingredients

February 2009

One of my recent discoveries (in keeping with this year’s theme “Discovery and Discipline”) is that, when I focus and take the time to learn at least a few elemental rules, football can be an interesting and exciting game.  Yesterday’s Super Bowl was certain a nail-biter that helped edge me closer to the status of neophyte football fan.  It also got me thinking about teams and how they work.  In order to not alienate any clients or friends, I will keep my team preferences to myself (except please note that I am honor-bound to cheer for whichever major league football team my nephew is working for in any given season).  However, I will share with you some of what I have observed about teams.

There is what I think of as the Five C’s for most teams.  First is commitment, which implies a sense of responsibility and buy-in to the purpose and goals of the organization.  If a team’s members are not committed, the chance of success drops precipitously.  The second ingredient is confidence.  The team must have confidence in the team leaders (and the leaders of the organization), in one another, and in themselves.  Confidence is aligned with trust, which is earned over time and also crucial.  The third ingredient is collaboration.  A group of people does not make a team unless they are working together, towards the same goal.  As Casey Stengel once said “Getting good players is easy.  Getting them to play together is the hard part.”  A strong team creates synergy by working together in a collaborative manner, thus making the team greater than the mere sum of its individual members. 

You can have a team comprised of the best and the brightest (or fastest and strongest), but without strong communication the team will never achieve its highest potential.  Communication keeps information and ideas flowing (imagine the Super Bowl without communication between the players and coaches).  It also comes in handy for resolving conflicts which invariably occur when people are passionate about what it is they are striving to achieve.  I’ve seen wonderful teams totally break down due to poor communication skills and the resulting chaos that that foments, yet communication is the ingredient most often neglected or taken for granted on a team. 

Community is also a part of teams that sometimes is overlooked, especially in the corporate world.  Yet most high functioning teams that are around for any length of time develop their own sense of community, their own cultural norms and quirks, their own order of roles and responsibilities.  The members take care of one another, challenge one another, invest time in getting to know each other, and often take part of their identity from being on the team.   When all five of these ingredients come together in a team, you are well on your way to success.  If I can support you in developing a strong team within your organization, please let me know.  Just don’t ask me anything about football.

Sharon Keys Seal

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