The Team Approach
History has shown that a team approach produces powerful and compelling results beyond the work of any single contributor.
Examples are found throughout history in every avenue of life, including:
- The winningest sports franchise over the past 100 years is New Zealand’s All-Blacks rugby team.
- In exploration, Lewis and Clark’s 7,000 mile journey across America was a team effort.
- Pioneering research teams at modern day think tanks like the RAND Corporation.
- Creative leadership teams like Pixar’s Braintrust that lead development of multiple award-winning movies, and then duplicated those results with Disney Animation.
- At Chick-fil-A, a quick service restaurant, a tech team developed a chart-topping mobile app that outperformed expectations.
Hundreds of examples exist in organizations across the globe, in every facet of life, from project teams to executive leadership teams.
High-Performing Teams Excel in Relationships and Results
While “teaming” is difficult and takes time, the benefits are worth the effort! High-performing teams enjoy unparalleled levels of productivity and a fulfilling sense of community.
As a team forms, the intentional effort put into two components determines its potential. Teams must mature in both the relationships and the results.
A team that invests in relationships develops a deep understanding of their team members (who is on the team), is committed to the success of each team member (genuine care), and solidly grasps the interrelation of each member with the others.
Maturing as a results-oriented team means creating clarity of purpose (why the team exists), clarity of approach (how the team works together), and clarity of goals (what the team is working on).
If you desire to cultivate a group of individuals into a team that accomplishes its purposes and fulfills its people, there are four critical phases of team development every leader must walk through.
Purposes Accomplished and People Fulfilled
At WinShape Teams, we promote a teaming culture that consists of purposes accomplished and people fulfilled.
If you desire to cultivate a group of individuals into a team that accomplishes its purposes and fulfills its people, there are four critical phases of team development every leader must walk through:
– Phase 1: Create a committed community
– Phase 2: Establish healthy team skills
– Phase 3: Foster productive team relationships
– Phase 4: Vigorously pursue the purpose
These four phases are expanded upon in The High-Performing Teams Blueprint eBook.
Leading a Team
With the phrase, “What got you here, won’t get you there,” ringing in my ears, I stepped into my first team leadership role. For the past 8 years at WinShape, I held individual contributor roles.
As I sat down in front of my new team of four, the realization hit me that my leadership role required a new set of skills and priorities to lead a team.
I borrowed a WinShape Teams mantra as a driver for my leadership. I want our purposes to be accomplished and our people fulfilled.
To do so, I asked myself these questions based on the four phases of team development:
- How can I foster deeper commitment within the team?
- What work rhythms do we need to establish as a team?
- How can I draw out the best in each team member and help them leverage each other’s strengths?
- How can I create clarity about what is most important for my team and eliminate distractions?
The answers to these questions will probably look different for you. In case you need some ideas, keep reading for a few of the actions I took to answer these questions.
Examples of Team Development
Within the first month, I took each member out to lunch at a restaurant of their choice. I used my active listening skills to explore the following questions:
- When do you come alive in your work? When are you thriving?
- What are your biggest motivators and stressors right now?
- What are your hopes for this team and our growth?
Within the first month, I had a half-day, off-site team meeting that was intended to be fun and allow time for conversation. We spent 3 hours paddle boarding down a local river. I asked the team to briefly share their life story and what they are passionate about when it comes to their work.
I established a check-in rhythm of meeting weekly as a team and monthly for one-on-ones. We report out on what was accomplished the week prior, our objectives for the week ahead, and what support we will need from others.
As much as possible, I assign work based on the unique passions and skill set of each team member.
I emphasize our core purpose and values at the beginning of each team meeting and restate our role as individuals and a team in working towards them.
In the coming year, we have two team retreats scheduled. One to focus primarily on the team’s purpose and developing our team community. The second, a development retreat to grow in a common role-specific skill.
I had a 360° leadership assessment completed and followed up individually over lunch with each team member to share my discoveries, learnings and action steps.
I call out the accomplishments of my team and celebrate the work they have done. I also encourage them to do the same with one another.
Hopefully these ideas can prime the pump for you and your leadership. Whether you are a first-time team leader like myself, or a seasoned vet, I encourage you to lead in a way that accomplishes the team’s purpose and fulfills its people.
I firmly believe a team leader’s role is to “Lower the mountains and raise the valleys,” to make as clear a way forward as possible.
Use your authority and influence to serve and enrich your team. Go on, I dare you. See what happens.