Strategy, no matter how insightful and comprehensive, does not insure execution. Action plans, no matter how detailed or innovative, are no guarantee goals will be realized. And every leader that has managed through crisis knows benchmarks are not the be-all-end-all measure of resources.
The market is shaped by teams that move boundaries and redefine arithmetic.
Put another way — whether in sport or enterprise, successful teams are those whose measure is greater than the proverbial sum of its parts.
What are the key characteristics of such teams?
I asked five colleagues, each with a track record of building teams, to share what they believe to be a single critical characteristic to team success. Their responses below provide a roadmap, not just for heads of marketing, but for anyone aspiring to lead, facilitate or contribute to a team that wants to effect change in 2013.
Perspective Born of Self-Awareness
“I’m a Gallup strengths junkie, which may explain why when I observe successful teams, I invariably see individuals who understand both their own strengths and weaknesses, and the strengths and weaknesses of others on the team. Subjugating individual ego, each member of these high-functioning teams instinctively knows how to step forward when his/her strengths are needed, and when it is time to step back and let the strengths of other team members shine.”
The Identification of the Common Goal/Objective
“My key to any team is the common goal/objective — what is the target? What are we trying to achieve? Talent is not critical. Personality can vary widely. One process isn’t right for every situation. But once the goal is established, you can focus on how to attain it. The team’s ‘life experience’ — including successes and failures — contribute to the growth and maturity necessary to refining and realizing ultimate goals.”
A Culture of Accountability
“We tend to rely on leadership to influence the actions of the team to bring about the desired result. But what happens if someone or several team members choose not to do what is asked, and (intentionally or unintentionally) opt out? I’ve found that other team members, possessing a clear vision of the goal, will pick up the pieces and not let the tasks go undone. They may quietly encourage those not in the game to become responsible; or, new game-changers may actually rise up. This organic self-selection process often results in dynamic new teams. And finally, a culture of accountability shares in progress and success.”
“One characteristic I’ve found in any successful team is quality communication. No matter what the project or the size of the team, there must be a significant amount of quality communication. Recognizing that information comes in from varying directions and multiple constituencies, the term “quality communication” includes a mechanism for gathering, filtering and distributing to appropriate team members. When “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” the result is almost always unnecessary work, delays, and in some cases, failure.”
A High Emotional Quotient
“A good friend and former boss told me once that the key to hiring good people is to hire happy people. She’s right. People who are emotionally healthy and relatively happy can work together to achieve a common goal. I’ve always believed that ideal team dynamics call for diverse personality traits. I still believe this is important; but this doesn’t mean the team can’t share the common trait of emotional health. One saboteur can wreck a team in an instant. And while strong leaders can get you through the sabotage, this is not a prescription for long term success. Get the ‘right people on the bus.’ It’s imperative.”
What Is Your Take?
With thanks to Steve, Allen, Deborah, Paul and Lisa for the jumpstart, now it’s your turn to weigh in. If you’d like to collaborate, contribute or just sound off, this is a formal invitation to be part of the conversation. What would you add to the exploration of the characteristics of a successful team? The Comment box is open for business.