What makes a great team?

We all work on teams: professionally, with friends, with families...whether we’re entry level associates at big corporations or planning a trip with friends, we still work with others regularly to get things done. And because working with teams is inevitable, what can we do to make those teams great?

Why great teams?

Team culture influences our lives for better or worse. Learning to have healthy relationships with those immediately surrounding us, whether we enjoy their company or are waiting for the moment they quit talking, can only help us grow (and even help us be less annoyed with that person we’re waiting to stop talking).

A great team has common goals

If a team has nothing in common to motivate its members then it will have a hard time accomplishing anything. Common goals need to be defined and made known to its members. A goal can be anything from “design great products” to “move into our new place without hating each other by the end of the day.” Regardless, make sure the goal is known and remind each other of the goal when it’s forgotten.

A great team is diverse

No two people are exactly alike. But sometimes groups of people are extremely homogenous, and homogenous groups hinder a team’s ability to think outside the box. Consider this extremely cheesy metaphor: a bunch of apples sitting around a conference room table brainstorming what to bring to a picnic might only think to bring fruit salad. We need a beach ball invited to the table to bring new ideas. Did the team ever consider bringing a non-food item to the picnic?

Summed up, a good team is made up with a diverse range of thinking, perspectives, and approaches.

A great team celebrates

It’s easy to get caught up in accomplishing a goal only to quickly move on to accomplishing the next one. Celebrating what has been accomplished builds camaraderie amongst members and trust with leadership. It’s encouraging to team members to reflect on what was done well. It’s even more encouraging for a member to know their efforts didn’t go unnoticed.

Don’t just celebrate accomplishments, though. Celebrate life! Babies, marriages, moving, hobbies — celebrate any of it and all of it. I’m the youngest person on my team at work, and my team members celebrated with me when I bought my first car and first couch. To me those events were milestones of growing up, and my teammates were excited with me even though my new couch had no impact on their daily lives. Humans value being known by others, and celebrating the joyful things in life helps us feel known.

A great team argues well

Nobody agrees 100% of the time. And you know, arguing in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We have points we want to make, and we want to convince someone to agree with those points. It’s when our pride, close-mindedness, and general meanness gets in the way what we run into problems while arguing. It’s okay to disagree, but don’t burn bridges with teammates while disagreeing. A good team learns to be humble, open-minded, and kindhearted when disagreeing with others while trying to solve problems.

A great team calls each other out

Simply put, if I’m acting stupid I want the people closest to me to tell me I’m acting stupid. It happens to us all. We’re human and get caught up in things we can’t control, we hold grudges, or we just get unnecessarily grumpy. A good team learns to acknowledge each other’s foolishness to help the team move forward in a more healthy and productive manner. This is important to realize, because our attitudes affect the whole team and our quality of work.

A great team says “I’m sorry”

….and a great team forgives. In the same vain as the latter point, sometimes we say things we shouldn’t or do things we shouldn’t. It’s part of our human nature. Instead of silently excusing those actions, a great teams admits its faults and seeks forgiveness. “I’m sorry” tells a team that it’s valued even though the previous actions may not have communicated that value well. “I forgive you” tells a team that it’s imperfect but is still valued despite those imperfections. Team members need to be reminded that they’re more than what they do. If we’re only what we do, our failures define us just as much as our accomplishments, and that just ain’t the truth at all!

A great team isn’t always great

No team can be great all the time. But maybe that’s what makes a team great after all — its imperfections embraced. Everybody fails. Great teams fail with stride, brush the dust of their shoulders, and press on even when it seems that things aren’t going so ‘great.’ Humble acknowledgement of shortcomings helps teams grow by providing an opportunity set expectations and make adjustments for next time.

So — what can you do to make your team great?

We all have room for improvement. We can all forgive a little more, celebrate a little more, fail a little better…the key is remembering your teammates more. Do you see it? All these points are centered around putting the team first instead of ourselves (and let’s be real — that’s hard to do).

Here’s a challenge: pick one this week to focus on. Any effort in making your team even greater will do just that — build a great team!

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