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The 5 Hallmarks of Great Teams

Whether you work in healthcare, education or business, or whether you’re a teacher, student or leader in any industry, chances are you’re a part of a team working to be successful. You may have group projects as a student. You could comprise a faculty that works together to plan the academic calendar. Perhaps you’re a nurse or medical professional working to save a patient’s life.

Most of us, either previously, currently or on a future day will need to work with teammates to achieve success in our schoolwork, jobs or extracurricular activities. Team-building exercises and leadership development are often the personal and professional development work many of us seek to become more resourceful, efficient contributors to making our teams better.

Even for writers like me, and other freelance workers I encounter, we rely on others to help us become more successful. We contribute in mutually beneficial relationships to see our friends and co-workers reach bold, new heights. Team success is built on values and shared goals. As the saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.”

I’ve developed five, specific criteria that comprise the attributes of great teams. These criteria qualify as the essential attributes of any team- in all industries and professions. I’ve tested these on the basketball court — as a coach — in business and through leadership development and writing workshops.

I hope these key ingredients will inspire you to work more efficiently to achieve amazing goals. Expertise matters, but it’s often qualities such as dedication and commitment that separate good teams from great teams. Enjoy!

1. Camaraderie

“Don’t take your culture for granted. There needs to be a constant renewal of values that lead to camaraderie.” — Coach K

Often overlooked, camaraderie between a group of people is my most important hallmark of a great team. Merriam-Webster defines camaraderie as, “a feeling of good friendship among the people in a group.” I have seen this feeling cultivated and transformed into an extremely powerful, positive energy that leads to major accomplishments.

When you care for someone else, you’ll work harder for them and sacrifice for them. The bond of competing together for a prize is special. There is no limit to what a team with great camaraderie can do.

When all players are on the same page, giving maximum effort, teams can enter into a new stage of confidence and maturity. Truly dynamic teams will see dramatic increases in output through the long-lasting respect, admiration, friendship and loyalty earned from shared experiences.

In his book, “Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, Phil Jackson references the book, “Tribal Leadership,” where authors Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright highlight the five stages of Tribal Culture seen here:

The 5 Stages of Tribal Leadership

Jackson focuses specifically on Stages 3–5, from Stage 3 of “I’m great (and you’re not)” to Stage 4 of “We’re great (and they’re not) and last, the highest level- Stage 5 (“Life is great”). He writes about the 1995–96 Chicago Bulls team that he coached, one of the greatest sports teams of all time. That team finished the regular season 72–10 and won a world championship.

This team forged a remarkable bond at the beginning of the season. They weren’t concerned with competing against others, as much as they were concerned with achieving and reaching the peak of their potential. Granted, that team had Michael Jordan.

Your team will not have Michael Jordan!

But the principles remain the same: Great teams love and care for each other like family. While pursuing their goals, they make every sacrifice along the way to look out for one another to ensure victory.

2. Focus On the Moment

Goals are nice but, living in the moment and focusing on the task at hand is paramount. Great teams never look too far ahead. Whether the opponent (a competitor, time, adversity, etc.) in front of them is bad or good, great teams prepare and execute with the same level of commitment and energy.

Great teams never underestimate their opponents. Great teams are mentally strong. Jay Bilas, college basketball analyst and author of, Toughness, says:

“Concentration is a skill, and tough players work hard to concentrate on every play.”

Whether you’re a coach, student, entry level employee or executive, concentrate your focus on the task at hand and execute that to the best of your ability. Then, you won’t have to worry about what could have been.

3. The Little Things

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.
— Coach John Wooden

“The little things,” are the crucial details that determine the outcomes of games, business deals and projects. In basketball, these are the sacrifices like diving on a loose ball, getting a key offensive rebound or taking a charge. In business, they could be proofreading a key document or showing sincere appreciation to your co-workers. If you’re a student, it’s taking the time to cover all your bases on the research for a term paper.

“The Little Things” are the tremendously important plays and actions that go unnoticed on the proverbial scoreboard, yet capture the attention of coaches, observant fans and your peers. Trust me- these “little things” don’t just happen by chance or luck. They are taught and practiced all the time by the wise coach or leader. These little things make all the difference.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to cover all bases in your teaching and instruction as a leader or student. Speeches can motivate and emotional language can inspire. But those things alone do not win games. Smart, disciplined work, a positive attitude and a willingness to do all the “little things,” that your competitor will not do, are what creates a winner.

Look at your team. Ask yourself, “Am I doing everything that I can to be great? Or am I only focusing on certain core areas? A comprehensive check-up of your team will allow you to identify all of the methods and actions you can integrate into your repertoire, so that it will show up when the bright lights come on for “game time.”

4. Commitment to a Goal

You need to have a commitment to do what you do better than anyone else. — Amy Dix

Great teams begin each season, project or fiscal year with very specific end-goals in mind. In basketball, this is winning the division, or even a championship. In business, it could be reaching a new revenue goal or adding a new product to the line. As a student, you’re aiming for an “A” and building up your resolve to ensure that you achieve the high mark.

A goal can also be an improvement, in terms of wins and losses, from the year before. Goals can be measured by metrics that address key areas of focus. For example, during one of my seasons coaching basketball, I wrote down three battles that I felt our team needed to win in order to reach our goal of winning the division:

  1. Make more free throws than our opponent
  2. Out-rebound our opponent
  3. Minimize our turnovers and finish each game with less turnovers than our opponent

I find that one or more of these three keys often decide the outcome of basketball games. By focusing diligently on these three keys before each game, we came out on top more often than not.

While you may not be a basketball player, you likely do know the challenges or key areas to focus on in your academic or business pursuits. When you take inventory and plan for team success, leave no stone unturned. Brainstorm all of the things you need to do in order to be successful.

Then, have an overarching main goal, along with several other sub-goals you aspire to accomplish. Measure yourself against these goals, to make sure your performance is in line with your expectations.

5. Attitude and Effort

There are two things you can always control: your attitude and your effort.

Last, but not least at no. 5 is, Attitude and Effort. This knowledge comes from my second coaching assignment. In the context of teams, I define having a positive attitude as being willing to do whatever it takes to make your teammates and yourself better.

People with great attitudes are empathetic, caring people who are mentally tough. Mental toughness involves putting others before yourself, never giving up and taking accountability for your performance.

Industriousness, or maximum effort, requires giving every ounce of yourself toward living in the moment — to be the best that you can be. Maximum effort is living up to your own definition of success, the only one that should ever matter. There are very few guarantees in life. One approach I’ve learned that will assure your success is this:

  • Live with a positive attitude
  • Work hard and
  • Never, ever give up.

If you rely on this approach, you will see positive results. Everyone meets with temporary defeat on occasion but persistent people power through by relying on a positive attitude and determined work ethic. The more people you have on your team who embody these qualities, the greater your chances are at reaching your goals.

Good luck applying these principles to your team. I’d love to hear how it goes!

Live Boldly!

Please be so kind as to share with others and recommend my piece if you enjoyed reading. Also, please consider following me here on Medium! I encourage you to reach out to me and share your thoughts, if you wish. Subscribe to my newsletter via my website and Like my Facebook writer’s page! My book, A Values-Based Approach to Living will be out in Spring 2017. I’m so grateful for all of your support as I live out my journey. I fully support yours. Keep Going!

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Christopher D. Connors

Christopher D. Connors

Author, Executive Coach & Emotional Intelligence Speaker; Seen on Fox, ABC, CNBC, etc.; http://chrisdconnors.com

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