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There’s a difference between a group of people working together and a true “team.” If you want to shape a group of people into a strong team, there are nine essential elements to put into place to create team unity.
A team needs to function as one cohesive unit, collectively focused on the ultimate vision and purpose. At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that we’re only human. We are all people first, “workers” second. At some point, everyone is going to have a bad day, everyone is going to make mistakes, and everyone is going to succumb to stress. Everyone.
The team needs to be a judgment-free zone committed to supporting each other as people and as teammates. When team members know it’s ok to ask for help before a situation reaches a critical point, you have created an environment where the team will continue to progress even through challenging times.
There will also be times when a team member may not realize they need extra support. They may be so focused on a specific outcome that they don’t notice a looming challenge. That’s where group awareness comes into play. As a team actively supporting each other, you can notice when someone may not be behaving as they normally do. That’s a great time to get curious and ask questions to see if and where support is needed.
It’s important to choose to show respect to everyone on your team, even if you may have personal differences with them. Respect the value they add and respect their contribution. Remember that people on your team will notice how you treat them and they will live up or down to your expectations.
Start with appreciation. It is always possible to find something to appreciate about anyone. Without mutual respect, the team can’t thrive; there will always be an internal barrier to success. As a teammate, if you can’t respect everyone on your team, consider putting yourself on a different team of people. As a leader, if there’s someone you can’t respect, consider re-evaluating whether that person belongs on your team.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “We win as a team and we lose as a team.” That’s the core of shared responsibility. There’s no blame, there’s no judgement; there’s only a team of people working together, each doing their best to achieve a common vision. That means everyone shares in the rewards of the wins, and everyone bands together after the losses to find a solution and continue moving forward.
On a high-performing team, there is only room for responsibility; there is never room for blame.
Part of the shared responsibility of a team is the reliance that each person has on their teammates. A team is a “together” endeavor where each person takes responsibility for doing their best and knows that their teammates are taking the same responsibility. There are no silos; there is no one-person show within an effective team.
There is also no competition within a team with the goal of tearing someone down. The true purpose of competition is to make each other better, to bring out the best of who you are, and to continually improve and reach new heights. Interdependence is all about working together and relying on your teammates to help you continually expand and grow.
Everyone on the team has to understand without any doubt or ambiguity the outcome. On a high-performing team, everyone knows the overall vision and the purpose behind the vision, and they know what outcome they are individually responsible for. This provides the team with unity of strength and purpose.
Ownership is again about responsibility. Ownership doesn’t mean doing it all by yourself. It means being responsible for the success of the outcome by coordinating parts, delegating appropriately, ensuring deadlines are met, and frequently measuring results. Team members work together (interdependence) to meet all outcomes and take ultimate responsibility for the outcomes they have individual ownership of.
Even the most highly functioning and effective teams will face occasional challenges between team members. Proactively creating a space where challenges and differences can be aired and addressed is part of a healthy team environment.
As a leader, you can set the appropriate stage for these interactions. The first rule needs to be that everyone assumes positive intent. Even if a behavior is manifesting negatively in the moment, remember the first element of a strong team – empathy and awareness – and choose to assume that the intention behind the behavior is positive. You can always choose your response and you can choose to see the upset from their perspective and respond with empathy and awareness.
As all involved are working together (interdependence, again!), remind everyone to breathe. From there, define the problem as an issue that can be solved, determine what resources are available, and give each person a role in the resolution. Remember the second element of a strong team and maintain respect for all involved. Speak to the unacceptability of the behavior without judgement about the person.
Every great team has a defined vision for success; they know where they’re going and they have a plan on how to get there. Part of the formula for success is frequently checking the results your team is getting and changing your approach as necessary.
Keep the idea of value creation in mind and you’ll be able to maintain success in the direction of your vision. When a team is consistently focused on adding value, they don’t allow diversions to change their course.
Belief comes first; results follow belief. You must believe that you have the best talent on your team. Results, actions, and attitudes will follow the direction of the beliefs that you hold. Assume the best.
If there are people who would be a better fit on a different team, you can help them make that transition and then fill the spot with the “best” fit for your team.
Effective communication is essential to executing each of these elements of a strong team. A team needs a set forum for both one-to-one communication and team communication. It’s a great idea to set team standards around communication, such as:
To learn more about creating a strong, effective team, join our Certified Professional Sales Leader (CPSL) Certification program
About the author
Brooke Dukes is currently supporting NASP as Chief Sales Officer leading strategy and business development. Prior to NASP, Brooke was a multi-million dollar producer and excelled at various executive-level positions in sales and business development, including two Fortune100 companies. She has worked with some of the largest and most successful companies including Lear, General Motors, and United Airlines, and across multiple industries, such as insurance, skincare and cosmetics, technology, and banking.
Brooke has her BS from Michigan State University. She is a mother of two successful children and an avid traveler. Exploring the world and helping people achieve their dreams is her passion. Brooke resides in Austin Tx.