I was recently invited to kick off a strategic planning session for one of our client’s executive teams. I started the session by asking everyone to describe the best team they’d ever been a part of, and what made it so good. Three themes emerged.
1. The whole team faced a significant challenge.
They were crystal clear on what they needed to accomplish. They went to war for it. It wasn’t about individual points; it was the team’s goal that mattered – their Stanley Cup. Accordingly, each member was placed in a role that would best support the team’s success.
2. The team shared a higher level of trust.
Members were able to give each other honest and sometimes critical feedback so that everyone got better. The successful teams knew everyone had each other’s back. Low performance was addressed so people were developed, or realigned. The high level of trust made the team feel like family.
3. The team celebrated their wins.
Work hard, play hard. When they made it through a difficult challenge, they took the time to celebrate – to come together outside the intensity of the work environment and appreciate each other.
The group could have come up with a multitude of other attributes for high performing teams; but in the moment, these were the vivid memories that came to mind – incidents which obviously had an emotional impact at the time.
Two other observations I made that day…
- Most of the reflections went back a decade or more. Its clear, years had gone by since members had experienced any part of the themes they felt were significant.
- If these themes were to have any impact beyond that room, every leader had to go back to their teams, implement their practice, and encourage each member to do the same throughout the organization. What leaders do as a group, they need to extend – from the small team to the big team.
This opening exercise at the leadership retreat, surfaced some important insight into great teams. Hope it provides some good reflection about your own teams.