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Growing Elite Teams through Four Capabilities

Joe Schwappach's picture

Sometimes it’s induced by a quick whiff of lacquer reminiscent of our childhood gymnasium. Or perhaps it starts with an old college t-shirt unearthed from the bottom of the drawer for an early morning run. Regardless of the trigger, we all cherish the memories of those teams we felt were elite. Whether a part of a ragtag group of middle school boys or a squad of international superstars striving for an NCAA championship, we all still feel the injection of a healthy dose of adrenaline when we venture down memory lane. Every member of the group felt a part of something bigger and far more powerful than any one of us individually. Together, we felt invincible.

So what caused this team to operate at such a high level? Why did we feel so much more connected to this team than to others before or after it? And how can we imbue our current teams – regardless of the field of competition – with the attributes of successful teams from yesteryear?

Like anything with a life of its own, each team has its own story and its own unique components. But at a foundational level, elite teams share the same four capabilities:

Trust: We have to build trust with our teammates. We need to both have faith in their intent and believe that they are competent in performing their roles and responsibilities. Like the lead blocker ahead of the smaller running back on the football field, we need to believe that our design experts both want our new software to be extremely user-friendly and that they are capable of making it so. Often going unnoticed if it’s strong, when trust is absent, everything seems to crumble.

Common Purpose: We have to transform a group of free agents into a cohesive and orderly team aligned around a shared set of goals and values. Like the batter more interested in winning the game than improving his own batting average, everyone on our sales team needs to know our business development strategy and be committed to his or her role in achieving our projections. When complexity hits, having established this early will serve as a guiding light for everyone.

Shared Consciousness: We have to grow a high level of internal connectivity – communication and otherwise – to create an emergent intelligence. A more holistic understanding of the operating environment enables us to make more connections and execute stronger decisions faster. Like an alley-oop on the basketball court or a perfectly coordinated sprint by each member of an eight-oar crew, we need a marketing team that can both finish each other’s sentences and provide different perspectives when a client starts asking the hard questions. Remember, as Albert Einstein once said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Empowered Execution: We have to decentralize decision making to the lowest appropriate level. Empowering our teammates allows for effective adaptability, supporting everyone to be the right thing at the right time. Like a quarterback’s audible to outsmart a poorly disguised blitz, we need to empower our customer service teammates to make responsive decisions on the fly to provide a positive customer experience no matter the circumstance. It’s the leader’s job to create an environment that fosters and supports this empowerment.

Some teams are special. And if we build strong relationships, align around common goals, foster internal connectivity, and empower everyone to do their part, we set these teams up to win the big games.

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