In any business, it takes a culture of winning to make success the norm. You create that culture by cultivating a team-first atmosphere, where individuals subsume their egos to achieve common goals. A committed, supportive, selfless team coalesces into a single unit that plays at a level exponentially higher than a group of individuals with diverging goals. A true team is far greater than the sum of its parts.
A true team wins big, and wins often.
The catch is that teams are made of people – and people are flawed. They bring idiosyncrasies and competing agendas to work, which can make success challenging. Without conscious direction and effective leadership, groups of people – even though they may be teammates – don’t always harmonize to the degree necessary to perform at their highest potential.
Good leaders know this, and take pains to create team cohesion. The most common approach is to talk about teamwork, lead trainings on teamwork, and do team-building exercises in hopes the group will translate the talk into action and become an efficient, productive unit that regularly meets and exceeds goals and expectations.
The problem with that is that some people – more than you’d expect – don’t know what it means to be a great teammate. They understand the concept of team, they believe in the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and they even understand why team-building exercises are important. But all that talk and all those workshops still don’t tell them what each of them, as individuals, need to do to become the best teammates they can be.
That’s your job. That’s what great leaders do.
What Great Teammates Do
To become a great team, each player needs to understand what’s expected of them. They need to know what they can do as individuals to contribute to success – every day, on every project, and at every meeting. From small unit brainstorming sessions to full company events, these are the specific things each teammate needs to do as a matter of habit:
- Extend Gratitude. Thank teammates for their efforts every time. Don’t let your team fall into the trap of assuming everyone knows they’re appreciated. Humans thrive on recognition. Teach your team to make expressing gratitude the norm.
- Healthy Debate. Encourage and model constructive discussion. Listen, value, and act on ideas presented by the team. Everyone should feel they can play devil’s advocate when they need to. That’s how good ideas become great ideas – they’re poked and prodded from every angle, and the come out the other side stronger than before.
- Leave it All on the Field. Each teammate should leave every team interaction knowing they’ve given everything they have. Teach your team members to do ongoing personal debriefs to gauge whether they held back or truly left it all out there.
- Show Up, Win, Leave Together. When your team achieves success, make sure no one gets all the shine. When the team wins, everyone wins. Everyone shares equally in every victory, from the lead actors to the supporting cast.
- Bring the Best Version of You. Teach your team they need to decide in advance to come from their highest self, every time. The mantra someone coming from that higher self plays in their head, over and over, is this: how can I help my teammate right now?
- 90% Agreement / 100% Commitment. In the real world, it’s near impossible to get everyone in a group or on a team to agree on every detail of every policy or objective – not if they’re being honest. Great teammates can, however, agree to give 100% on every team effort, even if there are some things they disagree with. Perfect performance doesn’t require a perfect fit: it requires perfect effort.
Individual Actions for Group Success
When each member of your group knows what they need to do to serve the common goal – i.e. embody the six actions listed above – your group becomes a team. The team then fuses into a single entity whose united effort eclipses anything a collection of competing individuals can achieve. Optimal performance becomes the standard, and neither you nor your team need to force success: it happens naturally.