The Secrets to Team Success:

Building and Sustaining Positive Collaborative Outcomes

November 2019

I was recently asked, “what’s the secret to team success?” and having devoted a great deal of time into studying the art of people management and the power of collaboration, I was excited to share my thoughts.

Whether on a playing field, at home, or in the board room, team dynamics can make a huge difference when it comes to achieving positive outcomes, personal motivation, and overall satisfaction. We want our teams to engage, take inspired action, and realize goals together.

But how? In business, there isn’t a single set of rules like there is in sport. Much has been written on the topic and I’ve distilled my findings in to 5 simple, but essential areas of focus.

The really exciting part is that I’ve been able to apply these principles in the many arenas of life: as a parent, as a soccer coach, in my community projects, and in business. The geek in me is also quite proud of the fact that the framework below is made up of rhyming words. Here we go:

1. Define what success looks like and think big! Why does your company/project exist? What do you stand for? What is the greatest good your organization can do?

Setting clear expectations is the single most important thing leaders can do. I firmly believe that people want to provide value – we inherently desire to meet and exceed expectations. Most people will go far ‘above and beyond’ as their understanding, interest and passion grows.

But we can’t do that when the vision is unclear, or sits on a shelf collecting dust. A clear, well-communicated vision gives yourself and your team essential decision-making framework – equipping you with tools and permission to say no when it’s required to stay on your path to success.

2. Align your team towards the goal. Know them. Know their strengths. See something special in them that they may not see in themselves and empower them to focus on the areas where they naturally excel. Most importantly, make them feel as though they belong and are a part of something worthy of their time and energy.

I can’t understate the importance of your team feeling a sense of belonging. Foster a sense of belonging by helping team members feel self-worth, feel appreciated, and to see the value they and others bring.

This applies equally to partners outside of your organization – do what you do best, outsource the rest – just be sure that you seek out partners who share the same values and commitment to excellence.

Team Success

3. Design processes and systems that set your team up for success. Patrick Lencioni says “if you want buy in, they have to weigh in”, so whether you are starting from scratch or welcoming new members to the team, be sure to engage your people in regular feedback and continuous improvement exercises.

Accepting input from team members shows them that you value their input and opinions, and provides fresh ideas and perspectives to keep your organization relevant. It’s okay if you don’t implement all of the suggestions, just be sure to follow up with contributors to let them know why. This deepens their understanding of the organization and encourages the flow of information.

4. Assign accountability to reinforce the steps above. We have to designate responsibility and build in regular progress updates to stay on track and to remind the team of the things that matter.

Think about the things you talk about in regular meetings or conversations. While it may seem obvious or simplistic, leaders need to ensure that everything from meeting agendas to bonuses reflect the types of behaviours and measurements that are most important to the vision, mission, and values.

If the things that matter aren’t part of regular dialogue, then they will quickly be replaced by other topics and actions that can take you off-course.

5. Finish Line – It’s important to celebrate success, which includes any behaviours, results, and measures that you want repeated. Recognition and appreciation is another key to keeping team members motivated and engaged.

One of my favorite parts at the culmination of a project, task, fiscal year, etc. is the debrief. While I believe that there are a lot of great lessons to be learned from failures, I think there is more value in studying successes and leveraging assets intentionally.

As in sport, it’s not always the most talented teams who win. It’s the teams who work the best together, that are most effective.


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