We form teams to achieve something that cannot be achieved by one individual. If a goal can be achieved by one person, then there’s no need for a team.
Teams aren’t meant to last forever. Real teams don’t stand the test of time, they stand to achieve a goal and then disband. Teams are intense and require selfless sacrifice for betterment of the whole, not the individual. Look at any great team and you’ll find, with rare circumstances, no two stick together once the mission is accomplished or the goal is achieved.
From SEAL teams to sports teams, from start-ups to public companies, the teams that make these organizations’ fame or fortune aren’t the same after the goal is accomplished. The SEALs that hunted down Osama Bin Laden came together for that mission and then disbanded; the Patriots team that won this year’s Superbowl is already fast at work trading players to build a new team for the coming season. The same goes for start-ups or public companies.
Got a big hairy audacious goal (BHAG)? Then you need a team – possibly more than one. These teams might go through multiple rounds of renewal before the BHAG is achieved.
A team’s purpose is to achieve something, and that something gives the team direction. If you can’t define the team goal then you’ll have a difficult time attempting to build a team. Never forget that what you want to achieve sets the purpose and direction of the team. The more clearly you define what you’re achieving, the more easily can you define the who, what, why and how for your team. Answering these questions will help you connect and build trust with your teammates.
The Four A’s of Achievement
As mentioned in my last post, building trust among team members and you, their leader, is the cornerstone of a successful team. It’s not enough to be able to connect with your teammates through communication, candor, context and consistency. You’ll need the Four A’s of Achievement to build and form the bonds that enable your team to take the risks required to achieve your goal. These four actions will help you avoid the pitfalls of many potential team leaders who think they are leading but are actually micro-managing.
Assume: Remember, resources are managed (i.e. money, time, inventory, etc) but people are led. This is where the first “A” comes into action. Once you’ve assembled your group of individuals, you must give them and YOU the benefit of the doubt that you’ve picked the correct people. Assume they can do what you’ve interviewed them to do – if they can’t you’ll find out soon enough during action number two.
Nothing can kill the initial buzz of building a team more than failing to give your future teammates enough space and freedom to do what you’ve picked them to do. They may not do a task the way you would do it, but chances are, unless the task has to be done in very exact manner (like many tasks on a submarine!), they find their own way to do it and it might just be better than how you do it. By enabling them to do the task their way, you’re building trust and empowering them (more on this during the final pillar of the CARE framework). So let go of your micro-managing instincts and let your people do the work you choose them to do. In other words, Get the hell out of their way!
Assuming is relatively easy if you’ve done your homework in advance and screened the people you need for your team. Even then, you and your evaluators are still human, which means we’re not perfect and you’ll make mistakes.
That’s why you will use action number two, Assess, to determine your teammates’ capabilities. You’ll need to create routine assessments on progress. Remember, you built your team to achieve something. That something needs to be broken down into trackable bite-size chunks. Nothing motivates a team more than knowing their efforts are making a dent in the quest to achieve the objective.
Routinely assessing your team isn’t about micro-managing or going a witch hunt to find out who’s weak or who’s doing everything wrong. It’s about communicating the context of progress toward the team’s goal. During your assessments, you’ll discover what’s working and what’s not. You’ll discover these things faster if your teammates know you’re not looking to single out people, but instead looking to single out problems.
Everyone likes leading a team when things are going great. But you’ve assembled a team do something difficult – launch a new product, a new company, win the big game, or beat analysts’ expectations. There will be ups and downs, most likely more downs than ups.
This is where your leadership needs to shine, because during some assessments, progress won’t be there, and you’ll need to do action number 3: Assure. No matter how tough you think your people are, everyone likes assurance that what they are doing is making a difference for the team. There will be times when some of your team will need more assurance than others, because they’re struggling. Give their struggle strength by being there for them, assuring them that though it might not seem like their efforts this day or week or month aren’t paying off, that their continued efforts are inspiring everyone to work harder. (IMPORTANT: If their efforts aren’t making the progress you or your teammates are expecting during your assessments, be transparent with them in understanding what’s not working and why – find the problem, pivot and seek the progress.)
We’ve toiled on products for years before they’ve come to market. Sometimes the products we’ve collectively spent years working on never see the light of day. Other times, the product launches only to discover it’s a flop. Either way, it can be a discouraging process that can sabotage the esprit de corps of your team.
Don’t let failure torpedo your team! Instead use action #4, Appreciate to keep your team on track, open-minded and hungry to achieve the goal. When I use the word “appreciate”, I mean the verb to be aware. Throughout this entire team-building process be aware and appreciative of what your teammates are doing – not just from 8-5 pm, but also outside of work. Human behavior ebbs and flows. The more you can be aware of the full scope of your teammates’ struggles and challenges (think single moms or sick family members), the more you’ll enable them to give their best in the office and at home as well.
When you help the whole person, not just the one you need during work hours, you’ll be building Unstoppable teammates! And that will set your team on a course to achieve its true purpose successfully.