Just like managing a great sports team, managing a great workplace team requires talent, strategy and that certain “magic” that brings it all together. However that illusive magic doesn’t have to be a mystery anymore. There’s actual science that can be used to enhance your team and its effectiveness.
A 2014 study from CB Insights reports that over 46 percent of startup failures are due to either not having the right management team or having a dysfunctional management team -- that’s how critical the right team is.
And if you want to raise money for your team, the funding world also requires a strong team. According to venture capitalists, private equity experts and hedge fund managers, they’re are looking for “backable management teams,” not just a great idea or a charismatic founder.
But creating a high performing team is contingent on more than just putting great people together, it requires that those people actually come together as a high performing team. Just like great sports teams, great management teams produce great results.
Here is how to create an effective and backable team:
1. Focus on the right talent and leadership.
Team roles are sometimes not clearly articulated, especially on ad hoc teams. And even when there is a clear job title and hierarchical structure, sometimes the skills and competencies required for those positions are lacking in the individual. It is critical to not only recruit the right talent, but the right "attitude." If team members don’t understand their role and impact, the team won’t be successful. Team leaders often play many roles -- they are required to lead the team, but to also be a team member, "on the court" while also managing it.
2. Integrate cooperation and competition.
Organizations with a high level of employee cooperation -- or a culture emphasizing "getting along" -- are financially out-performing organizations that value internal competition or "getting ahead," according to an unpublished report from Saville Consulting.
How can you create a "getting along" culture, and up the chances of financial success? Easy: Encourage and reward trust, respect, team-mindedness, altruism to other employees, morality and modesty. Braggarts who are engaged in self-promotion, lording their successes over others and creating a bullying environment should be quietly discouraged from this behavior, and the bosses who tolerate this should be coached and trained to encourage a different kind of behavior.
3. Carve out time for practice.
In the business world, it seems like we’re in "game time" mode all the time. This doesn’t allow for experimentation and innovation, or creative exchanges of ideas among team members. Often the office environment isn’t conducive to this creative brainstorming, so building in off-sites or even social events (a team lunch or after work activity) is critical to the innovation ideation process.
4. Call a half time.
Research has shown that when a team has a built-in deadline, they will naturally not be "productive" for the first half of the project. This is the time when the team members socialize or gel as a team, discuss goals, establish roles and processes and generate team rules of engagement. Most importantly, this is the time when the team is creative, exploring different points of views and experiences (and why diversity is so critical to team success) and how to leverage this to generate desired team outcomes. The second half of the project time is when team members move into action.
5. Foster team stability
The more time team members have worked with one another, the more conversant they are with the unique skills they have, as well as the time it takes to establish trust and camaraderie. These are important attributes in high performing teams, as long as we manage groupthink, and aren’t compromising quality for complacency.
6. Orchestrate some early wins
Research has shown that team self-belief (or the faith that the team has that it can generate desired outcomes) is one of the strongest predictors of success. The team is a system whose shared purpose is to generate an outcome, and the team has within it the means to achieve that outcome, and when it doesn’t, it has the power to access the resources to support it in generating results. If you’re leading the team, then the most important thing you can do is set the team to achieve an easy win straight off the bat. That will engender the critical self-belief that the team needs to achieve its ultimate goal.
If we win at the team level each individual ultimately wins. More corporate success generally leads to funding opportunities, more growth, higher profits, bigger bonuses, more opportunities for promotion, and the satisfaction that comes from working for a successful company.