the top 5 traits of successful teams
By david sturt and todd nordstrom in Editor Picks and Teams
Where can you find the most engaged and excited teams in the world? At the Googleplex? In the boardroom? Within a techie startup? No…
Just visit your local park on a Saturday morning to observe driven and motivated teams in action. They work together towards a common goal, celebrating small victories along the way. They learn from their mistakes, acknowledging how each member can improve on the next go-around. They’re led by a confident, charismatic leader, who helps them understand their individual roles and communicates and upholds the team vision. And when the team hits a homerun, everyone cheers and high-fives, knowing they’ve reached that success together.
That’s right—Little League baseball is the place to find the embodiment of a successful team. Imagine those eager kids, whose hard work all season long has brought them to the Little League finals. Think about their focus, grit, and team spirit. And then, look a little closer. You’ll realize that the best Little League teams look a lot like the most successful teams in the workplace. There are five attributes that all successful teams—whether they’re big or small, on the field or in the office—embody. Read them below and discover whether your team has what it takes to hit it out of the park.
The best Little League teams are led by a big-picture vision: to win the game. But they also know how each member can uniquely contribute to that goal. When they play, they don’t just aim to win—they also focus on how each player’s strengths advance that goal. The best workplace teams function in the same way. They’re motivated by the company mission and have quarterly or yearly goals they strive to meet. But even more importantly, each team member knows the value his personal contributions lend to the big picture. When team members focus on delivering the difference only they can create, teams become strong and successful.
Have you ever seen a successful Little League team led by a lousy coach? No—because when a team is stuck with a coach who is chronically late to practices, occasionally skips games, and doesn’t focus on training and improvement, they don’t get far. The same applies in the workplace. The best teams are led by leaders who communicate the vision, lead humbly, and are open to feedback and criticism. They allow and encourage employee development, they leave the door open, and they aren’t afraid to delegate and give the team some credit. Without an inspiring leader to set the tone, many good teams struggle to be great.
Little League teams of age ten and up can be great examples of team success. But Little League teams of age eight and under? Not so much. The difference there is in the cooperation and coordination of the players. When the kids don’t know what positions they play (or how to play them), there is no game strategy or success. But as soon as they learn their individual roles and how to leverage each other’s strengths, they become a strong team. In the workplace, too, the teams who know how to work together and divvy up project tasks gain the most from their group’s unique mix of knowledge and abilities.
Teams are always a work in progress. That’s why the best teams are open to feedback and actively encourage constructive communication. Just like Little League coaches and players giving one another praise and advice, the best teams in the workplace often check in with each other to ask for perspective and ideas throughout their projects. A willingness to ask for and receive input characterizes the best teams. It shows the team members respect one another’s opinions, and strive to incorporate diverse viewpoints to become more productive and efficient.
Appreciation All Around
In a Little League game, every time a player runs a base, catches the ball, or (once in a blue moon) hits a homerun, his whole team cheers. It’s not just the coach who gives each player a pat on the back. The kids recognize each other too, cheering and high-fiving to celebrate their small wins and big victories throughout the game—on the field or from the dugout. There’s a myth surrounding recognition: that it’s the manager’s job. But the best teams don’t wait for leaders to appreciate—they recognize one another’s great work regularly. When everyone knows their efforts are valued, they produce more great work. And that cycle, from recognition to great work to appreciation again, is what successful teams utilize every day to empower and inspire one another.
These are the five simple, universal attributes of successful teams. Whether you’re leading Millennials, trying to engage remote employees, or working on retention throughout your organization, stop and consider if your teams exhibit these characteristics. If they aren’t, it may be time to rethink some things. After all, the keys to team success are simple building blocks even kids can master. Whether you played Little League yourself or not, we bet you’ve intuitively known these key indicators of team success long before you entered the business world.
This post was originally published on Forbes.