the 5 key traits all successful teams share
By david sturt and todd nordstrom in Insights and Teams
What is the best predictor of team success? Some experts say there’s nothing more important than strong, smart leadership. A team with a great leader will always succeed, they claim…But experience probably tells you that’s not quite true. Others will claim that a fantastic culture is what sets the best teams apart. When people are encouraged and empowered, they say, the teamwork just ignites…but does it?
What makes the best teams truly tick? Is it perks, the individuals, or just pure luck? The truth is, a really great team is more than the sum of its parts. And many of the best teams—the ones that deliver results, wow customers, and become the stars of their departments and industries—share a few key traits. We’ve studied it. And, we’ve found five irreplaceable qualities of the greatest teams that are demonstrated by hugely successful global companies—even some of the greatest teams of all time.
Trusting that your co-workers can—and will—get things done is the first step to effective collaboration. So it’s no surprise that the most innovative and successful teams require dependability from all team members, from individual contributors to managers, directors, and even the big boss. Google, for example, sets the expectation that “team members get things done on time and meet Google’s high bar of excellence.” And the dependability that fosters is the foundation for the great work Google’s teams achieve—because trust and accountability are basic building blocks for team success.
Driven By Purpose
How do you reach “mission accomplished” on every project and initiative? You have to educate your team on where they’re going—and why, and how. When each team member understands their role in the big picture, great things happen. AirBnb is one company that knows how to build a purpose-driven team culture—and its teams are wildly successful as a result. From specially organized teams, which each work on a specific step in the business model, to offices decorated like dream AirBnb locations, this rapidly growing company is mission-oriented through and through. Take a cue from them and remind your team what your objectives and drive are—and how each individual brings a unique set of skills to the mission at hand.
Have you ever heard a hiring manager sigh about a perfect-on-paper candidate who checks all the right boxes…but who just wouldn’t quite work for their organization? It’s probably because that great candidate lacks one key piece of the hiring puzzle: culture fit. A candidate who has tons of knowledge and experience but lacks the passion, quirkiness, or personality to work well with the existing team will struggle to achieve and innovate—and that difficulty will resonate throughout the team. The best teams are made up of individuals who complement each other’s skills and fit well within the organizational culture, which is why companies like online retailer Zappos make culture fit a priority. Not only does the Zappos interview process highly value cultural fit, but recent hires are also offered $2,000 to quit if they decide the job just isn’t for them within the first week of employment. Now that’s a real commitment to building teams that share in the company culture.
The most successful teams don’t agree on everything. Instead, when disagreements arise, they tackle them in a respectful and constructive way. In fact, some extremely successful companies actually encourage conflicts and challenges in moderation—because the innovation born from debate refines their products and services. When he was at the helm of Apple, Steve Jobs firmly believed that encouraging healthy conflicts would help the business grow. He actively asked Apple teams to challenge existing ideas and processes in order to discover optimal solutions. And while building healthy habits to manage differing opinions on the team may be hard at first, it’s crucial. Because a team operating in false harmony—where no one truly speaks their mind or questions the status quo—will inevitably witness innovation faltering and solutions stagnating.
Call it a human emotion (viewed by some as a softer skill) but truly great teams truly appreciate each other. They truly feel a sense of gratitude to be working with people who they feel do awesome work. In fact, research shows how powerful the impact of peer-to-peer appreciation can be on an individual’s performance. Great teams sincerely appreciate the ideas, skills, and perceptions of their team members.
You, too, can harness the secrets of the most successful teams. It all comes down to a combination of the right people and the right actions—and a commitment to improving your team for the better. As your teamwork strengthens, your innovation and bottom-line results will improve. And those positive effects will resonate throughout your organization—and deliver a true difference for your customers.
This post was originally published on Forbes.