What are the hallmarks of a high performing team?

You know how you can just tell a great team from a not-so-great team? There are certain hallmarks that can tip you off to a well-functioning and high performing team. I have had the privilege of working on teams like this. Here is what I experienced in those teams and more specifically the behaviors, attitudes and relationships that I believe contributed to the greatness of those teams:

  • The right skill set for the job
  • Humility when you’re right and a willingness to be wrong
  • Commitment – to the company, to the team, and to the task at hand
  • Laughter, just plain old laughter

THE RIGHT SKILLS: It goes without saying that a skill set is important to a successful team. Skills are often the primary consideration as to whether or not a person is hired. They are the entry point to creating a great team: people who can already do or have the aptitude to learn the important skills and behaviors required for success on the team. The hallmark of a team who has the right skills is excellence.

If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude. Colin Powell

The remainder of the items on my “short list” for great teams is what drives the team towards greatness.

HUMILITY: The Cambridge Dictionary defines “humility” in this way – the feeling or attitude that you have no special importance that makes you better than others; lack of pride. If you have the privilege to work with people like this, you know that often you experience more thoughtful questions than know-it-all dominance; and that the work is most commonly distributed based on skills, strengths and style. The hallmark of a team who has humility is shared recognition for work successfully completed.

A great person is always willing to be little. Ralph Waldo Emerson

COMMITMENT: I have had my fair share of colleagues who openly confess that they are “only there for the paycheck.” While that is a certain type of commitment, it is not the type I am thinking of. Instead, I am thinking of the restaurant openings that didn’t go exactly as planned, and the trainers stuck with the trainees (sometimes late into the night) to make sure they knew what they needed to know. I am also thinking about a group of teenagers who volunteered to serve at Appalachian Service Project (ASP) and built a bathroom in the home of a woman in Appalachia – in the summer, in the heat, in a week. The hallmark of a team who has commitment is the completion of the project, no matter how prepared or unprepared they are, or how hard or long or unexpected the process is.

“The kind of commitment I find among the best performers across virtually every field is a single-minded passion for what they do, an unwavering desire for excellence in the way they think and the way they work. Genuine confidence is what launches you out of bed in the morning, and through your day with a spring in your step.” Jim Collins

LAUGHTERLaughter is the juice that feeds a team; that creates the bond; that leavens the effort. A team project without laughter is like a road trip with no gas in the car. In the tensest moments, laughter eases the strain. Laughter creates a shared and infectious experience that links us, perhaps forever in our memories. My best team memories have laughter in them – having a skipping contest with a colleague in the middle of the office, or sharing drinks and stories of the crazy day we had traveling with the franchise team. The hallmark of a team who laughs together is trust.

The most wasted of days is one without laughter. e.e. cummings

I hope you work with one of these great teams. If not, take heart. Great skills, humility, commitment, and laughter can be contagious.

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