Building highly effective teams

Villanova 2016 NCAA National Champions 2016

This is not an article about college basketball, though given Villanova’s dismantling of Oklahoma yesterday (Saturday, April 2, 2016) in the NCAA Men’s basketball Final Four, and their win over North Carolina for the NCAA Mens Division I National Championship Monday night, April 4, it could be.

This is about building highly effective teams, and transcends athletics, Information Technology, and applies throughout the business world.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen many posts about how to build highly effective teams, and having done this several times throughout my career, I believe I have some expertise in this area. I will highlight some of the things below which I believe are the keys.

Look for team players

Often in the business world, emphasis is placed on finding the “rockstar”. While I believe having a “rockstar” on the team is absolutely beneficial, on highly effective teams, the rockstar needs to understand he is part of the team, not The Team.

We’ve all heard (way too many times) “There ain’t no I in team” and we’ve also heard “There ain’t no We either”. While those slogans may be humorous and somewhat effective in getting across the message of being a team player, I look more to older origins of teams.

Think back to Ancient times, when the Greek army used the phalanx as both an offensive and defensive formation. All members of the army tightly organized, staying in formation, working as a team to accomplish their goal. No weak links, because they were all working together.

I think also of teams of draft horses, like the Budweiser Clydesdales, all pulling together for the common goal. Maybe this is an odd comparison, but in a team of horses, if one is pulling to the left, and the rest are pulling to the right, the team is not going to be effective at delivering their goods.

And I think of the Navy Seals (and you may insert elite teams from any branch of the military here as well) – Highly skilled team players all working together to achieve the common goal. Highly effective teams in todays’ world need to have that same mentality – all working together for the common goal.

Check the ego at the door

For highly effective teams to be successful, each team member must understand the team dynamic, and check their ego at the door. Teams that function best are those where each team member is interchangeable. This is accomplished by each team member being willing and able to share their collective expertise with the team. Each team member may have a specialty in their given line of work, but it is that collaboration, the sharing of expertise, which builds the team.

In saying this, I am not saying every member needs to be an expert on everything – that isn’t really feasible. However, when expertise is shared, each team member can gain knowledge that helps them, and their shared knowledge helps the team dynamic. Each team has members who are Subject Matter Experts (SME) on different topics, and each team member should benefit from the sharing of knowledge amongst the team.

Know your teammates

I believe this is one of the true “Keys to the kingdom” in team building. In my years of management, my goal was for each team member to know the strengths, and weaknesses, of their teammates, and to know each others skill sets, both technical and interpersonal. By knowing these things, when issues or projects come up, you can utilize your teammate to assist, which helps not only you, but your teammate, the team as a whole, and everyone involved. It is a true “win-win” situation. I know as a manager, it was difficult for me to keep up with all my team members skills (though I did finally get smart and create a database of those skills), but when the team members know each others skills, it makes it much easier for the entire team to provide assistance and guidance when a particular skill set is needed.

I also encouraged my team members to know who their teammates are – from a personal perspective. I’m not saying that everyone needs to know every aspect of everyone’s life. God knows we get enough of that on other social media platforms. But I encourage each team member to know where their team mate is from (where they grew up), what school they graduated from, what they did in their previous position(s), what they like to do in their spare time, and to the extent they want to share the information, know about their family – not intimate details, just the basics. Often we know more about the neighbor down the street who we see maybe a couple times a month than we do about the people we sit next to or work with 8 hours a day.

In closing…

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my post, and that I have maybe in some small way helped you. My goal every day is to help at least one person. I believe that is my mission in life. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.

Note: This article may also be found on my blog at https://www.jamieadennis.com/blog

Note:This article may also be found on my blog at https://www.jamieadennis.com/blog

About the author
Jamie in Tux at Ryans Wedding

I’m just a Southern Ohio boy, born and raised in Chillicothe, OH (about 45 miles south of Columbus on US Route 23). I now reside in Delray Beach, Florida, and love it here. I’ve traveled widely, worked in many organizations of varying sizes, and learned something every step of the way.

I do not claim to be an expert on anything – I reserve that title for those who create and improve technology, but I’ve been successful throughout my career by applying common sense to complex problems, whether those be technology problems or people problems. I continue to learn on a daily basis, which is the nature of a career in Information Technology, and life as a Pre-Sales Consultant/Solution Architect.

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