Team of Stars or A Star Team? - Creating Champion Teams
The new football season provokes a lot of speculation about potential champions. You will probably have a favourite team that you follow, Arsenal, Accrington Stanley or whoever.
We will hear a lot about the comings and goings of managers, players etc but the teams will endure. Despite the transfer of managers and players, injuries and substitutions some teams will consistently perform well, match after match, season after season. Why? What creates this success?
Teams are greater than the sum of their parts (members/players). They are an entity in themselves. The team does not operate in isolation. It is part of a bigger system. Within that system the team will have its own purpose, goals, strategies and tactics. If the members (or players) don’t understand those, the team will not achieve the results it needs.
Yet in business when the word “team” is mentioned there is immediate flight to team bonding exercises or to team roles, which is a bit like describing a footballer as a striker, defender etc. It describes their role, but it does not describe their true contribution to the team’s performance, nor does it describe what goes on in the team.
In our research into Team Effectiveness (used in our TEI) we discovered that about 90% of team members (of all teams) thought they were clear about their team’s purpose and goals. Yet in about 80% of teams there was little consensus between team members about the team’s purpose, goals, strategies. If you don’t have that consensus understanding, it makes no difference what your role is! It is rather like a soccer player doing his own thing because he thought it would be best for the team.
Working with one client and just over 100 of their teams, we conducted an experiment. We put teams together (average 8 members per team) to complete one of our Team Building Survival Exercises. This gives a score of the Effectiveness of the team on an unfamiliar task. Teams were put together on several different bases: random, an “ideal” mix of team roles using a team role questionnaire, on the basis of an “ideal” mix of PEP styles, and on the basis of high Adaptability scores (using the Verax Personal Effectiveness Profile (PEP) Inventory).
In over 100 teams we found no statistically significant difference in performance between random, team role and PEP Style based teams. But high Adaptability member teams significantly outperformed the others in terms of team effectiveness scores on the Survival exercise. This was primarily because they were clear about their purpose, their strategy and tactics in completing the exercise and had very effective Decision Making and Communication processes.
Our research into Team Effectiveness also highlighted other drivers of team performance, including: -
· Clear and Shared Vision
· Strategy Implementation
· Team Performance Management
· Systems, Processes & Procedures
· Decision Making
· Resource Management
These determine the results the team achieves and its relationship with other parts of the business. The team is both affected by and affects other parts of the business. It does not operate in isolation. This is also true of our football teams. Even on the field they have to adapt their strategy to the way their opponents play, the weather, etc.
Effective teams (i.e. those that achieve the results they need to achieve for the organisation) then, are a group of individuals who are mutually dependent on each other, who share a common purpose and goal. Although the expertise, role, behaviour and relationships of individual members is part of the mix, it is only a part.
And within the bigger system, the team is an entity in its own right, with its own purpose, goals, processes etc.
Teams, then, operate at three different levels simultaneously: -
- At the individual member level where the issue is their expertise and their relationships with other team members.
- The team as a unit and how they manage the drivers of team effectiveness.
- The team as part of a bigger system and the team’s relationship with other teams and the organisation.
Without understanding and addressing these three levels, team building interventions will never create a championship team.
Remember, as a member of a real team “you’ll never walk alone”!