Sometimes people who work together form groups; sometimes they become teams – and there’s a difference. Over many years in leadership I have had the good fortune to work in and with some outstanding teams, most recently in Hong Kong, where my immediate team was one comprised of knowledgeable and talented educators.
Reflecting on that and other such experiences leads me to propose an ABC of teams. I trust my former colleagues recognise and celebrate some of their characteristics in this list:
Attitude: team members bring respect, a can-do attitude, open-mindedness, optimism and a spirit of cooperation to the work of the team.
Balance: leaders need to ensure balance in team membership and in operation; where skills and personalities are complementary and where the whole becomes greater than the sum of parts.
Collaboration: the way the team works within the team and beyond the team is one of shared action and output.
Diversity: teams thrive on constructive difference – of opinions, of strengths, of cultural perspectives, of talents, of experience.
Ethics: above all else, team behaviour is ethical and actions are characterised by integrity and honesty.
Focus: the team understands its purpose and concentrates its energies on that purpose.
Gravitas: the team has credibility as a unit and as individual members and its work is taken seriously.
Humour: team members enjoy working together in a spirit of fun and help each other maintain perspective.
Innovation: creative thinking is encouraged and the team challenges thinking and generates new ideas.
Judgement: team members are discerning and professional and their actions and decisions are worthy and based on good sense.
Knowledge: there is no substitute for ‘knowing your stuff’. Being adept at process is important but team members need to have the necessary individual expertise that contributes to the whole.
Learning: team members learn from and with each other, and from the external environment.
Perhaps I’ll leave the second half of the alphabet for another day, but even one half may give a sense of my take on teams and what makes them work.