The Best Teams: 10 Principles of Exceptional Teams

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I love it when great leaders point to their teams after being acknowledged for their achievements. Here are some key principles that make teams exceptional. 

  1. Each member focuses on ‘bettering the ball‘, making the overall play better for everyone involved. This is independent of the role of the player, the goal of the game, the state of the ball, or the pressure in the moment. If everyone is able to ‘better the ball’ just a little, the entire play made by the collective team will improve immensely.
  2. Each member of the team believes in every other member of the team. This doesn’t mean that they believe everyone can do everything well, but they do believe that each person can and will do the important things well, and/or speak up if she/he can’t.
  3. When a member of a team flubs, other members provide support and help them to learn from the experience so they can get up and try again. 
  4. Each member of the team is courageous and confident enough to own up to their errors, and get support from other team members to learn from these errors, strengthening the individual member and the overall team. 
  5. Members of the team respect each other for owning up to and learning from their errors.
  6. Each member of the team gives other members the benefit of the doubt that they are working hard to help the overall team. If proven otherwise, the members work with the individual to get back on track. 
  7. Great teams take pride in the accomplishments and potential each member represents. This is especially important if any one member is taking the heat for an error made by herself/himself, or by the overall team/product/organization. 
  8. Exceptional teams will gently call out individual members to help them rise up to the standards set for each team member – whether it’s communicating transparently, delivering results, or supporting other team members.
  9. An excellent team bands together to understand and analyze how to continually improve their track record. Some teams gamify the process to invite friendly competition with the intent of generating results, which provides opportunities for self-improvement and team bonding, and improved results.
  10. When exceptional teams have conflict, they resolve to communicate directly and transparently so they can focus on the learnings and the results.

I hope that we each have the opportunity to be part of an exceptional team at some point in our career. Even if your team doesn’t currently hit all the marks above, striving toward any one principle at a time might help shift your team in that direction.


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