The Elements of a World Class Team

It does not matter if we are talking about sports, music, sales, military, or business teams. The ingredients that produce great teams are identical. All world class teams have these five elements in common.

  • Players:
    A great team must start with great people. You would be hard-pressed to go to the Super Bowl without great athletes, or to produce a Broadway hit without great performers. All great players have a sense of personal responsibility. When something goes wrong on the team, they always point the finger at themselves first. When the team does well or when they receive personal accolades, they always look to congratulate others (not themselves) in a spirit of gratitude. Great players don’t only set goals and plan to win, they expect to win.

  • Leadership:
    Great leaders are multipliers. They understand that leadership applies to people and that management applies to things. Multipliers know how to inspire vigorous debate and understand that "all of us are smarter than any one of us." They are confident in their ability to lead, but they do not believe that they are the smartest person in the room. They inspire their team to place "the elephants on the table" and to disagree without being disagreeable. They are self-aware and always "walk their talk." Great leaders are trustworthy and know how to trust others. They are happy to admit when they are wrong or if they have made a mistake. They understand that vigorous debate trumps false agreement every time. Multipliers get people to perform far beyond their wildest imagination, attain new heights, and accomplish things they have never accomplished before. Success breeds success and belief breeds belief. They understand how to create and maintain momentum, helping everyone perform better.
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  • Culture:
    Great teams possess a culture of abundance, leadership development, discipline and accountability. The leader and all of the teammates of a world class team seek to grow their slice of the pie by growing the entire pie. The leader of world class team members has no tolerance for any form of zero-sum mentality, politicking, spin, or CYA. Great cultures understand that the goals, mission and values of the team are always more important than those of any one of its players. In no way does this philosophy imply a lack of loyalty. Great teammates are extremely loyal, but will not allow any member to give anything less than their best, because poor effort by any player can do harm to the overall team mission. If a fellow teammate is dogging it, they will call them out respectfully, but directly. Players in world class culture possess optimism, but they never sugarcoat. They always face the brutal facts and deal with them head on, even if the facts don’t support their pre-determined hopes and conclusions.

  • Focus:
    Focus is a hallmark of performance, on both an individual and a team basis. Great teams work hard to keep their goals, objectives and KPIs to a minimum, permitting intense focus on only those most critical items that will produce the highest return on time and energy and the greatest overall results. They create strategies and success recipes based upon this small set of objectives, then focus intensely upon execution. Everyone understands effectiveness and efficiency. All members are constantly asking themselves the question "What ONE THING should I focus on now to provide the greatest value to the mission and produce the greatest result?" There is absolutely no tolerance for time-wasters or distractions.

  • Commitment to Continuous Improvement:
    World class team leaders and players never rest on their laurels. They are happy to celebrate their great achievements, but are never satisfied and are constantly looking to improve. They are masterful at overcoming adversity and obstacles. They recover quickly and know how to quickly get back on the horse whenever they fall off.

Even the best teams in the world don’t win all the time. Perfection is unattainable; however, the pursuit of perfection is golden. You will rarely, if ever, see a professional or college sports team go undefeated in a season. However, there are programs and leaders that seem to consistently make it to the championship or finish in the top 10% year after year. World class, consistent performers and teams understand that in most cases success is a marathon, not a sprint – a journey, not a destination. As such, players and leaders on great teams are highly committed to continuous training, coaching and development.

How does your team measure up?