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Behind, every groundbreaking movement exists a great team. From the original team at Google who started building innovative technologies in their garage, to a team of three female NASA employees who helped the U.S take flight during the cold war era “Space Race” depicted in the recent film “Hidden Figures”. These teams are examples of persistence, luck, and leadership. They didn’t succeed because they were made of ego, 1 up-manship, and jealousy. But, because they were made up of individuals who realized a common goal and worked together to achieve it despite great odds.

All the qualities necessary to create one of the largest tech companies in human history and help us explore the universe can be used by you to create great teams and effective leaders in your companies, schools, and communities.

I have compiled the 7 MUST HAVE components of a successful team.

“Leadership is not about personality; it’s about behavior—an observable set of skills and abilities.” The Five Practices of Exemplary of Leadership

1) Defining Shared Values.

It is imperative to team success that you make sure everyone on your project is looking in the same direction. Identifying and defining shared values helps create kinship among team members and breaks down arbitrary professional barriers that may obscure genuine connection.

Have a meal with your team outside of your work environment. You can discuss your projects, but more importantly make sure that you encourage others to speak about what drives them. When this happens, the personal investment felt by each member toward the project outcome and the team as a whole will increase significantly. When we feel personally attached to our projects, we are far more likely to strive for the best.

2) Delegate Responsibility.

A leader is someone who shares; shares their thoughts, aspirations, and THEIR WORK! Everything we need to know as adults we learned in kindergarten – keep your hands to yourself, respect your elders, and SHARE. Why do we remember the first two and forget the last? The best thing that a leader can do is trust their team enough to share the work; not just by making copies, but the big stuff too.

People want to be given opportunities to prove themselves and if you do not give those moments to you team their sense of self worth will deplete. Letting individuals take specific lead roles is also a great way to ensure that each person feels personally invested in the work and in the development of the team.

3) You’re not a mime – use your words! (and if you are a mime working with your mime team on skill building, I apologize – you may disregard this message)

The biggest downfall of ANY team, from the billion dollar boardroom to local little league, is poor communication. “Yadda yadda yadda, we’ve heard it all before. Just sit in an circle, talk about your feelings, and viola` you have teamwork” – If only it was that easy.

Improving your communication skills helps you better articulate expectations, deliver bad news with diplomacy, and good news with excitement. It is no coincidence that many of our great leaders are also great writers, speakers, and presenters. This is because they have honed their skills of communication to convey an important message.

Review the qualities of good communicators and work to exemplify them. Do not strive to copy the personalities of famous orators, but rather adopt the positive attributes as a part your assertiveness skill set. Here, is a great Ted Talk to help describe in detail the components of great communication.

4) Infighting is Out of Bounds.

The term ‘infighting’ is used to describe competitiveness within an organization, but it’s origins are in boxing – referring to the act of “boxing closer to an opponent than at arm’s length.” 

One of the most eroding factors to an effective team is infighting. You will always have folks who disagree – disagreement is part of the solvent that helps teams discover better angles, and produce more effective results. However, there is a big difference between disagreement and infighting and as a leader it is imperative that you know the difference and be vigilant in eradicating it.

Infighting looks like disagreement, but it is much more insidious; it shows itself in the form of bickering and often becomes personal. When folks begin calling each other names, gossiping, or taking constructive criticism personally, you have the makings of a perfect storm for infighting.

Take folks aside and explain what is tolerated and what is not. If there continues to be personnel issues you must immediately decide how to proceed to protect your team from eating itself alive, sometimes this requires removing the offending persons from the project permanently.

5) Identify the Bully.

It is an unfortunate reality that in many developing teams there is one or more people who act as the workplace bully. Workplace bullying can tamper passions, create distractions, and ruin trust between team members and their leaders. Workplace bullying may be exhibited by:

Although, It is the responsibility of each team member to recognize bully personalities and approach team leaders, it is also the responsibility of each team leader to make it clear from the outset that no such behavior will be tolerated.

What is perhaps a more difficult scenario is when a team leader is the bully. This is a more likely or at least more common reality among team dynamics.  According to research by Dr. Judy Blando of the University of Phoenix, almost 75% of employees surveyed experienced some form of workplace bullying.

“Workplace bullying is a pattern of persistent, malicious, insulting, or exclusionary
intentional or non-intentional behaviors that a target perceives as intentional efforts to harm, control, or drive a coworker from the workplace” – (Workplace bullying: aggressive behavior and its effect on job satisfaction and productivity)

6) One on One Skill Building.

Whenever possible, it is important to develop one on one relationships with your individual team members (granted you have a team made of less than 100 people.) When can personalize relationships, you are sending a message that you not only care about results you care about the people producing them.

It’s easy to drift by with little effort when you’re part of a disaffected team, but when individuals are made accountable through personal connection it becomes more difficult to skate by on charisma alone.

Coach your team individually by finding their specific strengths through one on one skill building by emphasizing desired leadership qualities such as time management, communication skills, and project articulation.

7) Cookies are your Secret Weapon.

Need I say more? Meetings are enhanced when food is present. Even just a small snack like granola and water can elevate the experience of working on a stressful project. People also let their guard down when they are enjoying food which is good for thought development and lubricates the channels of creativity. So, sharing a meal with your team can actually increase productivity. According to social psychologist Shankar Vedantam in his podcast called “Hidden Brain”

  “People just feel closer to people who are eating the same food as they are. And then trust, cooperation—these are just the consequences of feeling close to someone.”- (Vedantam, 2017)

No matter if you are leading a corporation or a small community organization, these skill building tools will help you better serve your communities and let you see better end results. Remember to always be kind and compassionate in your capacity as a leader. You never know, you might just be training your future boss. –


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