Top 5 Qualities of Great Teams

Every Tuesday evening in the summer you can find me hitting the courts in a local tennis league. My coworkers can usually expect a rehash of the evening’s excitement come Wednesday morning. Epic 3-hour long matches, come-from-behind victories, and lunging after seemingly impossible shots only to amaze oneself create an evening full of surprises. We’re a team in every sense of the word. We battle together and support each other on and off the courts. A sports team and a workplace team may seem like polar opposites, but both groups need to work together to achieve a common goal. To that end, I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 qualities that I believe make for a successful team:

 1.      Get involved.

To be a well-oiled machine, everyone must be an active participant. We each have unique strengths, and when put together this creates a dynamite team. Trying to complete or control all parts of a task misses the opportunity to explore the perspectives our coworkers bring to the table. Conversely, a lack of contribution leads to frustration among the group and places roadblocks for a successful outcome. Even if you think your role is unimportant, it’s not! In our tennis league, it doesn’t matter if you are playing on the first or last court because they all count equally. It’s critical to the team’s success that everyone shows up and gives their best effort.

2.      Communicate.

This is vitally important for the success of any team. Be open with each other and share thoughts, opinions, and ideas. What has worked? What can be improved? Creating an environment that supports feedback and suggestions nips problems in the bud and opens a dialog where individuals feel comfortable expressing themselves. Think of communication as a verb – actively sharing and listening. When we use our two ears and one mouth proportionally, individuals feel valued and respected. In a tennis match I constantly communicate with my doubles partner so we’re working efficiently. After the match, we might brainstorm ways to successfully back a fully loaded U-Haul truck down a narrow driveway while the mother-in-law looks on (true story).

3.      Support.

Offering to help an inundated coworker carries an incredible amount of value. This can ultimately lead to deadlines being met and better productivity all around. Sometimes all that’s needed is a team cheerleader who motivates others to overcome mental roadblocks. Other times, an individual may be seeking help to lessen their workload. It is always appreciated when you can lend a helping hand, but make sure the problem doesn’t get passed to you. I recently read a great book that discusses this balance called Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. They offer practical examples to help you be the best coworker, teammate, friend, or charity co-chairperson out there.

 4.      Leadership.

More than just a cheerleader, the leader’s role is to guide the group to a successful outcome. Therefore, it is crucial they be respected and trusted. If these qualities exist, the team spends more time working and less time questioning. The best leaders keep their team on track but understand the importance of letting them use their strengths to solve the equation. If leadership is lacking, step up to the plate and offer to help. If you are being sincere, the leader should appreciate the extra initiative put forth for the good of the group. Our league only allows one person’s name as captain, but everyone is able and willing to step in and assist when needed which makes for a great team and a happy captain.

5.      Say Thank You.

These two simple words are universally appreciated from the coffee-running-intern to the high-stressed and over-worked employee. Recognizing the contributions of another can positively impact relationships with fellow employees for years to come. Strive to give a person specifics on why you are grateful for them. This shows their actions are noticed and you really mean what you said. Even the smallest compliment can make a team member feel valued and compelled to perform their best. Just this season I watched a player losing 1-5 come back and win 7-5 when the team rallied around her. At the conclusion we always thank our opponent for good sportsmanship and a healthy workout!