Have you ever watched a high-performing team in action? Better yet, have you ever been a part of a high-performing team?
I don’t how many of you watched the show that the Chinese put together for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games but I can tell you it was truly a spectacular sight and accomplishment. This was the pinnacle of a high-performing team in action – what I like to call a Killer Team. The pure energy and masterful synchronicity was absolutely impeccable. They were fluid and flawless during every show and absolutely electrifying with every move. It was definitely a sight to behold and if you didn’t have the opportunity to see it, I can say without a doubt that you missed something very special.
I don’t know what they will do when the games hit London in 2012 but I do know they’ve got their work cut out for them.
I have had the opportunity to experience the difference between a Killer Team and a team that gets killed. It is always a much happier, more productive, more efficient and more creative scene when you are on a Killer Team – as if that’s not obvious. It is so much more powerful that my ultimate goal when working with a team is to be a part of and cultivate a Killer Team. This is of the utmost importance the moment you begin to work in multiples.
Whether you are leading or are a part of a team, this should be your ultimate goal. Everything else that the team accomplishes rests with the way they are able to work together. It will be next to impossible to achieve any result of great value if your team is not working together. If some of you are pushing while others are pulling, it will create negative energy and in some cases wreak havoc on the whole team. Contrary to the popular belief – opposites do not attract, especially when it comes to teams.
Like-mindedness is essential for team success; the goal of the team must be the focus of every team member in order to achieve the best results. That being said, following are my best ideas on what it takes to build a Killer Team. I’ve broken it down into 7 steps that you can begin to apply immediately and achieve immediate and positive results.
1. Embody the mission This is something that will come up over and over again on this website in some context or another. So many people embark on new journeys, start new projects or new relationships without ever creating a mission for what they want to achieve. It is actually ludicrous when you think about it; see yourself in your mind’s eye getting ready to do something or go somewhere without knowing exactly what it is you are trying to accomplish.
Does that make sense? Of course it doesn’t. That would only make sense to a moron and I know that’s not you.
So then, the first step in building a Killer Team is to embody the mission. Embodying the mission though means several things. In order to be one with your team mission, every member must be willing to commit to it without wavering; you must all see it through together.
Several things occur when a mission has been embodied successfully.
Creating and living the mission – when the whole team is involved in creating the mission, it makes them feel like they are a part of something greater than themselves. Their values become a part of the whole which makes it personal and therefore automatically commands more commitment. It is a lot easier to live a mission that you created than it is to live someone else’s; in fact I’d say it’s damn near impossible to live a mission you didn’t have a hand in creating. This is absolutely essential if you want your team to fully embrace the mission – be one with it. You must all be involved in the creation of it and then you must all live it every single day for maximum impact.
Clarity in purpose – nothing beats the knowledge of destiny. When you know exactly what you want to achieve and precisely where you’re going, it’s pretty difficult to miss the mark. At that point you only have to choose the right vehicles to get you to your destination – to your goal. A purpose-driven goal is one destined for success. Once every team member is clear on what the purpose is, expectations are aligned and focus is singular. This creates power beyond your imagination and productivity skyrockets under these conditions.
Roles & responsibilities defined – this cannot be stressed enough. I’ve seen so many teams implode because the members have no clue what each is supposed to be doing. This is what creates chaos on a team and breeds frustration that lead to conflicts that lead to undesired or disastrous results. It is absolutely imperative that roles and responsibilities are clear and that each team member knows not only what he or she is supposed to be doing but also exactly what each of the other team members are supposed to be doing. This is important in order to achieve maximum efficiency and efficacy. It allows your team to execute at a high level with the least effort. No double work!
The tie that binds – this is what embodiment of a mission does; it creates a deep bond among those who’ve created and are indeed living it. This is a very important element as you will see in the next step, Cultivate Synergy. If you create a mission together, live it daily together and commit together to see it through, this creates a powerful and almost unbreakable bond. It creates unshakable focus and through your commitment, it crystallizes your purpose – the team’s purpose.
2. Cultivate Synergy Synergy is supremely important for any team to function at its peak. This is the pinnacle of togetherness in a common cause. When a team is synergized, each move they make is like flowing water; they move in fluidity and synchronized harmony. It’s really a beautiful thing to experience and if you have, you know exactly what I am talking about.
Cultivating synergy requires transparency and openness among all the team members. It requires the desire to listen with the intent to first understand each other and also the courage to state your point of view. It requires that, when trying to resolve issues or come up with solutions where you do not all agree, that you always seek Third Alternative which is a solution derived from all the desires combined to create a better solution than any of the individual ideas – it promotes and demands win/win.
Furthermore, cultivating synergy also requires that you cherish teamwork in all facets and eliminate competition – at least against each other. Competition among the team can easily, and often does, lead to “I first and team second” and selfishness. This creates the “what’s in it for me” mentality which throws the whole idea of the team purpose right out the window.
Rather than promote competition, Killer Teams promote collaboration; they promote cooperation and fellowship. Instead of sitting on opposite sides of the table, members of a Killer Team sit on the same side. Side by side is better than opposing sides – both from a physical and psychological stand point.
When a team is synergized, trust is at its pinnacle – each teammate trusts the other to do exactly what he is supposed to do. Each member covers the other and is confident that his/her backside is covered at all times. If you are unable to trust your teammates, you will be unable to achieve success as a team.
Synergy is what made the L.A. Lakers of the 80’s and Chicago Bulls of the 90’s so great. The players trusted each other – they knew when to give the ball up to the next man. They seemed to always know where each other was on the court and every man seemed to know where he needed to be in order to receive the ball and sink a basket. It was like watching beautiful choreography when these teams played.
3. Level the playing field For the most part, every team has a leader as well it should. There should be someone in the director position – the person responsible for making sure the blueprint is followed and the goals are met. That being said, one of the most important elements of a Killer Team is a level playing field.
This means that no one and I mean no one is above the law so to speak. As a matter of fact, the first person upholding the laws of the team should always be the leader. His/her example should be like a shining beacon to all other team members.
Leveling the playing field is simple – it requires that every member of the team is accountable for his/her actions. Each person from the top down is held to the same standard and has equal opportunity to voice opinions, ideas and grievances without fear of negative recourse. Each team member must treat every other team member as an equal and with love and respect.
Leveling the playing field in this manner can often create powerful and unbreakable bonds – it fosters loyalty. When every team member knows that his part is just as important and is given equal standing to the next person’s, it becomes easy to commit. The purpose of the team comes alive and thrives in the harmony of collaboration – in synergy.
4. Foster heretics Killer Teams are notorious for going against the grain – they often observe the masses and do the opposite. As such, even though a team usually has a leader, Killer Teams expect leadership to come from any rank, any position, anywhere. This is why they foster heretics.
Killer Teams are always looking for leaders – not just one. Heretics are leaders because they don’t wait for others to make change, they start it and others follow. Heretics abhor the status quos – they are not interested in the discovery from last week, they want to go forth into new frontiers and make the next discovery.
The best Killer Teams are usually made up entirely of heretics – leaders. Mindless sheep get left in the pasture while the heretics steal the dawn of the day. While you whine about breakfast, heretics are busy eating your lunch and stealing your supper. Killer Teams are known for beating others to the punch and the reason is that they only recruit innovative and forward-thinking individuals; those that would sooner crush the status quos than live a day by it. Killer Team members only like the status quos because it gives them a new challenge – it gives them a change to champion.
Killer Teams are at their best when they are fueled by heretics because there are leaders in every hall making changes and breaking new ground. When you are part of a team that operates this way, you are constantly in a state of inspiration because you see the world anew each and every day.
5. Discourage conformists As Killer Teams foster heretics, something else happens automatically, they discourage conformists. Conformists are those who uphold the status quos – they fight for the status quos. Conformists hate change, they consider most change a threat and that’s why they live in fear.
Killer Teams have no use for these types of individuals because they know they won’t bring any creativity or innovation to the table. They will simply do what others are doing without ever giving a thought to change; even in the face of a broken system, conformists will still fight for the status quos.
A team of conformists create nothing, build nothing and change nothing. They simply do what they are told or what they are expected to do. There is a place for these people… in an ant hill. Ants are like programmed soldiers – they each have a job that they were born to do and they do it until they die. It’s great for an ant, probably get a medal or a crumb, but very sad for a human being.
As one comedian said of our 43rd president and I’ll paraphrase, “conformists do the same thing on Wednesday that they did on Monday, no matter what happened on Tuesday.”
Teams that consist of conformists are the teams that are getting killed by Killer Teams. Conformists are managers, not leaders; they manage the assembly line and do exactly as they’re told. Heretics are leaders; they chase all that is considered taboo in the hopes of positive change. Killer Team members are heretics because they thrive on change and crushing the status quos.
6. Be A Square If you want to build a Killer Team or lead one, you must understand and master how to be a square. Ever wonder why it almost always never works when a third party tries to solve problems in a relationship, especially when no request was made for help? These people are usually told to butt out!
On a team, one of the worst things you can do is create triangulation in a problem. Triangulating a problem means taking a problem that occurred between and affected two individuals or two groups and inserting a third party to fix the problem. What usually happens is, the conflicting parties end up confessing each other sins and then the mediator is left in the difficult position of deciding who’s right and who’s erred. This almost always never ends well – at least one person usually comes out of this situation unhappy.
Individuals who build and lead Killer Teams never create triangulation in a problem. Instead, they promote one-on-one Third Alternative resolution. This approach basically says that if you have a conflict with another teammate, you agree to work through the issue together until you reach a resolution that you are both happy with. If a third party is ever inserted into the equation, it would only be because the conflicting parties both agreed that it was best in the course of resolving their issue.
When you build and lead a Killer Team, you must commit to being a square with every team member, no triangulation ever unless explicitly requested by both conflicting parties. Be a square and you will always be fair.
7. Get out of the way Many teams have been thrown completely off track when this element gets muddled. It is possible to build and lead a Killer Team only to find that you’ve limited its potential by constantly getting in the way. Part of the reason for adhering to the 6 steps above is so that it makes it very easy for you to follow the 7th.
Once your Killer Team is in place and every team member knows what to do, as a leader your job is to now get out of the way. When you remove yourself from every nook and cranny, remarkable things begin to happen. Team members work together, creativity is high and results are astounding. I’ve seen so many talented leaders fail at getting out of the way so badly that the team failed and the mission never got off the ground.
I remember once when I was charged to lead a group of about 90 individuals at a company symposium. My task was to lead the team of individuals who were monitoring classrooms and catering to the customers. This by far was one of the most important leadership roles at the symposium. On the morning of the pep rally just before the event got underway, I was scheduled to give my team a pep talk – prepare us for what was ahead.
I said many things that morning but one of the most important things I did was recognize the incredible talent that was on my team, plant the seeds of the mission and then stepped aside and watched a well-oiled machine run. The results were, as you can imagine, astounding. I was confident in the tenacity of my team, I knew that it was packed with heretics and experience so I simply shared the mission, gained unanimous consensus with it and then provided a platform for them to execute – I got out of the way.
This is often very hard for leaders to do – instead, they try to control every outcome and every process. For the most part though, all they end up doing is managing instead of leading which defeats the entire purpose of building a Killer Team.
What kind of team are you on? So, are you on a team? Where do you think your team falls, Killer or Getting Killed?
If you want to build teams that accomplish great things, you must be willing to commit to the 7 steps above. I realize that it may seem like you don’t have much of a choice when it comes to who is on your team, especially if you have a job; however, you can still be a heretic, a leader.
You can start your own Killer Team within a team. Perhaps you want to start a Killer Team at work whose sole purpose is to create positive changes in the workplace and stamp out the status quos. Just remember, the top doesn’t always mean the CEO, the top can start with you.