From the Resistance going up against the First Order in Star Wars to Leicester City winning the Premier League in 2015/16, most people love a team that punches above its weight.

Seeing a set of individuals come together to achieve something remarkable is thrilling to watch, but such successes aren’t confined to sci-fi films and sport.

At work, some teams consistently perform well while others fail to get make progress. It’s not always obvious why one group of people excels but scratch the surface and you will find some trends.

What makes a good team?

There’s no exact science behind a great team but Hilarie Owen, chief executive of the Institute of Leadership, has identified 4 characteristics that successful teams share.

As a leader you have the ability to foster these qualities and get your team performing.  

Working as a collective – they work together, not as individuals.

Owen makes a distinction between people who work together and teams. Committees, for example, are all about compromise and achieving what they can given the circumstances.

Similarly, people who are lumped together because they have a similar role but don’t work on the same projects are unlikely to work as a group.

When setting up a new team think carefully about why you are bringing these individuals together and what you want them to achieve.

Shared purpose – there’s a common goal that is clear to each team member.

It’s not enough to have a shared goal – everyone in the team needs to know about it.

How you communicate the goal with your team is important but so is checking in regularly to make sure everyone is on track.

The team will also need to recognise that everyone’s skills are needed to achieve the goal.

There are plenty of tools to help assess the skills in your team. If you want to explore this in more depth Belbin’s 9 team roles is a good starting point.

Stay focused – they work hard but the work is fun and satisfying.

Keeping the momentum going can be tricky, especially when the work is challenging.

When this happens, the team leader is very important in bringing the focus back to the team rather than individual interests.

Team spirit – people are open and direct and discuss mistakes together.

Make time to debrief after big projects. A simple agenda of what went well, what didn’t and what could you do differently next time should get the conversation going.

The idea isn’t to attribute blame to any individual, but to see how you can all work better.

To help create a relaxed and open atmosphere:

  • share the agenda before the meeting to give people time to prepare
  • try holding the meeting somewhere neutral, such as a coffee shop
  • ask one of your team to lead the debrief.

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