Great minds make for great ideas, but what about executing those ideas and making them real? It’s never a one-person job: it takes teamwork. No person in business is a success without the work of others, and every great leader is only as great as the team they’ve assembled to make their dreams into reality.
Michael Jordan may have put it best: “Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships.” You might not get a trophy and a sneaker deal at the end of a profitable quarter, but your triumphs are equally important to the morale of your team, your shareholders, and your customers. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the groups I’ve built over the years, I’ve found success in over 100 different business entities. It’s all thanks to the power of the team.
It seems like a kind of magic–bringing a group of voices together at one, and when it works right it almost is. But the reality of creating a team to get tasks done depends on a number of factors. There might be an infinite number of ways to do it, but there are a few key traits found in just about all of the great ones.
First of all, size matters. Your team must be dynamic to take on fresh challenges as they arise. That means you should err on the side of a smaller group, to prevent excessive barriers between members. Even as your company grows, you’ll want your teams to stay as nimble as possible.
It’ll depend on the task, of course, but for fostering real trust and communication, it’s a fact that there are actually proven biological limits on how many people a given individual can enjoy the company of or even remember in their minds. So, keep your team no bigger than it needs to be, and don’t be afraid to trim the fat every now and then.
Fewer cooks in the kitchen means there’s more opportunity to create real connections between each team member. Communication is always key in business, and fostering bonds between team members will make for better performance. The science bears that idea out as well.
To get the jobs done, your team also will absolutely need to be empowered to take full ownership of their actions. As leader, once you’ve gathered the team together, managing over their shoulders is no longer an option. The best teams are made of self-driven individuals converging, and that self-drive can’t find the best direction if they aren’t given the keys. Trust in your team, then let them be great.
Another crucial thing about a great team is that they’re never made up of voices perpetually in agreement. Consensus drives every decision, but it’s best when reached after thoughtful consideration, weighing possibilities, and taking in all points of view. A built-in capacity for healthy disagreement is an asset for generating great ideas and pivotal decisions, not a hindrance. A look at history can show us that fact.
Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Civil War tome A Team of Rivals famously recounts Abraham Lincoln’s process of putting together his Cabinet to guide him through what would be the most turbulent presidential administration in American history. It had been a highly contentious journey to the White House: Lincoln faced robust challenges in the primary that threatened to tear his entire party apart. But when it came time to build a team to run the country: he took into account the great spirit and knowledge of his onetime foes, and some brilliant voices from the other side of the partisan divide as well.
Lincoln, to his great credit, was able to overlook personal grievances or grudges and enlist the best people for the job at hand. As he put it, “I had no right to deprive the country of their services.” Despite personal enmity and political differences, the talents of the group he put together all coalesced into a force greater than the sum of its parts: the ultimate team. What they accomplished was no less than holding together the country during its greatest challenge.
Of course, it wasn’t their opposing views alone that made them a great team. At the end of the day, they all had the two most important things in common: a shared goal, and a leader who understood how to empower his people. A great team will collectively understand that they’re all there because they bring value to solving problems, and when you can get great, diverse minds on the same page, there’s no limit to what all of you can accomplish.
In business, nothing gets done in a vacuum. As much as we praise the great leaders who have achieved amazing things, the truth (and the honest ones will tell you as much) is that they’re only as successful as their team allows them to be. When it comes time to turn an idea into a reality, you’re never going to accomplish that alone. The most pivotal step for any budding entrepreneur is realizing that the glory will never be completely yours. Only then can you put your energy into assembling and empowering the most important part of your organization: the people who comprise it.