If you’ve ever sat and watched an animated Disney film, you have one team to thank for that: the “9 Old Men.” This team combined their expertise, collaboration skills, mastery, commitment to excellence, and understanding with the vision Walt Disney shared to create some of the most memorable and classic movies ever seen. Some of the members of this team included Les Clark, Milt Kahl, John Lounsbery, Eric Larson, Ollie Johnston, Wolfgang Reitherman, Frank Thomas, Ward Kimball, and Marc Davis. They believed in Disney’s vision and provided entertainment that has inspired generations.
This team left a legacy that lives on in the Disney company. Many team members went on to lead projects of their own and mentor future Disney leaders. The strength of this team helped to begin a cycle of great leadership that other companies can learn from.
The simple truth is that strong teams are what build impact-driven organizations. If you want a business that transforms the world, you need to start with an effective team that shares your vision.
In this article, learn what a team is, the benefits of building an effective team, and the top strategies you can use to build a team as powerful as those at companies like Google, Apple, and Disney.
What is a Team?
A team features members who all have clearly defined responsibilities and tasks, all of which aim toward a common goal that they reach together. While each team member might have plenty of skills and talents on their own, the only way to achieve success is when they work as one. Katherine Klein, a management professor at Wharton University, states that the ideal team size is five people. However, teams can still see success in various sizes.
When answering the question, “What is a team?” one must also look at how the team is composed. Effective work teams aren’t just a group of people thrown together at the last minute. They should complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses, creating cohesive team synergy. That doesn’t mean they have to be identical, though. Each team member can have different decision-making skills, talents, and leadership styles. As long as each is an ideal team player and works well with others, the team can achieve greatness together.
Benefits of Building a Great Team
- Achieve a leader’s big picture vision: A great leader sets a grand vision, but that vision will always be out of reach without a group of people working together as a cohesive unit.
- Faster completion of goals: A work team can accomplish tasks more quickly together than individually.
- Better quality: Team members can provide each other with honest feedback and fill in the gaps of each other’s work. This leads to improved quality in all that they do.
- Greater innovation: Teams in organizations can inspire each other to greater heights through brainstorming and building off each other’s ideas.
- Higher performance standard: If everyone on a team is strong, team performance improves significantly. Strong teams also reveal weak links, who likely won’t last long when faced with high standards.
- Gets high-quality recruits: Why does The University of Alabama always get the best high school athletes? Because Alabama has a winning football team. Winning teams serve as a great place to work with other high-performers, showcase your talents, challenge yourself, and drive impact. It’s also fun to be a part of a winning team with a distinct legacy.
- Better decision-making and problem-solving: The best teams complement each other, including building off one another to make solid decisions and produce outstanding outcomes. They face even the most difficult challenges with a can-do attitude.
The Top 6 Qualities of World-Class Teams (and How to Grow Them)
Teams at work can become more cohesive as they dedicate themselves to serving each other. As Simon Sinek explains, “Service—giving to another, having their back—is what makes the highest performing teams in the world. Not their strength and not their intelligence. It’s their willingness to be there for each other.”
As teams work together, they form a camaraderie that grows over time. They want to support one another at all times. Effective teams exemplify servant leadership from the top.
How to show servant leadership:
- Emphasize developing teams that focus on helping others grow.
- Find ways to serve your community.
- Establish strong values and follow them at all times.
- Practice active listening to make sure you understand what others communicate.
- Influence others in positive ways through encouragement and inspiration.
- Hold yourself and others accountable using the same standards.
No matter how skilled or talented individuals on a work team are, they can do so much more when collaborating. Master Jin Kwon provides an apt metaphor for the value of collaboration: “One piece of log creates a small fire, adequate to warm you up, add just a few more pieces to blast an immense bonfire, large enough to warm up your entire circle of friends; needless to say, that individuality counts but teamwork dynamites.”
Team leadership should always reflect this. Understand that teams who work together accomplish more than people working separately. When teams practice collaborative leadership, they become more united in purpose and more effective in execution.
How to practice collaborative leadership:
- Provide all the necessary tools teams need to reach their goals.
- Set the example for other team members to follow.
- Meet with your team regularly to discuss challenges, accomplishments, and strategies.
- Listen to other ideas and take them seriously.
- Ensure everyone understands the overall vision for the team.
To work better together, teams in organizations need to trust each other. Team members want to feel safe when they’re with their teammates. They also want to know that everyone else is dependable when it matters.
Encourage trust by showing emotional intelligence in the workplace. By becoming aware of your feelings, leaders teach others to feel comfortable being their authentic selves. This leads to more opportunities to open up and talk about issues and mistakes when they happen. And as you open yourself up, others will follow the example.
How to promote more trust:
- Establish boundaries early on so people know which limits they should respect.
- Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep.
- Keep the promises you do make.
- Never engage in gossip.
- Live with Integrity. Brené Brown puts it best: “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort. It’s choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast, or easy.”
“In teamwork, silence isn’t golden; it’s deadly,” leadership expert Mark Sanborn once said. Cross-functional teams can’t work together if they aren’t communicating. For this reason, every work team needs to talk with each other regularly. That doesn’t mean they need to hold meetings every day, but it does mean they should be in contact.
A team with poor communication cannot grow and flourish. Mistakes will multiply, and frustrations will mount. On the contrary, work teams that practice effective communication develop trust in each other and have a clearer sense of team performance and progress toward team goals.
How to improve team communication:
- Use the latest messaging platforms such as Slack to ensure communication is always happening, even when people are out of the office.
- Establish communication policies from the start.
- Create a culture that encourages communication among all team members.
- Ask for confirmation or clarification if messages aren’t clear.
- Provide helpful feedback that improves communication.
- Make sure meetings are productive and don’t take up too much unnecessary time.
When developing teams, focus on their creative capabilities as well. Without creativity, it’s impossible to innovate and transform. The synergy of a team plays a significant role in cultivating creativity. As teams create, they feed off each other to develop something better. As Albert Einstein once put it, “Creativity is contagious—pass it on.”
Teams work better as creative units because it enables them to think about problems from new perspectives. Bouncing ideas off each other causes people to question boundaries, limitations, and potential solutions to difficult issues. This creative energy can lead to the type of breakthroughs found in innovation strategy.
How to be more creative:
- Hold brainstorming sessions regularly.
- Showcase team-building exercises that focus on creative problem-solving.
- Schedule times to focus on creativity.
- Keep your workspaces free of clutter.
- Spend some time outdoors to get fresh air.
Great teams aren’t just a random selection of people doing whatever they want. They have systems and processes that they still need to follow. This structure helps them operate and make progress as a group.
Every team should have a mission statement and a vision statement. These statements provide a structure that serves as a guide. From a stated mission and vision, teams can establish KPIs, OKRs, and goals that give them something to work toward. With a destination in mind, individual team members will know what they’re responsible for and when their work should be completed. As Diana Scharf describes, “Goals are dreams with deadlines.”
How to develop structure:
- Create a mission statement and vision statement if you don’t already have one.
- Determine what your goals should be.
- Establish the steps and strategies needed to complete those goals.
- Hold each team member accountable for their responsibilities.
- Have one-on-one meetings with teammates to discuss progress and issues.
It Starts at the Top
Whether you’re the sole owner of a business or part of a shared leadership structure, establishing a strong team culture starts with the people at the top. A strong leadership team should influence a business at all levels, creating leaders in every part of a company. To do this, foster an environment where teamwork and team building are the norm.
Steve Jobs famously described this type of environment when he talked about Apple’s structure. When organizations value teamwork at the top, it trickles down to the rest of the business. As leaders do this, they’ll see great teams making amazing strides in their projects. People will want to be part of these teams because they feel welcome and accomplish more. Success builds on itself, which leads to the type of worldwide achievement found at Apple, Google, and some of the most successful companies to ever exist.
To get started, you need to learn more about leadership development. The following articles will help.
How to Create and Follow a Professional Development Plan
What to Know About Leadership Development Programs
How to Build a Powerful Leadership Team