Build Successful Teams with These 5 Elements

THE HUMAN ELEMENT: SUCCESSFUL TEAMS DO THESE 5 THINGS WELL

By: Tricia Forbes, Georgia Oak Director of Partnerships 

We've spent a lot of time and effort curating conditions under which teams can thrive, both for our Georgia Oak team and with our partner companies. The successful functioning of teams is essential to making our investments work, and learning to work together as team takes concentrated focus. But even smart people with the best intentions sometimes struggle to get a team firing on all cylinders. We've found the best teams have the following things in common:

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Transparency:

Nothing will halt progress faster than the hoarding of information. Effective teams challenge the status quo about information-sharing. The obvious/important exception here is private HR matters. Beyond that, we've found that teams who widely share information tend to innovate more and have increased productivity. Team members feel more ownership over the process and work product. How can you expect an employee to "think like an owner" if they have only a fraction of the information needed to do so?

Takeaway: Share as much data as you can, practically and legally speaking.

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Permission to Fail Forward:

Thomas Edison is widely known for his successful inventions. The man filed 1,093 patents! But he also famously said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." In short, Edison seemed to believe that each misstep was a step closer to a solution. People play it safe when they believe their livelihoods are on the line if they make a wrong move. As long as earnest effort is applied to each task, failure in the innovation process should actually be celebrated. Failure is not the end. It is the middle. There are no bad ideas on a good team. Once successful processes are established, they should be respected, but always leaving room for iteration and new ways of thinking.

Takeaway: Encourage teams to innovate by acknowledging that failures along the way are a guaranteed part of the process, and they won't be punished for trying new things.

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Vulnerability:

When people are worried about being judged or shamed, they protect themselves by keeping things close to the vest. When employees struggle in silence because they fear opening up, opportunities are missed for creating stronger connections and a sense of community at work. People need to know (and be ever reminded) that they can be their true selves at work. When people mock or criticize those who are being vulnerable, they should be privately coached. If they can't grow into a team player who holds space for other people's ways of being, they should be removed from the team.

Takeaway: Embrace the fact that each team member is a human being and has an emotional and thought life as deep and complicated as your own. We all come to work in different mental places and should seek to support one another.

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Humble Leaders:

Have you ever seen the head football coach score a touchdown? Me neither. We all know the coach has an out-sized effect on the team's ability to win a game, but they can't do it without the players. The best teams have leaders who refuse to take credit for the work that only a team can accomplish. Institutionalize praise for your team members. If you've historically had trouble with this, add an entry on your calendar for recognizing their efforts.

Takeaway: Acknowledge each person's contributions to a team win, big or small, and do it consistently.

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Glass Half Full Mentality:

Stick with me here... This is not a "power of positive thinking", "woo-woo" thing, but rather a simple focus on gratitude. When leaders and team members make a conscious effort to show gratitude to one another, teams are more productive and effective. Additionally, approaching each situation with the assumption that people are doing their best (rather than being lazy, trying to sabotage, etc.) often inspires them to actually do their best. Of course, be realistic if you have real issues with someone not carrying their weight, but otherwise, say "thank you" more often than you think is humanly possible. People will notice.

Takeaway: Regularly express gratitude to your teams and encourage them to do the same among their peers.

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