Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

What Makes A Winning Team

December 17, 2001

What makes a good organization? A good family? A good marriage? How do people work together to accomplish common goals? Here's some of the main ingredients for an effective group effort.

Confidence in leadership. Leaders make a difference. Good leaders generate trust and respect. They do this by being honest, good, fair, reliable and consistent. They set the example for others to follow.

Good leaders care about others and their needs. They recognize the human need for feelings of importance, accomplishment, meaning, recognition and appreciation. They care how the organization affects the well-being of the people in it.

Good leaders recognize value in other people's ideas and facilitate interactions that draw out the opinions and creative problem-solving capabilities of everyone. The leader's trust and respect for others opens the door for others to be involved, committed and to actively participate in the group effort.

Vision, innovation, trust, caring and respect are the glue that makes everything work. These attitudes start at the top.

Common goals and planning. What is the group trying to accomplish? What is the mission? What is the vision? What needs is the organization trying to meet? How are goals to be accomplished? How will success be measured? What comes next?

Top leadership defines the goals and persuasively communicates them to the rank and file of the group. Our current atmosphere of unity in this country is a reflection of our common goal to root out terrorism and while we have confidence in the way the war is being waged.

People are unified by common goals and beliefs. Goals give energy and motivation to everyone’s efforts. When group members participate in the goal selection and planning process, they are truly members of the team and committed to its success. Without shared goals and values, the other aspects of team-building are nice but irrelevant.

Mutual trust and respect. Trust and respect must go far beyond the top leadership and extend into the day-to-day interactions throughout the organization. Common courtesy and consideration grease the skids of group effort.

The same is true of the way people regard each other’s value and contribution to the organization. People have to pull their own weight and generate trust in their work. It drains morale if people have to compensate for the consistently inadequate performance of others or be confronted with irascible personalities.

Care in hiring practices and courage in supervision are necessary to screen out unreliable and difficult employees.

Growth and development. People need to feel the work they do has value and importance. They need to grow into greater responsibilities. Work, for the most part, should be exciting, enjoyable, stimulating and challenging. Attending to the growth needs of everyone is important. Organizational goals should sustain and support personal growth needs to the largest extent possible.

This is accomplished by training and teaching opportunities within the organization and by facilitating outside learning experiences. As much as they can, organizations should play to people's strengths and interests. Hopefully, group members will see future roles and niches within the organization that match their personal needs and goals. The organization benefits by increasing the capabilities of its members.

Communications and problem solving. Challenges, opportunities and problems are shared so everyone is a problem definer, a problem solver and a decision maker. Effective personal and group communications allow conflict to emerge, discussion to flow and ideas to build upon one another.

The atmosphere should be open, challenging and respectful. Discussion should be kept within a favorable framework of good will and range of emotions so that conflict doesn't become counterproductive.

Responsibility, specialization and accountability. Group goals are accomplished by everyone doing their part. There is work to be done, roles to be filled, assignments to be completed, deadlines to meet, and results to be evaluated.

Jobs and assignments are undertaken with clear understandings, delegation and commitment. Criteria for successful performance is defined and accountability is expected. This isn't a heavy-handed process but one governed by comparing the outcome with the desired results. People evaluate themselves by criteria they help develop.

The whole is greater than its parts. These aspects of organization work together and are dependent on each other. Leaders help define goals and motivate group effort. Specific goals and plans define what jobs and responsibilities need to be filled. They also set criteria for measuring success and taking corrective action.

Goals and plans define future needs for specialties and skills within the organizations. A program for growth and development helps prepare people to willingly measure up to their present responsibilities and to generate improved ways of doing things. Better solutions to problems come out of the interactive process.

That's it. Good leadership. Shared vision, goals and plans. Personal growth and meeting personal needs. Effective communications and problem solving. Specialists doing good work, being accountable for their work and effectively coordinating their efforts. The glue that holds them together is trust, respect, flexibility and caring.

What do you have? A group of committed specialists who are trusted to do their jobs, who communicate and coordinate their functions and work effectively with others, who work for common goals and whose personal and professional development continue to benefit the organization. The power and creativity of many people is marshaled into a cohesive whole.