Building an Effective Team

“There is no I in Teamwork.” – Unknown

“The ratio of We’s to I’s is the best indicator of the development of a team.” – Lewis B. Ergen

“Teamwork divides the task and doubles the success.” – Unknown

“A group becomes a team when each member is sure enough of himself and his contribution to praise the skill of the others.” – Norman Shidle

Over the last several weeks, it seems I have had occasion to talk to a number of new business owners working to grow their company.  Encouragingly, there is a growing base of business leaders interested in building organizations that accomplish something different, something more.  They have a restlessness about them – a willingness to challenge old paradigms and think outside the box.  There is no shame in their approach as they question their own judgment and learn from the lessons of others.  To borrow a phrase from my friend Mark Cahill, they are willing to “steal with pride”, and I love the prospect this foretells for the future of business.

From most of these conversations, it seems they are struggling with the most basic of concepts – turning an organization into a winning team.  They know how to sell, and they know how to deliver.  Their judgments are sound and their business models look strong.  Many are top performers in our supplier community.  Yet they all strive for something more – a team that works in perfect harmony; a team that acts in a collective way, for the good of the organization and not the individual; a team that can sustain because its alignment is true.

As I mentioned, this is an encouraging trend.  It says that business leaders are beginning to understand the importance of balance in success.  They are no longer defining success purely on financial terms, but also looking at the health of the business AND the teams that run them.  It’s an encouraging trend, one that reflects a growing shift in the market.

And so it is with this backdrop that I came across an interesting article/video from a fellow leadership coach referencing this very topic.  His name is Pete Ashby, and this particular posting references his ‘Seven Ground Rules for Entrepreneurial Teams’.  With his permission, I would like to share those seven ground rules, along with my thoughts on each of them:

  1. A Team, Not a Group – Honestly, you could stop the list right here and you’d have enough material to last a decade.  When an organization reaches the point it can differentiate between what a team is from just a group of individuals AND it covets team first, it is on the path to success.  It really is that selfish.  Take a look at the quotes I used to open this posting and you’ll see the point clearly.  Team = Success.  Individual = Division.
  2. Focus, Focus, Focus – Pete follows up the first point with another critical success factor for teams – they must have focus.  Any team that doesn’t have focus is doomed the fate of failure.  And I love that he used the word three times for emphasis.  Right on!
  3. We Say if We Got Something Wrong – In other words, there is no fear in admitting failure.  I’ve always preached that failure can be a wonderful gift, but only if the organization is willing to recognize that failure in an open spirit and with a willingness to learn from it.  Organizations fail when their team members are uncomfortable or unwilling to recognize when something isn’t right.
  4. We Don’t Justify – AMEN!!!  How many times have you been on a call with team members who spend more time justifying why something went wrong, and no time referencing lessons learned?  Justification focuses on the past.  And it’s of minimal value in charting a course forward.  Do you drive solely by looking in the rear-view mirror?  I don’t!
  5. We Question First, Before Any Challenge – Great point.  What’s that old adage – we have two ears and only one mouth.  How can you change a situation without first understanding what it is?  There is a fairly common acronym I use to guide me on this point:  LETS – Listen, Explore, Talk, Solve – follow in that order and you’ll find you will build more respect with and in the team.
  6. We Welcome Challenge – This point is just as important (but properly follows) the prior point – “we question first, before any challenge”.  But note that he doesn’t say, “we question first, we don’t challenge”.  That’s because a team that doesn’t challenge the status quo is doomed to remain in it. Change is critical to success, and constructive challenge is the stimulus to drive that change.
  7.  If We Get Stuck, We Regroup – It’s the resolve in this statement that’s worthy of note.  Successful teams don’t give up when they face obstacles.  There’s a quote from an unknown source that captures this:  “Overcoming barriers to performance is how groups become teams.”  I think this point completes the circle and sets the expectation that teams function with objectives and must remain committed to meet them.

All great points, and worth keeping in mind as you work to build an effective team.  Because the dynamics of how you build and manage your team structure is key in determining whether it will function as a team or simply as a group of individuals.

PS – If you would like to see the full video from Pete Ashby, please follow this link:  And my appreciation to Pete Ashby for letting me share his seven ground rules.


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