Jun 18, 2013

    What makes great teams

    The Star/Asia News Network

    TEAMWORK can sometimes be hit or miss - for most of us, it's usually somewhere in the mediocre middle.

    But it doesn't have to be this way. High-performing super teams do exist and you can learn great things from them.

    Super teams can come from any field - like animation wizard Pixar, global-aid agency British Red Cross and sexagenarian rockers The Rolling Stones.


    Apple's Steve Jobs had to learn the importance of teamwork the hard way, something that was reinforced after he created Pixar.

    At a screening of the first half of the original Toy Story, it became obvious to both the Pixar team and the Disney studio producing the film that the movie had lost its way.

    In a brief, two-week reprieve, the Pixar team reshaped the opening third of the movie, trusting their instincts and one another to be constructively critical.

    It worked. The Toy Story crisis led to the team becoming more self-confident as individuals and less ego-driven as a team. Team members put their best ideas forward, without being fearful of what others might say or think.

    Equally, they were prepared to criticise and voice their concerns, trusting in each other to focus solely on improving the film - literally looking at the bigger picture.


    When the British Red Cross responded immediately to the devastating Haiti earthquake of January 2010, thousands of people - from front-line disaster specialists in Haiti to volunteers in charity shops across the high streets of Britain - were mobilised into a community of purpose.

    It ensured that there was a clear line of sight between the many individual actions and the movement's overall goals.

    For a team's purpose to be potent, it needs to be compelling to its members. You need to inspire your team with a vivid picture of a better future, and help members see that inaction will be worse.


    Even though The Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood) have played to more people in more places than any other band, they still recognise the importance of practising together.

    They typically commit two months to rehearsing before every tour and relish the opportunity to reconnect with their collective rhythm. The Stones' success comes from each member having distinctive but complementary roles.

    The magic is in the mix.

    Individual excellence in a team remains vital, but it is the chemistry of combining those talents that delivers a super team.


    As a team, you must define your protocols for the most vital areas of collaboration and practise them together until they become second nature, a high-performance habit.

    And this is the real secret that can help all teams become super teams: the essence of teamwork is hard work.

    The writer is a leadership and teamwork consultant. This is an abridged version of an article that appeared in The Star newspaper last Saturday