Team Effectiveness in Today’s World

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By Bill Cornish and Paul Schneider
March 17, 2020
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Sports teams exceeding all expectations have been in the news quite a bit lately. February 22nd marked the 40th anniversary of the 1980 “Miracle” USA Olympic Hockey Team’s victory over the Soviet Union. Previously the Soviets won the Olympic Gold Medal in 1964, 1968, 1972, and 1976! In 2018 the Las Vegas Knights reached the Stanley Cup Finals as a first-year professional expansion team. Expansion teams normally have a losing record. The same year “Sister Jean” and the Loyola Ramblers captured national attention with their incredible NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four run. Not only did Loyola over achieve, but for the first time in tournament history a 16 seed beat a number 1 seed…and they did it convincingly.

How is it that one team exceeds all reasonable expectations while another fails to live up to its potential? Could the contributing factors that lead to the success of a sports team translate to success with your team at work?

The same principles that apply to sports teams, apply to teams at work and senior management teams. Maximum success by a team only occurs when 100% trust and commitment is felt and displayed within the team. Without the full commitment of your teammates, and the trust that the commitment is there, the performance standard is already lowered.

With our clients we often leverage the model described in Patrick Lencioni’s New York Times best-seller, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. This well-accepted model highlights the importance of trust, willingness to engage in productive conflict, commitment, accountability, and focus on results.

Trust, commitment, team chemistry, and a willingness to hold each other accountable is precisely what enabled the 1980 USA Hockey Team the opportunity to finally beat the Soviets. As Head Coach Herb Brooks famously told his Assistant Coach Craig Patrick, “I’m not looking for the best players, Craig, I’m looking for the right players.” Not superstars but team players; players willing to sacrifice, check their egos at the door, and train like no other team in USA history.

How can a high performing team make a difference in the workplace?

Keystone Partners recently worked with a private equity backed commercial water treatment company in fast decline. A fractured senior management team meant bankruptcy was on the horizon. We completed a comprehensive assessment of the team, made recommendations, and provided ongoing coaching support that led to a more cohesive leadership team with a significant five-year growth trajectory. The company sold for a significant multiple which far exceeded their investment expectations.

What can be done to improve the productivity and success of the teams within your organization?

Keystone Partners utilizes several best in class assessments for measuring individual and team motivations, patterns, potential biases, and sources of misalignment. When combined with expert facilitation these tools help teams better understand how to work together more effectively, unlock untapped potential for productivity, and generate impressive results from a more engaged workforce.

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