9 Critical Elements of a Highly Successful Team

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Everyone wants to be part of a great team. When it comes to the professional world, a high-functioning team is one that consistently delivers results. They’re also easier to work for. When you are part of a great team, you enjoy your work more. Days don’t seem as long, and you carry less stress into the weekend. It feels GREAT to be on a successful team.

But what is it that makes a great team so great? What sets a high-functioning team apart from the rest? How do you change things at your office from the inside? The truth is that highly successful teams don’t happen by chance; they’re built for success.

9 Critical Elements Every Successful Team Must Have

#1: A Clear Company Vision

Vision goes beyond a cool slogan or long-winded mission statement. Vision is what keeps your team unified. It’s a fundamental part of your company culture and is owned by everyone on the team. It keeps everyone heading in the same direction and provides real purpose that can provide motivation for even the most mundane tasks. Without vision, it will be impossible to foster teamwork, set goals, or elevate your staff from simple workers to invested stakeholders.

#2: Effective Leadership

Like a ship without a captain, your company will be aimless without effective leadership. But becoming a leader requires more than a title. Most failed businesses and unsuccessful teams fail because they lack strong, effective leadership. Upper management, Directors, and CEOs are usually among the worst offenders. You can read more about how to become a good leader here.

Remember that the measure of a leader’s success is not found in quarterly sales numbers or year-end bonuses. It’s found in the satisfaction and happiness of your team. When you treat your team as expendable or unimportant, you create a dynamic in which it’s “us vs them”. Respecting your staff shows that you see them as equals, despite your role as a leader. This allows the team to work as a cohesive unit, in which every person is just as important as the next.

#3: Teamwork (… it really does make the dream work!)

Once you have a clear vision and effective leadership, you need to foster a team that works well together. There are many facets to synergistic teamwork, but the most important are to identify skills, define roles, and foster respect. Tom Brady is a future Hall of Fame quarterback with a record 6 Super Bowl rings. But he can’t catch. (I mean, the man really can’t catch.) The Patriots have had success because they identify skills and use their players in a way that maximizes those skills. It’s the same way in business.

Once you’ve identified the specific abilities on your team, you’ll need to set clearly defined roles. This will help to ensure that each member of the team knows exactly where their responsibilities lie, and where they don’t. When employees are forced to wear several “hats” and are unsure what responsibilities they may have to assume each day, they don’t feel valued. This leads to burnout. Employees who aren’t happy, aren’t productive.

Respect is a two-way street, and you have to give it to get it. Without respect, even the most talented colleagues won’t be able to perform at a high level. Fostering respect starts from the top, but there are many ways to strengthen your team. For example, you can check out these team retreat ideas that we put together.

#4: Setting Goals

The next step is to set clearly defined goals. It’s necessary for clearly defining roles and establishing metrics for measuring success. Goals are different than vision, in that they are more specific. Goals should leave no room for ambiguity and should tell your team exactly what is expected of them.

We’ve talked before about reducing employee turnover, retaining talent, and the importance of setting boundaries. Clearly defined goals are imperative if you want to accomplish any of these things. These goals also become a sort of scale for determining exactly how well each member of your team is performing and will help you get the most out of your team.

#5: Accountability

Accountability is essential to any team. It’s not enough to set goals and have a shared vision – each member of your team needs to be accountable for their responsibilities and deliverables. When you make a promise, keep it. Period. When you hold yourself to a high standard, you are able to effectively hold your coworkers to the same standard. This also helps to develop trust.

Most of the time, others are depending on you to deliver. Failing to meet expectations and deadlines can have a ripple effect that hurts the whole team. Accountability results in transparency and ownership of your work. When you create a standard expectation that applies to everyone in the company, you are able to quickly assess and repair any shortcomings.

#6: Clear Communication

We’ve talked about the perils of constant communication and how sending nonstop emails and texts leads to burnout and shows an utter lack of respect. The thing is, communication is a part of your culture, and when you communicate effectively, your team knows exactly where they stand and what’s expected.

The truth is, if you are constantly changing things up, or sending texts and email well into the night and through the weekend, it shows that your company lacks the communication required to be truly successful. This could include morning huddles, weekly rundowns, or a simple project outline.

At the end of they day, every member of the team should know what they’re working on, their specific role in the project, and the parameters for accomplishing their goals. When your team communicates clearly, everyone knows where they stand.

#7: Empowerment

All of these things allow you to empower team members. When you identify skills, set clear goals, and communicate effectively, you can then empower your team to work autonomously. One of the biggest problems in any company is a lack of trust. All work has to be funneled through a manager, and time is constantly wasted asking questions about every obstacle encountered.

When you empower capable workers to solve problems and make decisions based on the vision and goals shared by the company, you will find that productivity gets kicked into overdrive. Perhaps even more importantly, empowering your staff leads to happier team members. Hot Tip: Having trouble letting go of the day-to-day decisions? Hire a good project manager (or a few). Kick your feet up and enjoy having someone manage the details. This will empower your team to make decisions and manage deadlines… only coming to you for the big stuff.

#8: A Happy Workplace

A happy workplace is a more productive workplace. A 2015 study revealed that happy employees increase productivity by 12-20 percent. One of the biggest barriers to a happy workplace is stress, which has been shown to be just as harmful as secondhand smoke.

When employees are unhappy, they start looking for better opportunities. Employers lose around $11 billion each year due to employee turnover, and yet one of the easiest ways to fix the problem goes largely unexplored. You can read our blog where we talk about 4 ways to create a happy workplace, and how these simple changes can make a world of difference for your team.

#9: Employee Appreciation

Finally, it’s important that you take time to celebrate success and excellence. We set out to achieve goals because there is a deep satisfaction in completing the task. We work hard because there is pride in a job well done. We push ourselves to improve because we want to be the best in our field.

Celebrate these things with the team. Mark major accomplishments and milestones, recognize exceptional work, and reward success. We all want to feel valued and important as part of a team that is successful. There is no joy in exceeding goals or solving problems when the completion is marked immediately by the introduction of a new task or project.

With these characteristics, your team can become one marked by excellence and defined by success.