Forming Successful Teams

They were considered one of the NBA’s greatest basketball teams of all time.  They were led by a player who missed 26 game winning shots in his career.  His teammates often called him a bully, but he drove them to higher levels of achievement.  The second best player didn’t even receive a college scholarship.  He started his college basketball career as the team manager.  The third best player didn’t even start his rookie season.  The starting center only had one All Star Game selection.  The final player on the team only averaged 7.2 points per game, but became the go to player for critical times in a game.  The 1991-93 Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan, were a great team because their talents meshed with each other.

Great teams don’t just happen.  They take a lot of development.  Michael Jordan was one of the greatest basketball players ever.  And he was the driving force of the team.  He might have been thought of as a bully, but his competitive drive was essential to the team’s unwillingness to fail.  Every team needs a leader who does whatever it takes to develop a drive for success.

Scottie Pippen was a great player in his own right.  He had to put his ego in check to let the team leader lead.  All successful teams need to have team members who are willing to manage their own egos.  The other members of the team had vital roles to play and they did these well.  Rebounding and defense don’t get headlines, but they are vital.  Every great team needs those who are willing to do the grunt work for the good of the team.  Finally, every great team needs individuals who are willing to step up at critical moments.

Think about how teams are formed in your organization.  Is there a consideration given to how the individual team members mesh together so that the sum of their efforts is greater than their individual abilities?  What are the key considerations when forming a team?

Should team roles be defined in advance or develop naturally as the team does its work?  It’s hard to impose roles on a team from outside the team.  Without buy in that develops organically, team roles may only be imaginary.

Team members also need to be evaluated based upon their roles.  For example, team members who put their egos aside should be recognized for their roles even though they may not be perceived of as stars.

Finally, the successful team should report to an individual whose role is a coach.  Teams can’t be successful if they are always being second guessed by someone they report to.  The team coach should provide guidance but not directives.

The sports world offers a laboratory for the formation of teams.  In very rare cases are the individual team members the most talented.  But when you blend together their individual abilities, they become the best.

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“None of us, including me, ever do great things.  But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”   – Mother Teresa

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