Anyone who has ever worked in a dysfunctional or toxic team environment knows how stomach turning it can be. Conversely, being part of a great team is euphoric. So how do you ensure your organization is on its way to building a great team dynamic? Hire for culture. Train for skill.

When I was first starting out, an agency with one of the hottest reputations in the country recruited me. I had a fantastic interview with their creative director and was called back to meet their managing partner, a gruff old Brit who didn’t mince words.

“We would rather hire someone who fits in,” he growled, “rather than a creative superstar.”

I didn’t get the job.

His assessment stung, but in hindsight, I realized they made the right decision. And I’ve never forgotten what he said. Years later, when I was building my own shop, it was the mandate we used when choosing employees, ensuring the people we hired fit our company culture first, even if they didn’t appear to be the best candidate on paper.

“A team should never be confused with a group of people who simply happen to work together,” renowned facilitator and mentor Evan Renaerts once told me. So what’s the difference between a group of people who work together and a high performing team? In my experience, it comes down to 3 simple things.

  1. Personal responsibility
  2. Respect
  3. Communication

You Are Accountable For The Success Of Your Team

Great teams are built on two things: Personal responsibility and respect. Do what you say you will do, on time, every time. And have genuine respect for your fellow team members.

Breakdowns occur when not everyone comprehends, nor appreciates the value each team member brings to the party. It is the responsibility of the team leader to clearly communicate how each individual team member is integral for the organization’s success. Finance may not understand what creative does or how they do it, but they need to recognize the value they bring in achieving the goals and objectives the company has identified. And vice versa.

While a team member may not be responsible for a specific task or assignment, they are 100% accountable for the success of the team. That’s the real secret. High performance teams have each other’s six. It’s that simple.

5 Common Pitfalls That Destroy Team Dynamics

Life’s too short to work in a dysfunctional team. And by dysfunctional I mean anything less than audacious. Many times however, simply the way people communicate with each other has a profound effect on how well they perform together. Based on my own experience, here’s what to look out for.

  1. There Is No “I” In Team
    Yeah, it’s a hackneyed phrase, but it’s true. I did this. I received this. I got this contract. No matter what, in any team, you speak in terms of we, even if you did it all yourself. You are working for a company, within a team. Respect that.
  2. Leaders Who Use The I Word
    Sure, maybe you’re the founder or the boss, or have your name on the door, but your success, and the success of your business is dictated by the people you surround yourself with. Don’t be fooled into thinking you are the only one doing everything, even if it feels like that sometimes. If you use the I word a lot, your team will pick up on it and will start adopting it themselves.
  3. Too Many Individual “Experts” Working In Silos
    A great team will include specialists and generalists. But if the specialists are working in silos, too important, too removed or too costly to engage with the entire team, your return on investment is minimized. Yes, experts cost money. But experts who are integrated and engaged with their team on every level create value far beyond their price tag.
  4. Identifying The Best Person On Your Team
    There is no “best individual” on a team. There is only the best team in an organization. If you can identify the best person, then you don’t have a team.
  5. Easy Praise For A Job, umm, Done
    Done is not well done. You’re a team of professionals. High expectations are part of the game. While showing appreciation is good, too much easy praise lavished on people who are just doing their jobs, devalues the meaning and intention. It becomes cloudy to see when someone actually does an incredible one and that can deflate team motivation.

There’s no dispute that anyone looking to build an audacious culture of results need to champion the values of respect and personal responsibility. However, it’s the leaders who practice conscious communication in addition to that are the ones reaping the rewards.

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Written by Rik Klingle-Watt

About the author

Rik Klingle-Watt is a soulpepper and the writer of Not Business as Usual, an award-winning documentary about disrupting the business quo.

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