It’s never been more important to understand what makes world class teams tick. The pace of work continues to accelerate as does its scope and complexity. More business is done globally, with more complex products and services to manufacture and customize, with fiercer competition, and with the composition of work teams continually evolving. The result is that leaders don’t have time to experiment to get it right, they need to move up the learning curve fast and foster world-class teams, right now.
In November, Microsoft announced a project they call The Art of Teamwork, in partnership with design firm IDEO. The company studied dozens of teams from diverse industries along with the latest research on what makes teams successful in today’s workplace, and asked questions like, “What is the right team composition?” “What’s the best way to inspire a team to rise to a particularly tricky challenge?” and “What to do when a team encounters interpersonal tensions?”
This joint study revealed five core traits of the most successful teams:
1. Clear team purpose.
A clear team purpose creates shared meaning, which keeps teams focused, aligned and performing at a peak level. It’s an aspiration, not a metric, one that’s reflective of the impact the team hopes to make on the world. It’s a guiding light that keeps discussions and efforts properly oriented.
On one of my favorite leadership teams I worked on, we collectively developed the purpose statement of “To make every project better and every employee feel empowered.” Key to that is it was a collective effort (not a corporate mandate) built from the ground up. It informed how the leadership team acted and made decisions. If our input or actions weren’t going to improve a project or leave an employee feeling empowered, we didn’t engage in them.