Over the years practitioners have given various names to the different types of teams. In my experience, they all amount to four distinctive levels of teams:
Dysfunctional Teams are sadly surprisingly common in organisations. They are characterised by two types of team members; those with strong opinions, often delivered in unhelpful ways who tend to dominate; and those who have effectively checked-out and contribute little, only responding when directly called upon.
Finger-pointing and failure to accept responsibility are often common currency. Trust is inevitably limited and frustration levels run high. As a result, meetings are generally unsatisfying and unproductive.
These behaviours drive silos further down in in the organisation as team members work to experience a level of control at least over the area of the business they have responsibility for.
Effective Teams are the historical benchmark for teams. They are characterised by team members who are experts in their functional areas, happy to contribute that expertise to the team.
Team members are willing to accept responsibly for their own areas and there is trust in each other’s ability to deliver. Meetings are efficient and productive, although the focus is more tactical than strategic.
Team members are still primarily concerned with delivering the results required of their own functional areas. As such there is little abiding interest in the wider issues of the business, particularly where these do not obviously intersect with their own function.
Although the intentions of team members are generally more constructive, the result is still largely a collection of individuals.
High Performing Teams have recently become the standard teams aspire to. At this level, there is a shared purpose and agreement on common goals and the work of the team is focused on achieving these.
Team members feel free to express ideas and opinions. There is shared understanding on how the team works together and ground rules are adhered to. Trust levels are high and team members feel safe in engaging in robust debate.
These behaviours drive greater engagement across the organisation and positive leader behaviours are seen more frequently modelled by team members – both inside and outside of the team.
Game Changing Teams
Game Changing Teams are those that lift teamwork and results to another level. Team members see their role as leading for the success of the organisation first, and delivering their functional results second as a means of contributing to this.
The foundations of Game Changing Teams are the same as those of High Performing Teams. But for Game Changing teams the stakes are higher and as a result the level of focus, energy and commitment are higher too.
Team members consider it a privilege to be on the team. Relationships are deep and trusting and team members relish the cut and thrust of working together. Participants are invested in developing their own skills and those of their fellow team members to deliver the work of the team.
The edge team members bring is a willingness to engage with disruptive ideas that will leap frog the organisation forward.
A game-changing team is the once in a career dream team that everyone is proud to have participated in. They are the teams that leave legacies that people are still talking about years later.
Thinking about the team you lead or participate in, which kind of team are you in? How much of an impact is that having on the quality of your work life and your level of engagement?
As in all things, having agreement on your starting point is the first step in journeying from wherever you are to where you need to be.