If you look back at your career thus far, think about the teams you’ve been a part of. If you had to pick a team that truly stands out as one of the best, which would it be? Whether you were the leader or a team member, what factors led to that being your best team?
I’ve had the opportunity to ask that question to team members from all over the world. Though the answers vary, there are common themes.
- “We trusted each other.”
- “Team members were highly competent and totally bought in.”
- “We could disagree but still enjoy each other.”
- “The leader helped us all do our best.”
- “We delivered great work.”
Great teams are often the result of great leadership. By that, I don’t mean just the brilliance of one good leader who is the boss. Rather, it’s leadership demonstrated across the team, including the person charged with heading up the team.
There are many helpful definitions of leadership. One of my favorites comes from Justin Menkes, author of Better Under Pressure. Justin told me during an interview about his book that “leadership means maximizing potential—in yourself and in the people you lead.”
If you are the leader of your team, I’d like to challenge you to consider that definition. What are you doing to maximize your potential? And how could you maximize the potential of your team members?
Maximizing Your Potential
I’ve had the opportunity to coach over 250 executives. Every once in a while, I come across someone who says they have 20 years of experience. But after spending enough time with them, it becomes apparent they have one year of experience repeated 20 times! They haven’t been actively, intentionally growing. They’ve been living off what they know and it’s keeping them from maximizing their potential. Liz Wiseman suggested in our interview about her book Rookie Smarts, that you must continue to seek ways to be a rookie—not just relying on knowledge you’ve already mastered. That’s risky yet required territory to travel if you want to maximize your potential.
And The Potential of Your Team
And how about your team? Perhaps not every team member has the same potential. Certainly, not everyone has the same levels of ambition or talent. But what are you doing with the team you have? How are you challenging them to experiment and grow instead of stagnate and wilt?
In our keynote Lead Teams That Deliver the Goods, we have an open discussion with the audience about characteristics of best teams and practical strategies we can employ to maximize the capabilities of our teams. It’s easy to think that we could do better if we just added stronger team members. Yet, as Donald Rumsfeld has said, “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have.”
Don’t Settle For Less
Once you’ve tasted what it’s like to work with a high-performing team, your tolerance for mediocrity significantly diminishes. Don’t settle for less.
Your responsibility as a leader is to maximize your potential and the potential of your team members. Develop a great team and you can deliver great products.
Join the conversation! What was one of the best teams you’ve been on? What made it such an effective team? What questions or comments do you have about maximizing the potential of your team? Leave a comment below.