“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes an orchestra to play it.” – H.E. Luccock

High-functioning teams are paramount to the success of any company. A group’s combined efforts often yield much greater results than the sum of that team’s individuals – a synergy.

This synergy leads to an incredible amount of productivity. Members feel motivated by their peers, can solve complex problems by varying perspectives and collective troubleshooting, and can often come up with new solutions that would be beyond the scope of any one individual.

Teams that are high-functioning are powerful – but not many are.

Most teams have weak links that can cause toxicity within the group, and ineffective leaders can wreak havoc on morale.

Fine-tuning your team is essential to unlocking the synergy that’s capable.

Here’s how:

Everyone should be an expert at communication.

The most common cause of discontent within a group is improper communication. People often don’t say what they’re thinking, especially when saying how they feel might trigger an emotional reaction from someone else. People tend to avoid confrontation.

For example, let’s say Jim has been irritated with Angela’s constant interruptions during a meeting where she feels the need to talk about herself, robbing the group of a productive discourse during their brainstorming meetings.

At first, it’s something that he’s slightly annoyed with. Meeting after meeting, interruption after interruption, Jim finally gets to a point where he finds himself emotionally charged anytime he interacts with Angela for anything work-related. Now it’s become a problem.

It’s easy to see how toxic this can become for everyone.

The key to avoiding this type of problem is to stop it before it becomes a problem. Each team member should agree with the expectation that nobody is perfect and that clear communication about things that may be hard to hear is necessary to improve and grow as a team.

Each week, teams should answer questions like:

  • How can our meetings be more productive?
  • Is there something that you think is slowing the team down from reaching our goals?

If Jim told Angela on week one that she often veers the conversation away from the topic at hand, which lengthens the meeting, the problem would have gone away.

However, each team member must know how to write without coming off too harsh or hurtful. For example, Jim could have said, “Angela talks way too much about herself. It’s annoying, distracting, and is causing the meetings to go on way longer than they should.”

Obviously, this would end poorly.

Be okay with criticism

This one piggy-backs off of the first point. 

From day one, each team member needs to buy into the idea that criticism is essential for progress. And if it’s not something you can handle, you can’t be part of the team.

It’s that simple. 

Trying to do this after the fact is possible but can often be more complicated than at the beginning.

If someone isn’t pulling their weight, they need to be told. If someone is making too many errors, let them know to give them a chance to fix it. If someone’s skills aren’t up to the standard required, have them work on it on their own time. If someone is disorganized, tell them they need to fix it.

People aren’t perfect, but they can be much better than yesterday.

The necessity for outstanding leadership

Choosing the right leader for your team is very important. It’s not a title that should be given to someone by default because they have the most experience or are the “most capable.”

To be clear, leadership is NOT management. They aren’t the same thing – far from it. Leadership is the ability to influence and empower others towards a shared goal.

Teams need strong leaders to steer the ship towards their destination. A bad leader will steer the ship into an iceberg. A great leader will steer the ship to where it needs to go. And an amazing leader will crank all engines to full blast and get to the destination faster than anyone thought was possible.

Choose your leader wisely.