How Great Teams Work Together––Notes From My Travels Abroad

Dec 24, 2020 | Blog, Leadership

First off, Happy Holidays, from my family to yours!  

For the holidays, my wife and I traveled to her home country of the Netherlands to spend the holiday season with our three children—two of whom we have not seen for a full year. It was a strange and happy reunion.

On a stroll through The Hague on our first day, we witnessed a hardworking team of bricklayers that reminded me of how great teams work together.

In spite of the cold rainy weather, they were doggedly building a walking street in the center of town. 

They showed all the traits of a well-oiled machine:

  • Working in a small group, like clockwork. 
  • Each with their own specific tasks.
  • And using an efficient system to get work done.

This high level of effectiveness is great to see, but it is too often the exception in the landscape industry, especially within company leadership. 

I have seen some rather dysfunctional landscape leadership teams in my time, for example:

  • Teams that constantly change around team members to give everyone a chance, leaving the team with no momentum or cohesiveness. 
  • Teams that are too large, trying to include all areas of a company. I once saw a leadership team of 12 people where decision making was convoluted, political, and ineffective. 
  • Teams that are autocratically run, where everyone looks to the leader for tacit approval before stating their politically-correct opinions.

You can do better than that.

Here are six tips that members of my community use to design more productive teams:

1. Longevity – You have longevity in your leadership team when they stick together for a long time and gain a deep level of understanding of how each other thinks and works. Longevity allows your leadership team to learn how to be more productive and effective with each other. 

2. Open debate – You achieve open debate when any member of the team can voice their opinions to challenge one another or challenge the leader’s stated notions. This increased honesty creates far better results.

3. A nimble team size – You want a team small enough team so that it gets a lot done but large enough, so it can competently tackle all the issues it faces. Think about having teams of 4-7 people.

4. Focused – Teams should focus on a specific project or be tasked with overseeing specific results. Their agenda should be clear–resulting in actionable outcomes.

5. Intentional – Teams should have clear goals and make use of real-time feedback to ensure goals are being met.

6. Inspired – Your teams will work the hardest when they are inspired by a larger company purpose. (Read The Infinite Game to learn more about this.)

What team-building criteria work for you? Let me know by clicking the reply button.

Your Challenge:

Enter 2021 with a leadership team of A-players who excel at working together–use these four points:

  • Make the tough decisions if someone is holding the team back. Then watch your team rise when you remove the weak link.
  • Give your team members clear metrics that each must achieve, so everyone can be accountable to the group. Group accountability is the strongest kind!
  • Hold occasional team-building sessions, where honest discussion takes place in a safe environment on the blinds spots of each team member. Building a feeling of safety is the secret ingredient.
  • Set stretch goals by the leader, so the team is forced to dig deep and test themselves individually and as a team. This will motivate and retain your strongest leaders.

Wishing you a warm week with your family and a very bright 2021.