Working in a team can be hard work; it can be filled with conflict, tedious discussions, frustrating deadlocks…and absolutely amazingly wonderful! Let’s explore what the secret of team success is, what the essentials are.

A successful team is a team where the individual members are there to contribute, to give. They are not there to compete with each other, but to collaborate and set each other up to succeed. They are there to make their team mate the star! Great, but…how?

There are three main attributes for this to happen, to create the conditions where the team members contribute and set each other up to succeed:

  1. The team knows why they are there, why what they do is important – they have a benevolent intent
  2. The team is well lead. They work for their boss because they want to, not because they have to – we call this legitimate power
  3. The team members treat each other with generosity and courage – with transactional correctness.

Let’s explore these three attributes, one by one.

Benevolent intent

To understand benevolent intent, we have a thought experiment:

You work at a medical company, producing Covid-19 vaccine. One day your boss comes to your workplace and says “Don’t forget we are here to make money! The more vaccine – the better profit for this company!” I’ve worked in a place where this was stated, almost on a daily basis “Don’t forget we are here to make money!”, and I can tell you, it certainly didn’t make me want to work any harder.

On the other hand, what if your boss came to your workplace and said, “Please work very hard at producing as much Covid-19 vaccine as possible – with every dose, we save a life” – now THAT would clearly motivate me to work extra hours!

Knowing why what you do is important, how it makes a contribution in the world and to your customers, that is to have a benevolent intent, which is important to a good growing ground for successful teams.

Legitimate power

When we have asked people around the globe, in different lines of work, who is their dream boss, who they would work for because they want to, long lists of traits come up. It sounds like it is a superhuman that is described, like no one could ever aspire to become a want-to-boss, if all that is required! On the list we normally find things like trusting, trustworthy, good listener, honest, empathetic and gives feedback. At closer examination, you find two themes in the list: a softer one and a harder one. In the softer theme, we find words like good listener and empathetic. Then there is also the harder theme, with words like honest and trusting. Clearly, with a boss that is honest and trusting, it is not all going to be sweet and nice – sometimes you will be faced with some tough music regarding your performance, or you will be given a task that is outside your comfort zone! But that is the case, we actually want both from our want-to-boss, both the softer and the harder theme. At Schuitema, we summarize them to Care (softer) and Growth (harder), and between the two, true empowerment emerges.

When the boss understands that this is their job to care for and grow their people, and when they create conditions where the teams collaborate instead of compete, they have really created conditions for team success.

Transactional correctness

We can see how Care and Growth from the boss gives him or her legitimate power, where we want to follow, want to work. In a team, for example in an Agile setup, this is actually also accurate within the team. The criteria for the want-to-boss are just as valid for a want-to-team mate; we also want a teammate to be trusting, trustworthy, a good listener, honest, empathetic and to give feedback! When we care for and help each other to grow in the team, it means we are treating each other with transactional correctness. It means that we give each situation its due in the interactions with our teammates, acting with generosity or courage. It means that we both hold each other accountable and are happy for each other’s successes and share and celebrate them. And when we do that, we both mature as individuals and also as a team.

People treating each other with transactional correctness develop excellent teams.

Working in benevolent teams develop excellent people – and that’s the bottom-line job, that’s team success!

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