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What Makes a Great Team?

“What makes a great team?” That’s a question that all managers and leaders must ask. How do some teams succeed where others fail to fulfil their potential?

One view would be that great leaders make a great team. Let’s call it the ‘Ferguson v Moyes’ debate. Manchester United were winners under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson and losers under the management of David Moyes. But is it that simple? Here is my recipe for a great team, based on 30 years of being in and managing teams.

Variety – the best teams have a variety of people. It would just be boring if we were all the same and it would be less effective. Our team needs enthusiasts; believers; sceptics; self-starters; completer-finishers; detail minded people; big picture people; people who speed things up and people who slow things down.

Size – ideally I wouldn’t have more than seven people in an effective team. More than that and it easily splits and becomes two or more teams. That’s why if I am structuring companies I don’t like any manager to have more than six or seven direct reports.

Understanding objectives and strategy – Does everyone in the team understand the team’s objectives? Can they articulate the team’s strategy to achieve these? One of the first things I do when I go into a new company as adviser or non-exec Director is meet the management individually and ask them what the company objectives and strategy is? Can you imagine the variety of answers that I get back? When I do get such a variety, it tells me this team could become a more effective team.

Understanding of roles on the team – Now we have our variety of people what roles will we each be playing in the team? It may not be our natural role, if we don’t have a natural detail minded person on the team then one of us will need to become detail minded to help the team. We can all play roles beyond our natural roles. Personality testing and role profiles of a team can help a lot here. Ask Bluehat about our Extended DISC product – it’s a brilliant and non-judgemental way of understanding team roles and the range of roles that people can play.

Finally – let’s spend some time together. This is often overlooked. Great teams spend time together and not just time in work and in meetings but also time spent on non-work activities and social time. That’s where a great Bluehat event can provide the extra help that can make your team become the best it can be.

So my recipe for a great team is set out above – Apart from the size of the team (they both had to have 11 players plus subs) do you think either manager was a more naturally gifted leader? Or do you think, as I do, that one manager might have followed the recipe for a great team a little better than the other?

Chairman’s Guest Blog



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