I think it is safe to say there are some fundamental elements upon which high-performing teams are based: a compelling purpose and vision, a clear game plan, a visible scoreboard, and a regular cadence of checking in with each other. You combine those things with smart, educated, hardworking people and amazing things happen, right?
In reality what happens is, well, reality. Things get in the way. People get in the way. Weeks or months go by. Too little progress is made. The vision starts to fade. The plan breaks down or it changes. The wheels fall off. Fingers are pointed. Sometimes you lose smart, educated, hardworking people. Questions get asked—tough ones.
It’s often in these dark times when those fundamentals provide their greatest value. They are the anchor points that help teams navigate the storm—not avoid it. That takes away both the need for and the pathway to strong leadership, teamwork, willpower, and pride of ownership that comes through conquering the storm.
At some point team members start to collaborate, maybe even outside of formal meetings. More people begin carrying their own weight (and maybe some of their co-workers’ too). Morning bagels and late night pizza appear. Someone sends a 2 a.m. email. And while there are still a few meltdowns and the occasional drama, you start to hear more laughter. You notice a little swagger. A breakthrough here; a few wins there. The team is coming together.
The vision seems bigger than ever, only it’s different somehow; it’s more realistic than in the beginning. The team actually has a plan they believe in. The scoreboard seems comfortable now, like a well-worn glove. They know what to move and how to move it. The cadence of checking in seems to have its own rhythm.
There is a huge chasm between a group of really great people and a great team. The only thing that can close that gap is for the team to take their journey. A journey that will leave them tired, humble, grateful, optimistic, and amazed at what they are able to accomplish. And if they look back at the journey, they’ll see that those fundamentals were there all along the way.