What is a team?


I think of a team as a collection of people who are working together to achieve a goal.  Perhaps more simply put, we form a team when the desired outcome can’t be achieved by a single person.  Is this sufficient to explain what makes an effective team?

In my opinion it isn’t.  If I think about the teams where I have been proud to be and enjoyed being a member, they had something special.  Everyone was pulling together and it felt like we had wind in our sails.  Each team member understood the goal of the team and was committed to achieve the outcome.  We acted as though we were responsible for our success instead of each of us doing our bit and sitting back for others to do theirs.

The key in all of the above is commitment.  Bearing that in mind, I revise my definition as follows.  A team is a group of people who come together to commit to generate an outcome that takes cares of what the customer and the team members each care about.

How often have you been on a team like this?  I have been on more teams that resemble a collection of individuals  who happen to have one or more common characteristics.  Typical common characteristics I see include having the same manager or belonging to the same organization.  Often they consist of people who were picked.  For me that is not sufficient to generate the necessary commitment to fulfill my definition.

The next time you are forming a team, think of the power of having a team that is fully committed to the goal.  What is the team’s goal and why is it important?  Engage with each proposed team member and have a conversation about the team’s purpose.  Do they care about it enough to make a public commitment to achieve its goals as their own?  Ask what is important to them so that you can make a connection to it.  Make it easy for them to choose not to join if they don’t care for the goals of the team.  Remember, you cannot make people care, we choose what we care about.