what makes a great team?

I will be giving two talks this summer … one to a college XC team in High Point, NC and one to a boardroom of top clients for AT&T (where Dave works).
Both groups have given me carte blanche to speak on whatever I want, so I thought I’d ponder what makes a great team.

If anyone out there still reads this blog, please chime in … what do you think makes a great team?

(If I quote one of your ideas in my talks, I will give full credit!)

10 thoughts on “what makes a great team?

  1. Alexis

    Thanks for a great blog. I am a college runner. What makes a good team? At least two things: Unified vision and a willingness to express that passion! That makes a good runner too. But usually the teams that have the best experiences have a coach that really helps teams visualize their desires. If teams cannot picture their potential successes, it’s hard to be completely sold out to the concept of team. But you also have to have the desire to carry out the actual act of running. Be willing to train. Seeing commitment of other runners on the teams I’ve been on encourages me to not ever slack off. Having vision and action makes the running fun and racing even better!

  2. Doug

    I enjoy your reading your posts even though they have been a bit less frequent of late.

    I think a great team comes together around a shared vision and passion towards a common objective. If you have those foundations motivation, teamwork, and fun-filled effort are bound to follow.

  3. Blaine Moore (Run to Win)

    Running with a team allows you to do things that you might not otherwise do. They keep you motivated, they keep you honest, and they keep you distracted or focused depending upon what you need at the time(ideally).

    A friend of mine had a saying, that running is like world war II. You are the American, and the other teams are the Germans and the Japanese. Your teammates are the Russians. You rely upon your teammates and you work with them, but you can never really trust them and have to keep your eye on them to make sure you do not get caught napping.

    About a year ago I wrote about running and training with a team: http://news.runtowin.com/2006/06/08/running-teams-and-world-war-ii.html

  4. Eric

    First things first: yes, people do still read your blog and look forward to it (you are one of the sites a check during my lunch or coffee break).

    Let me suggest something about a slightly different type of team: a medical team (because that is where I work). These come in different sizes and shapes, from a MASH unit to the Mayo Clinic. I suspect what allows a medical team to function well is when everyone has confidence in their own area of expertise, but also knows which areas of expertise his/her teammates cover. We know the orthopedic doctor gets to set the bone but won’t prescribe the heart medications, and so forth. This may not pertain as much to a running team, but the analogy is not void of all meaning.

  5. joan

    Eric, and others …
    I think all great teams need different gifts from different persons (or personalities). Like that wonderful passage in the Bible about parts of the body contributing to the whole (St. Paul, I think), all teams – be they athletic or medical – need balance. I am reminded of the Seven Aspects of Sisterhood and the roles of Priest, Warrior, Healer, Storyteller, etc. Which are you? Take the test and see!


    from Romans 12:4-10

    Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function,

    5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.

    6 God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you.

    7 If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching.

    8 If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

    9 Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good.

    10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

  6. Alexis

    The different gifts and personalities remarks are great to read. Sometimes when you are in a specialized field or all with distance runners, you forget about diversity. Confidence expressed throgh communication really is important! But since you have people with different gifts and various experience levels, it is important to have mentor-mentee relationships on teams. I always found it helpful when more experienced runners encouraged me, and I try to encourage newcomer runners also.

  7. Hieronymous

    Let us first look at what is corrosive to a team: fear and mistrust. Fear of what? Ridicule, embarrassment, failure. Mistrust of what? Of the other members actions or reactions.

    So, what makes a good team? Enough trust to eliminate fear of failure. You will note, I do not say to eliminate failure: failure is inevitable, it is whether one can recover from failure and then go on to greater success (entrepreneurs fail again and again and again–until they don’t! It is the lack of fear that separates entrepreneurs from wage slaves).

    Cue quote regarding Edison’s search–ultimately successful–for a workable lightbulb filament: “I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” –Edison.

    Pretty much by definition, when one experiments, one will fail (unless the first trial is a success!), and without experimentation, one will not learn. The team must understand this and allow its members to experiment–and to fail–in order to learn and, ultimately, succeed.

    I have found that trust in very few places: among my running mates and in the military (where actual lives were on the line: “the chain is only as strong as its weakest link”; corallary = “Don’t be that link!”). I have seen shades of true team in business and, interestingly, even its distilled form adds strength and vitality.

    People are strong–much stronger than they believe or admit. We cannot understand the limits of human endeavor until they have been exceeded; it takes freedom from the fear of failure to allow us to explore those limits.

  8. Scooter

    Most of these concepts have been expressed, but to me, the keys to a successful team are vision and a willingness to adapt to the needs of the team. Vision can also be described as leadership – the creativity to create a vision that is possible and the ability to communicate that vision in a way that team members can/will follow.

    You have a lot of meat for these talks, good luck distilling it to usable form.

  9. thronedoggie

    No Stars.

    While running Pinnacle Peak this morning, we were discussing “great Alabama running backs” (it was a topic sparked by the size of my thighs – I don’t have “distance runner” thighs :)

    I tried explaining to my friend that Alabama doesn’t have star players – it’s a philosophy that harkens back to Paul “Bear” Bryant. And since we don’t promote our star players, we don’t have real “stars”.

    Then the explanation clicked; the University of Alabama has had more national championships in football than any other school. And the University of Alabama has never had a Heisman winner.

    I think that that says it all.

    You may not read this, since this is an old post, but I might make a post out of it :)

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