Team or TINO?

Everyone is part of a team. Whether it’s a project team, a leadership team, a sports team, a volunteer team, or even a band, you are a member of a team.

But is it really a team? Could you be part of a TINO – a Team In Name Only?

Here are five essential elements of authentic teams:

  1. Clear Direction – what is the team collectively trying to accomplish? Where are you going, and why? Recently we were coaching a leadership team and one of the team members said, “I don’t think we all have the same understanding of what we are trying to accomplish.” That indicated a lack of common purpose and explained why they were struggling. Clear and aligned purpose is essential to authentic teams. Know what game you are playing and why!
  2. Clear Roles – in order to bring your best to a team, it’s important to understand the role that you are playing. Part of role clarity is ensuring that the team members have the capability (skills) and the capacity to contribute. Imagine a baseball player that joins a football team and tries to be an outfielder. Different games require different positions. Different teams require different roles.
  3. Clear Goals – what is the work of the team? How do they win or measure success? This comes from clear performance goals. While there may also be individual goals, there must be common, measurable, clear and challenging performance goals the team is responsible to accomplish. Those goals get translated into well-defined, concrete milestones against which the team measures itself. To maintain motivation, it’s helpful to identify opportunities for “small wins” along the way to larger goals.
  4. Clear Rules – this isn’t about restrictive processes and cumbersome rule books. Rules guide the way that you “play and win together.” Each team needs to understand and agree on the way that they are going to work together. Do you value and encourage conflict? What does “good” look like when the team disagrees, collaborates, makes decisions or communicates?  
  5. Mutual Accountability – no shame, no blame, no excuses. Teams accept responsibility as individuals and collectively. Many leadership teams are fragmented because there is individual accountability for a function, but not as a whole entity (department, business unit, or organization.)  If you aren’t winning or losing together, then you are not really a team.

The alternative to a team is a group. This is a perfectly acceptable form of organization. However, it should not be confused with a team. Consider what needs accomplished and determine the best people structure. If you decide to form a team, or you are in one now, use this list as a checklist to assess how you are doing as a team.

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