Leaders of Great Teams Don’t Rely on Luck

Great Leaders Build Great
Teams with Intention


Guest post by Linda Adams, Abby Curnow-Chavez, Audrey Epstein and Rebecca Teasdale:

If you lead a team, you know that the best ones don’t happen by happy accident. Outsiders may look at extraordinary teams and think, “The people on them are so lucky,” or “They just have great chemistry.” If it’s your team, however, you know that you can’t count on luck or chemistry to keep your team together and on target. You know that the best teams are built with intention and hard work. 

We run The Trispective Group, a coaching and consulting firm, and wanted to demystify the process of building a great team for our clients. We studied thousands of teams from dozens of industries to see what separated the best from all the rest. We assessed each team, compiled the data, analyzed the results, and looked for patterns. 

The highest-performing teams, in any organization, have identifiable and replicable traits and characteristics. People on these teams don’t rely on good luck or good chemistry. Instead, they choose to:

· Work hard to build and maintain trust with all team mates

· Care about each other’s success as they do their own

· Put the team’s agenda ahead of their own agenda

· Are loyal to each other, the team, and the organization

· Provide candid feedback and challenge each other to be their best

We call these teams “Loyalist Teams,” and label the worst of the worst “Saboteur Teams,” because on these dysfunctional messes, someone is always trying to sabotage someone else’s efforts. On Loyalist Teams, the mindset is “We win or lose together.” On Saboteur Teams, it’s more like, “I can only win if I make sure you lose.”  

 As you might expect, serving on a Loyalist Team is a lot more fun than suffering through a Saboteur Team. And our research showed that stakeholders clearly see the difference between the two.

Compared to Saboteur Teams, Loyalist Teams are 2,000 times more likely to be viewed as highly effective by their stakeholders.

Loyalist Teams aren’t made up of perfect individuals who always agree with one another. They disagree plenty but they openly discuss conflict when it arises. They explore the issues and choose to roll up their sleeves and fix the problems, whenever a problem pops up. They call out the “elephant in the room” and they do it with respect. Members of these teams value one another enough to say what needs to be said. They assume that any critique comes from a place of positive intent—that their teammates want the best for them, the team and the company, as they do.

When something happens beyond the company’s walls—a new competitor shows up, the market shifts or the economy takes a hit—a Loyalist Team has the commitment, relationships, and practices to keep moving forward. They’ve built the muscle memory needed to respond quickly. When asked, people who have been on Loyalist teams routinely report that these experiences were the most positive, engaging and rewarding times of their careers. Of all the teams we see, very few earn the Loyalist designation—only about 15 percent. But the good news is every team can become one.

Wherever your team is on the spectrum from Saboteur to Loyalist, you have the capacity for higher, sustainable performance and the ability to become a Loyalist Team. And you should start building that capacity today.

Linda Adams, Abby Curnow-Chavez, Audrey Epstein and Rebecca Teasdale are

partners in The Trispective Group and co-authors of The Loyalist Team: How Trust, Candor and Authenticity Create Great Organizations.