Put a team of experts together and you have a winner, right? If only it were that simple. The fact is, many teams don’t have star power, yet succeed better than most. Why?
In 2004 the USA Dream Team arrived at the Athens Olympics in search of basketball gold. Although the team was missing star players like Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, it still had a strong contingent of NBA pros and promising talent – LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony – and were widely expected to emulate the success of previous all-conquering US basketball teams.
It didn’t happen.
Team USA lost three times on its way to a bronze medal, including a humiliating 19 point defeat to Puerto Rico.
Nicknamed the Nightmare Team, the reasons for their defeat were clear:  “Its members played like stars, not like a team, resting on their successes, not the task at hand,” according to Caroline Levy Limpert.
Harsh? At the next  Olympics, the US, having learned that teamwork works, extolled the virtues of the importance of team spirit rather than individual stars, staying in the Olympic Village (previous Team USA teams hadn’t)  – even cheering on fellow Americans at other events  and swept to victory.

Secrets of best teams

Google were great proponents of the belief that building the best teams meant filling them with the brightest talents. They also embraced the idea that like-minded people working together would also produce high-performing teams.  Not so.
They actually discovered that the best teams shared five characteristics:

  1. Psychological safety
  2. Dependability
  3. Structure & clarity
  4. Meaning of work
  5. Impact of work

Of those five the most important was the first – psychological safety. It means people weren’t afraid or embarrassed to speak their minds because they knew their team was supportive. When you have that safety net you can speak openly, creating a real collaborative environment.
Of course the other four points are also important, but the freedom to express yourself without feeling awkward, or that you were being looked down on by your team, was the building block for success.
So how else can you unlock the power of great teamwork?

Set out clear goals

Let the team know exactly what is needed and when, ensuring there is no confusion about targets, timeline, etc. A lack of clarity in communicating these goals will inhibit the team, so set these in stone at an early stage and ensure everyone knows them.

Limit team size

Sometimes teams are too big. While many teams operate quite well with anything from three to 12 members, stretching beyond that can prove unwieldy and make it difficult for all voices to be heard, curtail  interaction, and affect results.  

Let your team interact

For the team dynamic to work well everyone should feel a part of the team, and each point of view should be listened to and respected. Allowing one or two people to dominate discussions will discourage others, so foster a collaborative environment where ALL views are encouraged.

Reward and praise

When you reach a milestone – a task or project completed, deadline met, or target surpassed, etc – then celebrate it in some way. It may be a team lunch, a few drinks after work, a trip to the movies, Whatever way you decide to mark the occasion everyone gets to share in the celebration. It’s a great way to bring people together and helps cement the bond between you.


Don’t try to solve all the problems yourself – delegate. There’s a whole team there to share the load, and who will be more than happy to help. Delegating allows key team members to feel trusted and empowered. They will relish the opportunity to shine.

Say ‘we’ not ‘I’

It’s about teamwork, not your personal glory. Seriously, it’s not about you, but the success of the team. So drop referring to ‘I’ every time you speak: keep referencing ‘we’ instead, because really it is about all of you and not one person. Seriously.

Let them fail

If you never make a mistake you’ll never learn. Mistakes happen although team leaders make every effort to avoid them. But it’s ok to trip up every now and then, if doing so allows the team to profit from the error and move on.

And finally

For further reading on the subject, why not check out our blog 11 Ways to Motivate Your Team 


With the right encouragement and leadership, plus a willingness to respect all team members, you can unlock the power of great teamwork. What are you waiting for? Get started now.
Have you any suggestions about how to unleash the power of great teamwork? If you do, please let us know in the comments section below.