I reflected a little bit about the great teams I’ve had the honor to be part of. It’s just a few out of all the teams that I’ve been part of that I would call great. But they all shared some common traits.
My first ever scrum team was a great team, that I still think back on fondly. Gothenburg Brass Band was an orchestra that I had the opportunity to be part of for almost 2 years - total awesomeness. My “current” (since I don’t play with them now) band Vasa Band is another group that I hail as a great team. The prayer group we had 2006-2010 in our home was an amazing group too.
Looking back I remember these things that was common about them, in the very particular order that I remember the traits…:
The great teams I’ve been part of have all been seated together. I’ve been part of good teams that have been geographically distributed but the great ones have always been meeting or working in the same room, at the same time.
Wanted to be great
All the great teams I’ve been part of shared a strive for excellence. We wanted to become better and produce high quality in every aspect of our service or work.
I’ve been in good teams where people didn’t really care about the outcome, just about having a great time. They have been good but not great. I don’t remember most of those teams.
Achieved something remarkable together
The great teams I remember have always achieved something that we first didn’t thought that we could pull off; we met the impossible deadline, we won the New Zealand Brass Band championships or most of the people in the prayer group went on to become leaders in our congregation.
Had fun together
There has always been a lot of laughter and jokes in the great teams I’ve been in. For long running teams a lot of inside jokes emerged that could trigger uncontrollable laughter from us, but utter confusion from others.
Openness and sharing
The great teams I’ve been in have always been very open and friendly to newcomers. A feeling of “wanting to include more people” has been in those groups. And people have come and gone too.
In some teams we have had a lot of great things going but it’s been hard to get others to be part of it. It made me a little unfair or dirty. Like keeping my candy to myself.
Experience hardship together
One of the most defining traits for the great teams I’ve been in is that we have been crying together. We lost people in these teams, we lost fights, we’ve experienced hardship together.
AND, very important, we shared this in the team. We cried together when we learned about the sickness of our Product Owner. People sat with me and listen for hours when I went through my divorce.
Cared for each other
Following that you can say that all the great teams had an intrinsic care for the other people in the team that went beyond the “real” reason the team existed at all. We knew about each others personal life and cared about that.
Spent a long time together
All the great teams I’ve been in have been long lasting. We have been in the team for at least a year. A common history has been created. Things that we look back on and talk about.
Well…. I dunno… what to say about this really. Reading this list I realize that “building a great team” is very hard. Especially in the beginning. Because all of the things on my list cant be “installed”. It requires time. And trust. And courage to be vulnerable.
But don’t fret - this is exactly how you met your husband/wife. The first date is always awkward, right. But since you seem to share values and enjoyed spending time together you go for a second, less awkward date. And then another one and another one. Little by little you are creating a history together and before long it seems like you’ve always been together.
If I wanted to create a great team I would try to reach or implement the traits above. Starting with a common, well-known goal, authority and responsibility for the team to act autonomous and a lot of fun together is a good start. It will not promise to be great, but it’s a good start.