Are you part of a team?  If you play on a sports team, work with a bunch of people, or simply come together for family dinner…that’s a team!  Whenever you bring two or more people together for a desired outcome, you have a team.

All of these teams have an equal potential to be an extraordinary team — a high-performance team that accomplishes the desired results quickly, efficiently and effectively.

An extraordinary team is set up for success with the right people working on an important, meaningful issue with solid support from the sponsors and an agreed upon process to proceed. Additionally, there are several other elements that make it truly extraordinary.

Characteristics of an Extraordinary Team:


Clear Goals.  Everyone understands the purpose and direction of the team.  Everyone pulls in the same direction for success.

Shared Roles.  Team task and maintenance roles are clearly defined and easily shared between team members. A key shared role is the team leader. (See more in the Quality Leadership characteristic)

Valued Diversity.  Members are valued for the unique contributions they bring to the team. A diversity of thinking, ideas, methods, experiences, and opinions is encouraged.  Whether you are creative or logical, fast or methodical, team members recognize each other’s individual talents and tap their expertise — both job-related and other skills they bring to the team, such as organizing, clarifying, creating and team building. Flexibility and sensitivity are key elements in appreciating these differences.

Open and Clear Communication.  Poor listening, poor speaking, and the inability to provide constructive feedback can be major roadblocks to team progress.  For success, team members must listen for meaning, speak with clarity, engage in dialogue and discussion, and provide continual feedback through the communication process.

Participation. In an extraordinary team, people not only talk, but they participate in a meaningful fashion with every individual contributing when appropriate.

A Cooperative Climate. The atmosphere encourages participation, trust, and openness.  Members of the team are equally committed and involved.  They know they need each others’ skills, knowledge and expertise to produce something together that they could not do separately. There is a feeling of cooperation in an extraordinary team because the members know they need each other’s skills, knowledge, and expertise. There is a sense of belonging and a willingness to make things work for the good of the whole team.

Positive Atmosphere. Extraordinary teams have a positive atmosphere where people are comfortable enough with each other to be creative, take risks and make mistakes; there’s a climate of trust and openness. It also means you hear plenty of laughter and the team members enjoy what they are doing.

Conflict Managed Constructively.  Members of the team are committed and involved, which means you’ll hear plenty of laughter, but there will also be conflict. An extraordinary team manages that conflict by confronting the issues rather than confronting other team members. Problems are not swept under the rug.  They see conflict as a healthy way to create new ideas and to solve difficult problems. They’re aware of and they use many methods to manage that conflict and arrive at difficult decisions.

Some may compete to have their opinions heard, while others may accommodate the stronger team members or avoid the conflict altogether.  A successful team has discussed its philosophy about how to manage conflict.

Effective decision-making. Extraordinary teams use various methods to make decisions. Consensus is often touted as the best way to make decisions — and it is an excellent method — but the team should also use command decision, expert decision, majority vote, minority control or a command decision with the input depending on the time available, the amount of commitment and resources required.

Quality Leadership. Finally, the Litmus Test of an extraordinary team is whether the leader is a good coach, teacher and if they share responsibility and the glory. They’re supportive and fair, creating a climate of trust and openness. This leadership role shifts at various times and in the most productive teams, it’s often difficult to identify the leaders during a casual observation.

When you put all these elements together, a clear vision, diverse and shared roles, open and clear communication, participation, cooperation, a positive atmosphere, commitment, conflict, effective decision-making, and quality leadership, you have a truly extraordinary team.


Related Articles:

Extraordinary Team Ground Rules

Managers Must Adapt to Achieve Extraordinary Team Results

Techniques to Build an Extraordinarily Cohesive Team

For more information about how to moderate a lively & informative leadership panel discussion, check out our free 7-part video series on how to moderate a panel and other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.





If your team is like most, it relies on two or three strategies to make decisions: consensus, team input with the team leader making the final decision, or the loudest voice wins.

Effective teams use many different decision-making strategies, depending on several key factors:

  • The amount of buy-in necessary to support implementation
  • How much time is available to make the decision
  • How important the issue or decision is
  • Who has the information or expertise needed to make the decision
  • The developmental level of the team

Strategies to Make Team Decisions

Command Decision.  The team leader or expert decides.  Useful when a decision needs to be made quickly and the leader or expert is in control of the situation.  Explain the reasons for making the decision to other team members as soon as possible.

Ask Individual Team Members, Then Decide.  The team leader collects information from each individual and then makes a decision.  Useful when you cannot assemble everyone in one place.  Explain the criteria for making the decision, how each team member will be involved, and what type of input you need (ideas, suggestions, information).  Be consistent in your questions and let the team know what you found out.

Team Input, Then Decide.  By gathering the team together, you are creating opportunities for creativity, synergy, and buy-in.  But this will take more time, and you may create conflict if you decide against the team’s recommendation.  The key is to explain the criteria for making the decision, how the team members will be involved, what type of input you want, and set a time limit for discussion. 

Majority Vote is useful when the issue is relatively inconsequential or the team is stuck.  Americans are pretty comfortable with a hand vote. Ensure everyone understands what is being voted on and the rules involved before the actual vote is taken.

Minority Rule or the loudest, most overbearing voice wins.  This is usually the standard default for minor team decisions and inconsequential issues.  It does, however, require a team member to have the courage to speak up with an opposing viewpoint.

Unanimous.  The hardest strategy to achieve, all team members must agree on a specific position.  This strategy is not recommended unless you must have all team members agree.

Consensus.  Everyone can live with and support the decision upon implementation.  For important issues where the team needs to educate themselves on the positions and issues, as well as implement the decision, most teams aim for consensus.  The key is to explain exactly what consensus means — the team can and will not only live with the decision but will support it upon implementation.  Outline any constraints on the decision (time, financial, resources, political).  Agree on a “fallback” strategy within a prescribed period of time, or you may never agree!

Regardless of which strategy you choose, every team member should know how the decision is going to be made and the guidelines involved.  

Take a look at how your team makes decisions.  Do you use a broad range of strategies, depending on the situation, or are you stuck using just a few?  As a team, discuss how you might improve the ways your team makes decisions.



Related Articles:

The Spotlight Effect in Team Decision-Making

Butterfly Choices: Making Decisions That Matter

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As a certified facilitator of Patrick Lencioni’s 6 Types of Working Genius, I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the companion book to the certification.  The recently released book, The 6 Types of Working Genius: A Better Way to Understand Your Gifts, Your Frustrations, and Your Team is, like all of Lencioni’s books, a business fable that shares a theory in a fictional setting so we can easily understand and implement the ideas.

This book is a bit different in that it is an autobiography!  The characters are (mostly) real, with a few name changes and character composites.  But knowing the backstory of how Lencioni arrived at this model IS the story that is captured in the book!

The premise of the book is quite simple: every task has six elements and while we can DO each of these tasks, TWO are our “genius.” Our genius gives us energy and joy and is pretty much our default happy place.  We also have two that are our “frustrations.” These are the things we don’t like to do, and two that we are competent at.

While some people might view this as a personality profile, it’s more of a productivity tool in making sure we have our people in the “right seats on the bus” and maximizing their gifts!  It also explains why some very competent people are suffering from burnout. Our team members are suffering from burnout because we heap so much on them because they can do a good job, but it is not their genius or happy spot!

It’s a quick and easy read and worthwhile to have a team discussion about how the six working geniuses apply to your team!

Related Articles:

Tap into Your Team’s 6 Types of Working Genius

6 Negative Management Styles of New Managers

Book Review: The Motive: Why So Many Leaders Abdicate Their Most Important Responsibilities