10 Characteristics of an Exceptional Team

How awesome is your team? Read this article and see how your team measures up against these 10 characteristics of an exceptional team!

Team Building

Anna Roberts

Monday, May 30, 2016


Strong teams hold your business together through impossible periods, when the world is out to get you and nothing seems to go your way.

Good teams form close bonds, helping you maintain morale through difficult times.

Great teams know how to build on each other’s strengths and makeup for their weaknesses.

Exceptional teams are flexible, adaptable, and ready to respond to whatever is thrown at them.

With a winning team at the helm of your most important project, you can count on its success.

Assembling the perfect team isn’t easy. You may have all the pieces in front of you, but there’s no guarantee they’ll all fit together. The characteristics of an effective team go beyond individual brilliance.

1. Lively discussions

Managers may wish that their team would agree completely with every word they say at meetings, but this approach certainly isn’t healthy. Leaders should encourage team members to speak up if they disagree – particularly if the criticism is raised in a constructive manner.

Leaders are never perfect. Good managers listen to, act on, and encourage constructive feedback and suggestions from their subordinates, rather than silencing dissent.

2. Common vision and expectations

Every member of the team needs to be on the same page. This goes beyond knowing the goal(s) of the team. Team members should also understand why these goals exist.

  • What will the eventual outcome of the project be?
  • Why is it important to the company?
  • Why is it important to our clients or customers?

Everyone needs to be able to answer these questions if they’re to remain motivated at work.

3. Competence

While good teams are greater than the sum of their parts, all managers want their team to contain highly competent team members. This statement may seem obvious – but some managers will deliberately shy away from working above highly skilled workers in case they steal the limelight or draw attention to their leader’s weaknesses.

4. Awareness of strengths and weaknesses

A good manager understands the ability of their juniors – including their skills, qualifications, strengths and weaknesses. These managers encourage staff to push themselves, taking them outside their comfort zones – but without needlessly putting the success of the team at risk.

Only by understanding strengths and weaknesses can you hope to assign employees to the right tasks.

This rule also applies between employees, too. Team members will be better positioned to share workloads efficiently if they know which tasks their colleagues excel at.

5. Transparency

Back in the era of Mad Men style offices, managers tended to take an ‘us vs. them’ approach to employees. As little information as possible was fed down to employees, leading to a culture of suspicion and distrust.

Today, the workplace is becoming more open – even democratized in many businesses. Transparency is key to this new approach. All parties should be completely honest with each other, even sharing information that they may be reluctant to part with.

Transparency leads to improved engagement and higher levels of trust. Employees feel empowered by the extra information and more committed to the team’s work.

6. No toxic people

We all work in different ways – but some people may appear problematic in certain situations. When a person is not placed in the right job, team, and/or organization, they may become toxic and bring the team down. Even though managers may be reluctant to do anything about these employees because of their valuable skills, it’s important to recognize that their lack of fit may be causing more harm than their skills are doing good.

Good managers will know how to build the right team with the right people, and do not hesitate to make a change if they notice something (or someone) is compromising the team’s morale and performance.

7. The right management style

There is no ‘ideal’ management style. It all depends on the composition of the team. If the team is highly motivated and highly skilled, managers should take a hands off approach and avoid managing too heavily. If the team doesn’t work well together, managers may have to take a rather more authoritative approach to have their voice heard.

8. A diverse range of skills

A team composed of members with a diverse set of career backgrounds provides access to a wide range of skills, helping you to approach problems from different angles and consider issues from multiple points of view. Teams with a mix of skills pool together to cover each other’s weaknesses.

9. Regular feedback and recognition

Feedback is healthy for everyone. It’s in the interest of the team for all members to be aware of their progress and if there are any problems they need to fix. The managers benefit from a more productive team, and team members can learn from their mistakes and become increasingly aware of their strengths and weaknesses.

Positive feedback is just as important as constructive feedback. Instead of telling team members they have ‘no issues’ with their work, managers should offer praise and recognition if a task is completed to a high standard.

10. The right team dynamic

It’s not just strengths and weaknesses that you need to bear in mind when building a team. You should also consider how individuals will work with each other. For example, if Alex likes to plan every stage of a task with precision, he won’t work well alongside Brian who prefers to take a spontaneous approach and figures out the detail as he goes along. Instead, Alex would prefer working with Carla, who doesn’t mind planning and will happily keep on tasks based on Alex’s detailed outline.

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