Secrets of an Effective Team


“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

Ford Motor Company is the second-largest automaker in the U.S and is one of the biggest family businesses in the U.S.  It all began with the strong leadership and innovative skills of the company’s founder, Henry Ford.  For over 100 years, the Ford family has grown the business from its humble beginnings to worldwide powerhouse.  The founder’s great-grandson, William Clay Ford, Jr. serves as the Executive Chairman.

Henry Ford learned early on the power of leadership and an effective team .  Like Army Generals, innovators and CEO’s are only as effective as their front-line team.

How do you get there?  How do you build an effective team – a force such as Ford?

 You have to build it, it doesn’t just “happen”.

Team building  can conjure up visions of high ropes courses and team scavenger hunts that are meant to build teamwork, trust, and collaboration among employees. While activities can be useful, developing a team is less about scheduling offsite retreats and more about daily habits that build a strong culture.

Sports are a great analogy. A baseball team that constantly practices and plays together is more likely

to win versus a pick-up team of individuals who don’t play together daily.  That pick-up team isn’t a well-oiled machine, they can’t anticipate their teammates moves, thought processes, and they surely don’t have a sense of each other’s communication styles.  A powerful team functions best when their individual strengths are recognized and utilized collaboratively to make up a powerful whole.

Studies have found that the long-term success of a business is more dependent on the entire executive leadership team than the CEO, as the top team has a broader impact on the whole organization.  Additionally, the team has a “multiplier effect” in that a highly-performing team creates successful, organizational coherence and focus (and a poorly performing team results in the opposite).

So what should you be doing daily to ensure you have an all-star team? 

  • Build Trust – At the core of successful leadership is the ability to influence and inspire others, which can only happen if there is trust. To cultivate trust, competence and character must be demonstrated in every interaction. Employees must feel that their leaders and co-workers are knowledgeable in their work and that they have values beyond their own self-interest. The stronger the level of trust among a team, the better they will ultimately function. Avoiding the classic “Do as I say, not as I Do” is an important first step in team building.
  • Facilitate Communication – Beyond trust, open communication is one of the most important characteristics of a successful team. This doesn’t necessarily mean scheduling needless meetings; it means encouraging and facilitating the sharing of information and communication among team members. If your leaders withhold information or aren’t clear in their own communication, there will often be a trickle-down effect to team members that can lead to dysfunction and employees operating in silos. Leading by example is one of the best ways to foster open communication. Open communication leads to innovation, which leads to growth.
  • Encourage Collaboration – Make sure that your organization places emphasis on rewarding team versus individual performance. While a pay-for-performance atmosphere can be valuable, the collaborative efforts of a team are what will ultimately make a business successful. Think of it this way – even if a baseball team has a star pitcher, if their batters and fielders aren’t strong, they most likely won’t win. The star pitcher may be able to carry the team with strikeouts for some time but, ultimately, can’t win the whole season.
  • Foster Respect – Team members need to feel like their unspoken feelings are understood and that their individual ideas are heard and valued. Make sure you create an environment in which all team members can voice their thoughts and productive brainstorming can take place. Similarly, if conflict arises, help team members to face it and work through it. As leaders, the need to help employees arrive at the best possible solution and build consensus among a team is also important. Even though this can take more time, building consensus ensures employees understand and are committed to the decision.

I leave you with a few more of my favorite quotes:

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller

 “The strength of the team is each member. The strength of each member is the team.” – Phil Jackson

Need help developing a strong team? At KMR Executive Search, we specialize in finding top talent and providing management consulting services to help you facilitate the process.