by Matt Gray, Sophia Gedion, and Jessica Previch, with insights from Trevon and Jessica Brandhorst

Every team is unique as it’s made up of different individuals and has a distinct set of goals, visions, and scopes of work. While likely similar, even within the same organization teams operate with their own energy and culture. Much like a discussion of leadership styles and skills, there is not a one-size-fits-all-model for facilitating or managing a high-functioning team. Each team needs it’s own exploration, critical reflection and internal process for growth and improvement. With that, the following is a look at a few common themes that have surfaced in my work recently, indicating that a team is well on its way to success. These indicators are not a guarantee your team is bound for glory, but if you’re seeing these indicators come to life, you’re surely on the right foot forward.

– Open communication is paramount, and likely the cornerstone for success to any team working anywhere on any project. That open communication must flow between teammates and between the team and their direct supervisor. Ideally, the supervisor also has clear and open lines of communications within the rest of the organization as well. Team members are in a constant dialogue and collective reflection about the work. Team members feel safe to ask clarifying questions and offer insights about progress and direction, especially upon the launch of new deliverables and expectations.

– Second only to communication as the cornerstone, team members have an intrinsic motivation to do quality work, because these high-functioning teams are service-oriented: serving one another, the organization, and the community in which they work. Empathetic motivation is a guiding force.

– Due to empathetic motivation, team members are success-oriented towards meeting deadlines and benchmark goals, because of the impact that will have on the organization or community in which they’re serving. There is an overwhelming sense of integrity within the group, living up to the motto, “we do what we say we’re going to do and we do it well.”

– Individuals feel compelled to be leaders and to take ownership of a project or an idea. They may arrive to the team or project with that mindset, or the manager might create that sense of empowerment. Team members are invested in the work from the early stages. That investment is further fueled by collaboration.

– From the outset, with collaboration as a focus, team members look to one another as sounding boards, for support and brainstorming, and to divvy up assignments in a way that complements work styles and strengths.

– Team members feel appreciated and trusted by their managers, their teammates, and themselves. A sense of self-efficacy is a critical complement to appreciation, as is mutual respect. This is particularly important as work styles and skills among individual team members are likely different, and each team member needs to feel compelled to contribute to the team through their own unique style and attributes.

– Even in the midst of tight timelines, high standards for deliverables, and frequently changing expectations, the overall spirit of the team is optimistic, and the work is enjoyable, even fun. While there may be stressors from the demands put on the team, the atmosphere is positive. The team maintains a sense of resiliency and has the capacity to manage stress as individuals and as a unit.

– Overall the team is challenged, and thus engaged in the work. A diversity of projects or expectations ensures that each team member can contribute, and that the team must work together to resolve tough obstacles and discover collective solutions. This challenging, engaging work, also provides an opportunity for professional development in a supportive environment, which cyclically increases engagement levels.

– While the team performs in all the ways discussed above, there remains an admirable level of humility. Though the team has already gone beyond expectations, their growth mindset inspires them to improve, fix mistakes, and further explore areas of incremental improvement. In fact, it is this humility and growth mindset that created an effective team in the first place.