6 Secrets to Building Teams in a Stack Ranked World

Bell curves bring out the worst in your best. Rewarding individual performance drives individual behavior. Yet, most performance management systems so just that.

Bell curves, stack ranks, 9 box succession planning grids, all encourage selfish choices. Unless you’re running HR you can’t change the system. You can build great teams within it.

Lead past the curve to greatness.

6 Secrets to Building Great Teams

Secrets from 20 years of watching, listening, leading, and being a member of great (and mediocre) teams.

1. Inspire Vision that Motivates Sacrifice

Build excitement around an important vision. Make the mission bigger than “me” or “you.” Ensure everyone feels vital. Make the mission so attractive that everyone feels like they’ve won.

2. Define extraordinary

Define “leading” in terms of extraordinary behaviors.

  • Expose mediocrity tenaciously and compassionately. Teams rise when mediocrity is courageously rejected and excellence pursued.
  • Honor self-less actions.
  • Establish systems, rules, rewards, and consequences.
  • Rise above results. Build integrity, loyalty, and vulnerability.

3. Reward teamwork

Reward collaborative behaviors early and often. Create infrastructure for peer recognition. Celebrate “how” over “what.” Begin meetings with informal peer recognition.

4. Create opportunities to cross-train

People will remember the years they grew professionally. The memory of a 5% higher bonus will fade. Vital skills last forever. Encourage cross-training. You can’t resent a peer who made you remarkably better.

5. Involve the team in evaluation

Have the employees rate themselves and one another on behaviors. Conduct the assessment several times a year, and use as appraisal input. It’s tricky, but worthwhile.

6. Eliminate coasters

Require teamwork as a foundational job requirement. Inspire and teach teamwork. When a member refuses, help him find a more fitting job.