What's the key to truly a great team? Learn what makes a great leader according to "The Best Team Wins" by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.

What makes a great leader? This might be the oldest and toughest question in business, and it's one every business owner needs to answer. Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton's terrific book The Best Team Wins: The New Science of High Performance provides the latest research on how to build and lead effective teams.

The authors begin by exploring the growing importance of teamwork: Employees spend the majority of their days working collaboratively, and successful teamwork can make or break any business.

There's one single factor that's far and away the most important ingredient in a great team. And it's not raw talent or charismatic leadership. It's psychological safety, meaning that team members feel comfortable interacting with each other. In other words, team members must be able to be fully themselves, expressing opinions and listening with respect to others.

So what makes a great leader of a team like this? "The Best Team Wins" describes five things you need to do.

Promote Generational Understanding

Teams often bring generations together, but millennial employees and baby boomers tend to have different expectations. A great team leader understands these generational differences and manages members accordingly. As Gostick and Elton explain, recognition matters much more to millennial employees than it does to baby boomers, who care more about autonomy. In practice, this means that leaders need to stay closer to millennial employees, providing more support, while giving more space and decision-making freedom to baby boomers.

Focus on Developing Skills and Careers

A great leader must be a coach who helps every employee learn new skills and develop their individual career goals. To be effective, a great leader needs to understand what motivates each team member. Some employees may seek leadership responsibilities, while others may want to be more technical or specialized. Talk to them to learn what they value. As the authors explain, "Focusing on career development is a relatively low-cost way to keep people and keep them engaged."

Help New Members "Hit the Ground Running"

Leaders must have the capacity to integrate new members into the team. Hire employees not just for their skill sets but for cultural fit. Help new members fit in by introducing them to the team. Consider having a welcome party so the new team member can get acquainted in a relaxed atmosphere. Assign your new hire a buddy so they have someone to help them learn the ropes.

Ensure Healthy, Positive Debate

On the best teams, members are comfortable expressing their true feelings and opinions, even when those feelings and opinions create disagreement on the team. Great teams put everyone's ideas on the table and then reach decisions informed by the collective input. This is why leaders must facilitate open, honest dialogue on the team, making sure everyone has their say. Consider training your employees about the right way to deliver constructive criticism.

Focus the Team on the Customer

A great leader always keeps the team's mission and purpose in the foreground and helps keep the focus of all team efforts on this larger purpose, for instance meeting and exceeding customer expectations, say the authors. As a team leader, advocate for the customer and get the team to better understand their needs. The more connected your employees feel to their mission, the more likely they are to stay motivated.

As "The Best Team Wins" explains, what makes a great leader is a higher focus on fostering a team culture of collaboration, respect and constant attention to what matters most. The book is a great primer on how to build and lead great teams in order to grow your business.


Tags: Leadership Development