Most of us are no strangers to the pop-culture trope of the motley crew that eventually puts aside their differences to collectively defeat a common evil.
In fact, part of the reason why the Motley Crew Trope works so well is their penchant for turning their initial dissimilarities into their advantage in the final battle.
It underscores a universal truth about the dynamics of high-performance teams that last: team interests trump individual interests.
That said, putting together a group of people that understand this well enough to be able to work well together is easier said than done. Generally, there are a few conditions necessary for building A-teams that last: here are the four most important ones.
Learn what makes a great team last with SSA Academy’s WSQ course on facilitating effective work teams: sign yourself up today!
In the corporate world, organisational structures often encourage and reward ruthless behavior for the sake of getting results. It runs contrary to the very essence of teamwork.
The most crucial element of long-lasting, high-performing teams is psychological safety. For team members to consistently prioritise team over self, they need to be able to trust their leader and each other.
Excellent leaders breed excellent teams through leading by example. A leader who doesn’t put his team before himself isn’t going to be able to inspire others to follow suit.
Much like the alpha wolf who trails behind to make sure the whole pack is protected and safe at all times, leaders always have to be willing and ready to make sacrifices for the sake of the team.
Office politics and gossiping cannot be allowed to derail a team from being able to trust each other. If people are always spending their time and energy trying to defend themselves from each other, it’s counter-productive.
Every team will have its fair share of conflict. It’s not the presence or absence of conflict that determines its longevity and performance, though. It’s how these conflicts are handled.
Establishing a culture of open communication that emphasises honesty and constructive dialogue in interpersonal conflict is crucial in being able to put aside differences and resolve disputes quickly.
When everyone is clear on what needs to be achieved on both a micro and macro level, it generates greater accountability and sets the stage for optimal performance.
The motley crew trope relies on the same plot catalyst for the team’s unity: the realisation that they all have the same common enemy against whom they’re individually weak but collectively strong.
Similarly, everyone in the team needs to understand what they’re all working towards, why they’re working towards it, how they’re each working towards it, and why it’s only achievable if they pool their talents and band together.
It’s also essential to make sure that each team member has an individual goal that feeds into the broader goals of the team. It’s more than just about having individual and team KPIs.
What motivates one person is different from what motivates another. Giving each team member the tools to tap into their own sources of motivation so that they can contribute to the team’s goals is critical.
Since time immemorial, social support has been the backbone of humanity’s progress. Even as far back as the stone ages, it was the ability to thrive on the power of community that determined which tribes survived and which ones destroyed themselves from within.
The same logic still applies today. A team that doesn’t have each other’s backs through thick and thin is a team that isn’t going to last.
Failures and mistakes are bound to occur, either as a consequence of individual or collective shortcomings. Teams have to be able to weather this storm together if they hope to last in the long run.
So often, failure prompts a team’s dissolution because people end up directing their disappointment at one another. They get stuck playing the blame game instead of focusing on problem-solving and moving on.
The most successful people are those who were able to capitalise on failure to grow instead of allowing themselves to be defeated. Likewise, the most successful teams use failure to recalibrate themselves and learn instead of venting their frustrations on one another.
Differences in skill levels, cultural backgrounds, and thinking styles might make it difficult to come together as a team. Great teams, though, can leverage this diversity to keep moving forward together.
Thriving on diversity isn’t necessarily about understanding and knowing everything about each other from the get-go; it’s about understanding that no man gets left behind no matter what.
Interpersonal differences alone do not justify exclusion from the team. Instead, it’s this diversity that creates the perfect environment for interdependence. That’s the secret ingredient that allows a motley crew to use differences to their advantage, not to their detriment.