great teams

If you take a group of people and have them walk one kilometre over a flat surface, and compare that group to another group that walks a kilometre over challenging terrain - those groups will be different in the end. One of those groups will have a story to tell, an achievement to celebrate and some thing to remember.

One of the biggest questions on my mind is how to establish positive and healthy teams. There's some pretty basic measures, like not hiring toxic people, establishing solid guardrails on what behaviours are expected - and they'll get you to a certain point. But that can never be significantly more than just a starting point.

Looking back, the great teams I was part of were great not because of the shape of the team itself, but because of what we achieved. We thrived through achievement. Progress. Direction. Movement. A team without a mission will never be great, simply because there's a lack of moments that will force a group of people to actually push through and get something done that is more than any of the individuals could have achieved. That's when a group of people become a team. And they'll have frictions on the way, they discover differences - and shared beliefs. But they need a something to experience all of that.

I'm not writing that to give anyone some justification for just throwing random pieces of too much work on a group of people, expecting magic to happen - that's not how it works. While occasional excursions from the comfort zone are necessary to enable or even push for growth, this is not what this post is about. You don't create 10x team by just pushing them to success, you help to establish great teams by allowing them to be awesome. And that's a striking difference.

I started running many years ago. And I don't recall my initial pace, but it was bad (so bad that my brain actually forgot it). The first two or three runs, that made me feel not great. But then something interesting happened: I got faster every time. The achievement was in progress, much more than in achieving success based on some arbitrary outside measurement. I became intrinsically motivated to just get a little better each time.

Probably not all teams behave in comparable ways, but I believe that a lot more can - if given the opportunity. Small projects, achievable work and manageable increments is what helps good teams to understand how to work together - and how to win together. Once that is established, they'll usually push for more. Building something great is a motivator that far outpaces some of the more traditional incentive for doing a great job, and it's not that hard to create an environment that fosters just that.

At the end of the day, one thing to keep in mind is this: Great teams don't deliver awesome things because they have to, but because they want to.