The Anatomy of an “A” Team

An “A” Team is a concept many of us should be familiar with by now since it has been used many times in sporting analogies, staff meetings and other cultural settings. As a matter of fact, the recent Hollywood movie bearing the same title has illuminated the theme once again. One thing is for sure, when someone speaks about an “A” Team, they are talking about the “best of the best” working together on a single team. An “A” Team must have more than the obvious working for them, such as possessing great talent, having a high degree of discipline, and more importantly working together in unity.

On my drive home one evening, the letter “A” came to the forefront of my mind. I did not know “why” at the moment but I began to examine its construction very closely; studying its shape, angles and connection points. Soon three distinct features emerged before me. First and foremost, the letter “A” has two anchor points acting as the foundation. Second, the letter “A” has a horizontal beam in the middle supporting both sides. Finally, the letter “A” is connected at the top culminating at a fine point. Each part contributes to the shape, look and feel of the letter “A”. After this brief revelation three essential features working for it:

  • An “A” Team is solidly anchored upon at least two enduring principles (Convictions).

  • An “A” Team has a strong support system (Community).

  • An “A” Team is connected from top to bottom (Communication).

Let me elaborate on each point more clearly. (Note: I will use the words team and organization interchangeably):

1. An “A” Team is solidly anchored upon at least two enduring principles

First, allow me to define an “anchor point”. An anchor point is a foundational and enduring principle that your team is founded upon or known for; values, virtues, and creeds that grounds the team firmly. Anchor points should give us “purpose” and “meaning” for existing; the things that really matter at the end of the day. Anchor points bind a team together. Your team would not exist without anchor points. If you were to choose two anchor points that define your team, what would they be? Here’s an anchor list I created for you to work with, you may have more thoughts:

Integrity: truth and transparency.
Branding: image and value.
Organizational: service reliability and product integrity.
Work ethic: working hard with a sense of pride.
Compassion: creating a family culture; nurturing and caring for each other.
Trust: building a culture of interdependence, honesty and openness.

If your team members were asked to list two things about your organization, what would they come up with? Would all them pretty much say the same thing or would it pretty much look like a laundry list of complaints? What two anchor points make your team or organization sustainable through stressful events and great challenge?

2. An “A” Team has a strong support system

An “A” Team has a strong support system by adopting mentoring programs where everyone is seen as a key player, producer and emerging leader. A strong support system is based on “trust”, nothing more – nothing less. Team members with strong support systems intact – respect, honor and support one another. An “A” Team built around a supportive environment provides training and mentoring, speaks the truth with grace; they look after each other, and they hold each other accountable. Teams with strong support systems are stronger, better, possess high morale, and produce excellence throughout the organization. Is there room to say more?

3. An “A” Team is connected from top to bottom

A team that is disconnected experiences much conflict but so do teams who are highly connected. Conflict is inevitable and common, especially when talented people are expected to play or work together on the same team. So what’s the remedy? A team must build strong ties from top to bottom by creating and maintaining strong communication systems. Communication helps with the flow of work, production and removes ambiguity. A team who cannot communicate is a team doomed to fail. Effective communication:
– Brings clarity to vision and mission.
Challenges teams members to conform to a code of excellence.
Confronts weakness and mediocrity.

All communication starts at the top, however, even those at the top must be able to hear what’s happening at the ground floor, meaning those who are actually putting “feet” and “might” into producing results. Those working the “shop” floor per say must hear frequently from the top brass, as well as provide vital information by providing constructive feedback. How does this happen? Each team member must purposefully, systematically and creatively communicate. There are times when you need to meet with your executive team, and that’s fine, but not at the expense of neglecting others! A team leader must remember to also gather the middle managers; hear them out and inject your wisdom into their daily strategy. Finally and most critically, you must gather the whole team from top to bottom to share vision and remind each player of the mission and purpose of the organization. It would behoove team leaders to take a walk at least once a week to visit and chat with team members; to watch them in their arena of action, and to appreciate and honor them in front of others. A team that communicates effectively and feels connected to the “top” is a team that feels invincible.

What other dynamics are involved with “A” Teams?