What Is an Extraordinary Team? Why Do We Need More of Them?

What Is an Extraordinary Team? Why Do We Need More of Them?

By Kathleen Ryan (Extraordinary Teams Inventory Co-Author)

Think of the expressions you would love to hear people use to describe their team experiences in your organization:

  • A huge win
  • Amazing results
  • I never thought we’d accomplish so much, while having so much fun
  • Unforgettable
  • Why can’t all teams work like this one

Who among us does not want to be on a team where high-quality, high-impact work gets done? Where fully engaged team members bring their best knowledge, skill, energy, and heart to the task at hand. With Extraordinary Teams Inventory (ETI), your teams can realize the aspirations contained in those expressions.  

For close to 15 years, my co-authors Geoff Bellman, Kevin Coray, and I, along with eight other colleagues, have been studying, researching, writing about, and applying the defining principles that shape an exceptional team experience. As the Extraordinary Teams Partnership, we pursue an increased understanding of all things related to extraordinary teaming. As of September 2019, we have engaged over 200 teams and 2000 people in this effort. Our research has come in three phases:

  1. The Bellman-Ryan field study which led to the book Extraordinary Groups (Wiley, 2009)
  2. The development of the Extraordinary Teams Inventory and the related components of the ETI (HRDQ, 2014)
  3. Currently, team-based action research focuses on the application and use of core concepts and the ETI 

Through this work, we have come to define these outstanding groups in the following way:

ETI provides opportunities for personal transformation while delivering outstanding results.

In such teams, two critical elements combine great results and personal growth. Amazing achievements meet the transforming wow-factors of increased insight, connections, skills, confidence, and commitment.  

The Extraordinary Teams suite of team tools supports team members and leaders as they propel their collaborative work to a new level of excellence. Components of this team development package include:

  • The ETI online team assessment tool
  • An ETI Team Report presents a collective view of team members’ perspectives and serves as a powerful discussion starter
  • A Facilitator Guide which includes a slide set and a detailed four-hour team workshop focused on understanding and using the Team Report
  • A Participant Workbook designed for a team workshop, which contains unique suggestions for the team and individual action

Why Do We Need More Extraordinary Teams?

In our workplaces and communities, work gets done by teams. Rarely do we find work that can be done effectively without the engagement of others. Global challenges and workplace initiatives are complex and systemic. Progress requires teams of people with diverse skills and perspectives—groups that are focused, motivated, collaborative, and willing to take risks. When innovation or breakthroughs are required, such teams are essential. Whether solving problems, taking advantage of opportunities, or pushing into unknown territory, highly effective teams are critical for organizational success.

Unfortunately, we have all experienced groups that do not fulfill their promise—teams that are characterized by what they are not. Not productive, not satisfying, not exciting, engaging. These are the too-common teams that waste members’ time, energy, talent, and heart, and. These are the groups whose work is average at best. Where deadlines are consistently missed, rework is a common request, frustration is high, communication is disjointed, and creativity is stifled. These teams do not meet the requirements of today’s organizations.

Can Extraordinary Teams be Intentionally Developed and Nurtured? YES!

By employing the tools, tips, and strategies illuminated in the ETI and Extraordinary Groups, you will help teams discover and deepen their effectiveness and their commitment. This newfound knowledge translates into a significantly sized positive impact, including:

  • High levels of team accountability for results
  • Team goals are exceeded along with unanticipated positive results
  • Networks and relationships grow, jump-starting future collaborations
  • Team members learn from one another, increasing their individual and collective capacity and setting the stage for future application of knowledge
  • High talent retention is made easy thanks to team members’ increased commitment to an organization that ‘is a fantastic place to work’

All this happens because, in exceptional teams, members step in, show up, and bring their best capability to the team’s work. They also:

  • Come to meetings on time, having done their homework and set aside other distractions
  • Feel inspired by the team’s purpose and goals
  • Do the hard work needed to understand and engage one another’s different perspectives and strategies
  • Work through the critical issues—even risky ones—that block high performance and innovation
  • Enjoy each other’s company

Using the Extraordinary Teams Inventory is a Great Place to Start

The ETI is a scientifically sound and research-based online team assessment and group report. It supports team discussions and decisions about how members can work together more effectively to accomplish their goals—and grow personally in the process. The ETI is organized around five strategies, which are indicators of extraordinary teams:

  • Compelling purpose
  • Embracing difference
  • Full engagement
  • Strengthened relationships
  • Profound learning

Concrete suggestions for ways to increase capacity in each of these essential areas help teams achieve or surpass their goals and help members have a peak personal experience. Teams use the ETI Team Report to understand better the dynamics related to their performance and determine whether or not they want to take action to move toward extraordinary. Teams can also retake the ETI to help them measure progress in their development. The ETI provides organizations with an appreciative and aspirational framework that helps to motivate members to reach for a more extraordinary group experience.  

The ETI may prove especially valuable as a development tool when the team’s:

  • Assignment is critical to the organization’s long-term success and requires innovation or breakthrough thinking
  • Fundamental values include collaboration, innovation, and trust
  • Members are high-potential employees, where their development and retention are priorities
  • Leader understands that his/her success depends on effectively leading high functioning teams or teams of teams

For more information about the Extraordinary Teams development package and the ETI, follow this link https://hrdqstore.com/products/extraordinary-teams

Additional information, resources, and support for developing extraordinary teams can be found at www.extraordinaryteams.us. Here you will uncover more about the Extraordinary Teams Partnership and the services we offer through speaking, training, team, and team leader coaching.

Kathleen Ryan is an author, organization development consultant, executive coach, and co-founder of the Extraordinary Teams Partnership. She lives in Seattle, WA.

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