Team Performance, Leadership Capabilities, and Bee Stings


If you consider the most successful people you know, are they solely responsible for their achievements or is there a well-orchestrated team supporting the accomplished success? Team building is a critical element of success, but one infrequently discussed or acknowledged.

Sports teams like the Islanders or Storm; local businesses, like BioVectra or Vector Aerospace; and even civic oriented groups, like Rotary or the potpourri of local political flavors, all organizations need structure, leadership and highly functioning teams.

Good organizations have good leaders, and good leaders build strong teams. The leader can chart the direction but the team determines success. The broader the base of engagement, diversity of collective skills and divergent experiences; the better the odds of success.

The University of Berkley, Department of HR describes the first rule of team building: “to lead a team effectively, you must first establish your leadership with each team member. Remember that the most effective team leaders build their relationships of trust and loyalty, rather than fear or the power of their positions.” As a former rugby coach, the authority of power is a tool, as is social pressure to normalize the group through peer pressure; but does this tactic work in a more matured collaborative group, probably not.

Leadership is also about inspiration, motivation and common commitment to execute on a clear vision. Organizations cannot thrive absent this skill; but it is not taught, nurtured or encouraged. It is hard for leaders to develop this skill if it is not inherent in their character.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Human Dynamics Laboratory suggest that they  “have identified the elusive group dynamics that characterize high-performing teams—those blessed with the energy, creativity, and shared commitment to far surpass other teams.” A clear determinant of success is a function of the leaders selection of the team and capabilities the collective group possesses. The leader must be instrumental in establishing who they chose to have on their team, with justification based on capability and complement to the collective.

Having a good team is only one ingredient of success. Managing and communicating to the team is also essential. According to Alex Pentland as published in the Harvard Business Review “it’s as true for humans as for bees: How we communicate turns out to be the most important predictor of team success, and as important as all other factors combined, including intelligence, personality, skill, and content of discussions. The old adage that it’s not what you say, but how you say it, turns out to be mathematically correct.”

With the Islanders hockey club in the playoffs, candidates dodging potholes and service clubs competing for scarce donation dollars; consider leadership, team cohesion and commitment to common purpose when reflecting on success.  What are the communication capabilities and strategies to embrace participation while focused on common goals.