Building an awesome team

Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t write about the importance of teamwork.

Growing up as a Jewish kid in Los Angeles, I wasn’t a big team sports player and really didn’t understand the team concept until I started my own company. As a self-centered entrepreneur, being a team member was a big enough challenge, and it took me decades to learn how to manage teams effectively. OK, the truth is I am still learning along the way.

I have come to understand the difference and value among a good, great or awesome team experience in the work environment. Based upon my original “Awesome Experience” philosophy, I break down the identification of the awesome team experience as follows:

A good team experience is when a team successfully tackles a problem that is given to it. The team can be trusted with a problem or task and can bring resolution without creating drama or difficulty. This team is dependable, for the most part, but primarily acts on a task-oriented basis. This sort of team works well together but doesn’t necessarily exhibit a strong sense of camaraderie. Team members engage for purposes of completing their task — no more, no less. As a company leader, I wouldn’t necessarily look to this team to tackle complex problems that require strong independent thinking.

A great team experience adds a dimension of entertainment to the process. Team members move past the goal and process and engage with each other. They actually connect with each other on a personal level and often create friendships that go beyond work. We often say these teams “have heart” because they seem to derive great joy not only from the accomplishments but the process itself. Great team experiences contribute to better productivity and retention, which is why employers expend great amounts of resources for team-building seminars and retreats. Oftentimes, these bonded teams will work harder with greater output since they enjoy spending time with each other.

An awesome team experience has to exceed the elements of being fun and productive. An awesome team will produce unexpected results that further a company’s growth and accomplishments beyond the original intent. Awesome team members have connected at a deeper level to create equality and synergy that allows them to be surprisingly creative in a relevant manner. This allows for a team that consistently achieves results far beyond the projected thinking of management. Ultimately, management relies on this type of team to grow the company and to point the way to its future success.

The challenge lies in creating an environment and understanding that fosters awesome teams. Multimillion-dollar entrepreneur, television expert and thought leader Amilya Antonetti has set the table for increasing the odds of an awesome team experience in her recent book “The Recipe: A fable for leaders and teams” (CorePurpose Publishing 2010). With a story set in a family-owned bakery, Antonetti demonstrates the different elements required for successful team building.

Antonetti has identified a number of factors in the story that were taken from her own experience in team building. Ironically, in the presence of Antonetti, one is nearly overwhelmed by her individual power and star quality, yet it’s her understanding and skill with team dynamics that has paved the way for her success in building businesses and bringing better products to today’s consumers.

“The Recipe” is wrapped in a delightful parable and is rich with processes that will help you take your team from good to awesome. Of all the valuable insights, the two standout concepts that have led to Antonetti’s success are diversity and parity.

Antonetti clearly outlines the need for different types of thinkers in a team. Often we look to work with people that think like us, because it makes for little conflict. Yet, it’s the differing points of view that accomplish more through healthy debate. With little or no conflict, ideas go unchallenged limiting the possibilities and creativity that can result from the process of challenge and resolution. Antonetti’s approach of having all perspectives represented in the conversation is refreshing and she makes a valid argument for leaving your doppelgangers behind.

Of course, working with diverse views and personalities can be a challenge. Getting everyone on a level playing field is critical for success. Antonetti emphasizes the need to connect on a more human level.

Here are questions to help examine your own teams that will stimulate action for creating awesome results.

1. How does your current team currently deliver the unexpected?

2. Are your teams set up for diversity or compatibility?

3. Do people work together because they want to or because they have to?

4. How does your company encourage open conflict with specific methods for resolution?

5. How do you allow individual humanity to shine in your company?

KEVIN DAUM is the principal of TAE International and the best-selling author of the Amazon No. 1 best-sellers “ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle” and “Green$ense For the Home: Rating the Real Payoff on 50 Green Home Projects” both on bookstore shelves this month. He is also a speaker and marketing consultant. Reach him at [email protected]. Check out Kevin’s Quest for the Jewish Super Bowl Ring at