What a great time of the year it is. Chicago has begun its slow thaw from the brutal winter, the Cubs won on Opening Day, and March Madness has come to an end! There have been breathtaking buzz-beaters, a miraculous Cinderella run from Chicago’s finest – Loyola, and the first ever 16-seed (UMBC) over 1-seed (UVA) upset. You really can’t ask for much more!
At West Monroe, many of us have gone through at least one of the Franklin Covey trainings. The one training that always sticks out to me is, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In this training, we talk through each of the habits and learn how they ultimately help one become a more effective individual.
As I watched March Madness round after round, upset after upset, seeing my “expert” picks go down one after the other, I sat looking at my busted bracket thinking where did I go wrong? Did I rely too much on picking brand names, or was it my bias to potential lottery draft picks carrying their team to the championship? As I looked at the teams in the Final Four – Villanova, Kansas, Michigan, and Loyola – I realized they are the best teams, not just a collection of the best individuals.
But what makes these teams so effective? I believe they each follow 7 critical habits that make teams effective:
HABIT #1 – Defined Set of Goals / Purpose
For those familiar with the Covey course, you can relate this similarly to ‘Begin With The End In Mind’. All effective teams must set their goals for the season. Take Kansas for example. Their goals may have included:
- Win the Big 12 Championship
- Be a #1 Seed
- Make the Final Four
- Win the National Championship
Check, check, check, and oh so close. Any team, regardless of profession, must clearly understand what they are working toward and move in unison to achieve it.
HABIT #2 – Leadership-based Culture
This does not mean that every team member is trying to be THE leader. When a team has a culture of leadership, it is about the everyone owning their work, supporting, and holding each other accountable to put the time in to achieve their goals. This habit promotes the idea that the team will be more successful than any one individual.
HABIT #3 – Embrace Diversity
Diversity is present across many different aspects within a team, but the most effective teams embrace diversity throughout. This would include skillsets, experience, and thinking. For our Final Four teams, you can see that they all have a deep, balanced team of guards, forwards, and centers ranging from freshmen through seniors that provide different skills on offense and defense. At WMP, we blend our project teams with both business and technology, as well as industry expertise.
HABIT #4 – Clear Understanding of Roles
Members of effective, diverse teams understand their team members’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as, how each other aligns to the end goal. For Villanova, Jalen Brunson – upperclassman point guard – understands that he is the floor general. To be effective, they need the offense to flow through him. His role of understanding their offense and opponent’s defense has propelled Nova to a #1 seed and National Champion.
HABIT #5 – Mutual Trust
Building on the previous 4 habits, effective teams have an inherent trust in one another. They understand that everyone knows what needs to be done and trusts that each other will accomplish their tasks (big or small), which on occasion, means being the hero. Take Loyola: They won their first three games by a combined 4 points. In each of those games, it came down to the team having trust in a different player to make the big shot and become the hero when called upon. Or take a look at your National Champion – Villanova – they relied heavily on their 6th man, Donte DiVincenzo, to carry their team against Michigan.
HABIT #6 – Fluid Communication
As you can see, these habits flow into one another seamlessly. Effective teams reinforce goals, understand roles, foster trust, and enable leadership through communication. Constant dialogue among the coaches to players (project manager to business analyst) guarantees an understanding of how a team approaches their game plan (specific workstream).
HABIT #7 – Desire to Improve
The last habit – think ‘Sharpen The Saw’. Effective teams push one another to get better, to improve on both weaknesses and strengths. In basketball, that may mean taking extra free throws or doing another wind sprint when you can barely standup, because that may be the difference between National Champion or runner-up. At WMP, we encourage and push one another to learn the new coding language, to get Lean 6 Sigma certified, to attend and present at conferences. All in the effort to improve each other and build the most effective team we can be.
Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People sets a strong foundation for successful individuals. Most teams are comprised of great individuals, and you can see the parallels between the two. However, just because a team has the best individual players, it does not necessarily equate to success (e.g., Kansas beating Duke who has 2 of the top 10 NBA draft picks, Loyola upsetting every team along the way). Teams need to also consider the 7 habits for highly effective teams outlined above. As we saw in the Championship game, Villanova, the most effective team won!