I picked up the term “team” years ago from the Strategic Coach program. They replace the word “staff” with the word “team” because of the critical distinction between the two words. People who support us are crucial to our success. A team member represents someone who helps us achieve our goals, including work/life balance which would be difficult without them.

It’s easy to know when a team is not effective. It could be the wrong personnel, lack of systems, lack of clarity, or all of the above. However, it’s often harder to spot when your team is successful. I want to hone in on the indicators of a successful team and what successful teamwork in action looks like.

One of the first signs you’ll notice in a successful team is autonomy. When you can come into your office and not talk business with your team all day and they’re still super productive, you know that autonomy is in play. In other words, they don’t need to ask you for direction and they still get stuff done. Better yet, when you’re out for several days, you can come back and there are no major issues to handle. If you find yourself having to provide direction every day, having to have check-ins frequently, and interact with your team just to drive results and get things done, you are missing a key component of a successful team.

Another sign is engagement. There are different ways to define engagement and a few ways to measure it. The Gallup Organization has a tool that can be used to measure engagement with your team. Engaged companies have 87% less turnover and 23% more revenue. One way you can measure this is to ask your team if they enjoy the work they’re doing and if they feel it’s rewarding. The danger there is they could tell you what they think you want to hear, but hopefully, you’ll be able to get a sense of how they really feel.

The third sign of success is when your team leads up. This is when your team comes up with their own ideas on how you can improve your processes and systems. As the managing partner or the CEO, you may have designed everything initially because you probably had to do everything in the beginning, but your team members are the ones that are executing the systems and processes daily. When they come up to you with improvement ideas, then you’re on the right track. There’s always room for improvement.

The fourth sign of success is when you don’t know how some of your systems and processes work. That may seem a little bit like you don’t have your finger on the pulse of the business, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, I don’t really know how to do our trading system where we rebalance portfolios or buy and sell securities. I know where to find that system and log in, but what takes my team members a couple of minutes would probably take me hours to figure out. That’s not because I don’t think it’s important. It’s because I’ve delegated and put the systems in place and let the system be refined.  It may feel like it’s dangerous not to know how everything works, but I believe that this can work in our favor when it frees us up to do those things that we are uniquely qualified to do. When you get to the point where you don’t really know how some of the systems work, but everything is being executed at a high level, that’s a sign of success.

The fifth indicator is client interaction. This is when clients call in or email and would rather talk to your team to get the answers than you. This may be bad for the ego, but it’s a healthy sign of a team running effectively. It shows you that your clients have confidence in your team.

My last sign of success is that there is no resentment from your team. This is something that I was thinking about recently because I’m taking a bit more time out of the office for strategic planning and needed personal time for rejuvenation, including helping my wife out with our kids. You know that you have a successful team when your team supports you being out of the office. They know that you need this time to recharge and rejuvenate, and they understand that the value you bring to the business isn’t based on the time you spend in the office, but rather your results. A healthy team will appreciate your contributions and also respect how you select to spend your time.

These are just a few indicators of a successful team. I encourage you to think back over these. Write them down as bullet points and ask yourself where you are in those areas. If you’re not where you’d like to be, then think about how you can drive that in the right direction. I frequently talk with advisors who think they’re not getting enough from their team members, or that their team members lack the needed skills and capabilities. In some cases, this may be correct. But most of the times, where there is an ineffective team, there is a leadership failure. This happens when managers expect someone else to train and motivate their team members. It’s our business, and it’s our responsibility to build a team that’s engaged, that leads up, that acts with autonomy, that handles client issues, and that’s not resentful. If there’s a breakdown, we need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves if it starts with us.

Recommended reading:  Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink. It talks about taking ownership of everything that your team does.