Effective Teams
ATD Blog

The 11 Habits of Highly Effective Teams

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

In my book, The Collaborator: Discover Soccer as a Metaphor for Global Business Leadership, I describe the game of soccer as the best example of a sport with teams charged to perform their work under changing conditions. Why soccer? Played at its highest level, the best soccer teams in the world succeed by applying a mindset that recognizes a mutual dependency between players on the field, described as genuine collaborative teamwork. 

Most people don’t function with a mindset that supports genuine collaborative teamwork. The typical mindset supports group work that is more about cooperating and coordinating with others. This disconnect explains, in part, why team development has been an ongoing challenge in organizations. 

In The Collaborator, I introduce 11 operating principles to describe how people can cultivate an alternative mindset for practicing genuine collaborative teamwork in the workplace. These principles mirror actions that happen on the soccer field. Once understood, they must become habits for the team to develop. 

Here are the 11 habits of highly effective teams. These are listed in no order, and are in play all the time: 

1. Focus on Team, Not Position: Addresses the need to focus on results produced when all positions effectively interact on the business field 

2. Understand That Everyone Can Play: Recognizes that technology is the great enabler allowing people everywhere to collaborate in business 

3. Embrace Diversity: Represents the prerequisite for partnering in global business, and serves as a springboard for establishing trust 


4. Rely on Each Other: Reinforces team orientation, minimizes the silo mindset, recognizes a mutual dependency between people, and promotes genuine collaboration 

5. Promote Both Individual and Team Values: Deals with managing values in a neverending cycle to help ensure that the process for producing team results is working 

6. Seek Skillful, Adaptable Players: Promotes the need for flexibility for managing change, requires people and teams who can quickly assimilate and use new skills, and recognizes that multiple skills are need to play the game of business 

7. Charge the Team to Perform the Work: Recognizes the self-directed nature of the team charged with performing the work, and that the team’s performance during the game is left up to the team 


8. Empower Players to Win: Speaks to the commitment to developing all employees and providing continuous feedback to position people to make better decisions 

9. Coach Teams to Respond to Changing Conditions on Their Own: Reinforces the application of a real team that’s self-directed and operating on a real-time basis, responding to changing conditions 

10. Develop Partners on the Field: Recognizes that all players on the business field are leaders and requires viewing every opportunity as a leadership development step 

11. Achieve Cross-Cultural Agility: Calls for leveraging relationships in business to achieve results and transcending technique in dealing with people across cultures 

An alternative mindset can be learned for supporting genuine collaborative teamwork using the 11 operating principles from my book. In 2016, I launched the Collaboration Game to help people accomplish this task. Using a board game simulation, people are placed in small teams whose purpose is to function with a mindset that supports the application of competencies focused on collaboration skills. Teams are challenged to discover solutions to a series of business scenarios that examine their mindset (and skill set) for offering win-win solutions. To learn more about the Collaboration Game, go to

Indeed, today’s global workplace—where technology is empowering organizations to be more responsive to customers, along with empowering employees on the front line to make decisions, take risks, and manage constant change—has become more and more like soccer.

About the Author

Winsor Jenkins is president of Winsor Jenkins & Associates, LLC, based in Portland, Oregon. As a leader who served in senior HR positions and contributed to the professional development of countless business executives, including HR managers, Winsor brings a deep knowledge about what it takes to achieve executive-level leadership in today's changing business landscape. He is the author of The Collaborator: Discover Soccer as a Metaphor for Global Business Leadership.

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