7 Steps to Take Your Team from Good to Great to Exceptional

Apr 29, 2016 10:45:00 AM


Please raise your hand if your team is not performing to it's potential. Could employee engagement be improved or teamwork be better? Are there people in your team who need to improve their communication skills?

Many teams with great people are not reaching their potential simply because they are not focussing on the right things. There are many examples of teams with comprehensive leadership programs, annual strategic planning sessions and regular team building events, yet they still can't seem to create the team culture they want or get the results they need.

Well here's the good news. Creating an Exceptional Team doesn't have to be that daunting. By focussing on a few high-impact areas of team development you will maximise your return-on-investment of time, energy and resources and lift the performance levels of your team.

Firstly, let's determine how well your team is performing. 

Consider this Team Performance Scale.


At what level of performance would you say your team is performing to?

To get a more accurate rating take our free online 7 Step Team Potential Assessment.


Archimedes once said: "Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it and I shall move the world."

I've paraphrased this quote for team leaders by saying: "Use the right levers and a fulcrum of positive mindsets on which to place them and you shall lift your team."

In the context of leading teams, the 'levers' refer to the focus areas for team development. Too many teams are missing levers, using the wrong ones or trying to use them without a fulcrum of positive mindsets.

After 30+ years experience in managing, leading and consulting to teams, my research has identified 7 key levers and 1 key mindset essential for the development of high performing teams. I have incorporated these into the Exceptional Teams Model. I think Archimedes would like it!

Exceptional Teams Model

You can download a copy of the model here.

Now, let's explore the 7 High Impact Levers and how they can lift your team performance to achieve the 3 Key Outcomes of an Exceptional Team: 

  • High performing people

  • Great morale

  • Excellent results


7 Steps to Take Your Team from Good to Great to Exceptional


Engaging Leadership Icon


Step 1. Develop Engaging Leaders

Your first step towards building an exceptional team is to develop the leadership capability of your managers. Exceptional Teams have Engaging Leaders who are able to connect with their people and lead, influence, manage and motivate them towards desired goals and objectives. As the old Greek saying goes, "A fish rots from the head first", and this is also the case when it comes to teams. An Exceptional Team ‘thrives from the head first’ with managers who demonstrate Engaging Leadership. 

How engaging and influential are your managers?

Learn how to develop Engaging Leaders at the Faculty of Leadership


Crystal Clear Strategy Icon


Step 2. Develop a Crystal Clear Strategy

As well as developing our managers ability to lead and motivate others we need them to be very clear about team goals, objectives and behavioural expectations. Exceptional Teams are ‘crystal clear’ about: where their team is headed (vision and mission); behavioural and performance expectations (values and goals); how they will measure progress of team members and the team as a whole (personal and team KPIs); and how they will monitor results (regular team and personal performance feedback). Exceptional Teams not only have a great strategy, they over-communicate it so that everyone is crystal clear about their roles, goals and expectations.

How clear and well-communicated is your strategy?

Learn how to develop a Crystal Clear Strategy at the Faculty of Strategy


Positive Productive People Icon


Step 3. Develop Positive Productive People

It could be argued that this step is the most important of all. After all, you can have excellent leaders and an outstanding strategy, but without positive, productive people your plans won't be realised. Exceptional Teams have positive, productive people who don’t rely on extrinsic rewards or micro-management to do their job.  They have a sense of urgency and have a ‘can-do’ attitude. These characteristics see them focussing on solutions rather than problems. Positive Productive People have good reserves of physical and mental energy, and are are efficient, aspirational and optimistic. They are, of course, Lifters and bring positive energy to a team environment.

How positive and productive are your people?

Learn how to develop Positive Productive People at the Faculty of Productivity


Quality Team Relationships Icon


Step 4. Develop Quality Team Relationships

In their research 'Simply the Best Workplaces in Australia', Hull and Read determined that the number 1 key driver of an excellent workplace (without exception) was Quality Team Relationships. People in Exceptional Teams get along well and communicate effectively with each other. They develop and maintain quality communication and proactively promote positive relationships in the team. ‘Quality Relationships’ is incorporated into their set of values, and people are encouraged and enabled to develop self-awareness, empathy, communication skills and trust with one another.

How would you rate the quality of your team relationships?

Learn how to develop Quality Team Relationships at the Faculty of Relationships


Employee Engagement Icon


Step 5. Develop Highly Engaged Employees

Step number 3 highlights the need for positive, productive people in teams, however, a positive attitude alone is not enough.  We also need our people to embrace and engage with the work that they do. Exceptional Teams are full of people who love their job. They find their work stimulating and a challenge that enables them to achieve pre-determined goals. People recognise that what they do makes a positive difference and feel acknowledged for their contribution to the success of the team. Highly engaged employees show initiative, take pride in their work, enjoy what they do and feel they are contributing to and making progress towards a higher ideal.

How engaged in their work are your employees?

Learn how to develop Highly Engaged Employees at the Faculty of Engagement


Teamwork Icon


Step 6. Develop Excellent Teamwork

It was Aristotle who once said "The whole is greater that the sum of it's parts", and this quote can be defined with one word - Synergy (also Greek). Ancient Greeks recognised the importance of teamwork to get results. Exceptional Teams are efficient and effective because people work together well. There is also a strong sense of community and uniqueness that makes people feel they belong to a ‘tribe’. Exceptional Teams engender a sense of belonging, trust and mutual respect and a collective commitment to team goals, or as the 3 (or 4) Musketeers would say, have an attitude of 'All for one and one for all!'

How well do your people work together as a team?

Learn how to develop Excellent Teamwork at the Faculty of Teamwork


Team Culture Icon


Step 7. Develop an Uplifting Team Culture

Zig Ziglar once said something along the lines of "Motivation is like hygiene, if you don't do it every day it doesn't work." In many ways, developing an Exceptional Team Culture is the same. Teams need to develop an ongoing process of maintenance and renewal to keep people fresh, vibrant and motivated. Exceptional Teams have systems and processes that promote and enable an Uplifting Culture where people ‘lift’ each other with their thoughts, words, standards and actions. You can feel the positive energy when you enter a workplace with a 'Lift Culture', and it's this feeling that attracts and retains great people and enables outstanding results.

Developing a Lift Mindset - The Fulcrum of The Exceptional Teams Model

A key part of developing an Uplifting Team Culture is to establish the Fulcrum of the Exceptional Teams Model - a Lift Mindset.


I'm a Lifter!

When your thoughts, words and actions lift others 


To explain further, there are 3 types of people in teams.

icon-mindset-dragger.gif  icon-mindset-gomo.gif icon-mindset-lifter.gif
Draggers  GoMo's Lifters

Draggers have a negative influence on team cultures. They drag down the spirits, actions and achievements of those around them through verbal and non verbal negativity, low standards of work and poor behaviour.

GoMo stands for Going through the Motions. GoMo's do what they have to, but have low energy levels and take little pride in their work. They do their job but rarely show initiative or put in the extra effort.

Lifters lift others with their positive energy and enthusiasm. They have a positive influence on team cultures because they lift the spirits, actions and achievements of those around them through their thoughts, words, high standards and positive action. 

What percentage of Draggers, GoMos and Lifters does your team have?

3 Ways to Promote the Lift Mindset  


1. Communicate the Lift Mindset - 'I'm a Lifter!'

  • Teach people the difference between Draggers, Gomos and Lifters

  • Encourage self-awareness of Drag, GoMo and Lift behaviour

  • Reward and recognise Lift behaviour, call out Drag behaviour 


2. Promote and Enable the 4 Laws of a Lift Culture

  • Lift your Thoughts

  • Lift your Words

  • Lift your Standards

  • Lift your Actions


3. Recalibrate Draggers and GoMos

  • Support

  • Rehabilitate

  • Replace 

Lift cultures don't condemn, judge or put down Draggers or GoMo's as there are often external factors causing these mindsets. In fact, management or organisational issues may be contributing factors. Lifters do their best to support Draggers or GoMo's by demonstrating empathy, giving them feedback in a respectful way, providing counselling and/or training to improve their performance and by trying to lift their spirits where possible.

In 'Good to Great' Jim Collins talks about 'getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off it.' If Draggers and GoMo's cannot be lifted 'above the line' of satisfactory behaviour or performance they need to 'get off the bus.' 

How uplifting is your team culture?

Learn how to develop an Uplifting Team Culture at the Faculty of Culture



The Exceptional Teams Model: Your Blueprint for Team Success

Apply the 7 High Impact Levers

  1. Develop Engaging Leaders

  2. Develop a Crystal Clear Strategy

  3. Develop Positive Productive People

  4. Develop Quality Team Relationships

  5. Develop Highly Engaged Employees

  6. Develop Excellent Teamwork

  7. Develop an Uplifting Team Culture

On a Fulcrum of Positive Mindsets

  1. Communicate the Lift Mindset - 'I'm a Lifter!'

  2. Promote and Enable the 4 Laws of a Lift Culture 

  3. Recalibrate Draggers and GoMos

And Build an Exceptional Team with:

  • High performing people

  • Great morale

  • Excellent results



Ready to get started? Here's a simple way.

First,  Take an Assessment

Find out how your team rates on the Team Performance Scale by taking our free 7 Step Team Potential Assessment.

If you prefer you can use the paper based version

Next, Highlight Areas for Improvement

Take the printed report from your 7 Step Team Potential Assessment 

Tick the areas for improvement on the Exceptional Teams Blueprint Planner. These become your Key Focus Areas. 

Then, Download Free Resources

Download free tools, tips and tactics for each of your Key Focus Areas.

  1. Exceptional Teams Resources
  2. Leadership Resources

  3. Strategy Resources

  4. Personal Productivity Resources

  5. Team Relationships Resources

  6. Employee Engagement Resources

  7. Teamwork Resources

  8. Uplifting Culture Resources

Now, Create Your Blueprint

List the strategies, tactics, tools and templates you will use for each of your Key Focus Areas on the Exceptional Teams Blueprint Planner.

Put Your Plan in Into Action

Gradually implement each of your planned actions.


Track Your Progress

Retake the 7 Step Team Potential Assessment every 3/6 months to see how you've improved since the previous assessment. 

Use the Team Pulse Check Tool to check-in with team members each month. Use the Monthly Team Pulse Check Tool to track your progress over the year.


Stay Motivated!

Zig Ziglar once said: "Motivation is like hygiene. To make it last you have do it everyday." 

Subscribe to Team Talk Blog at the top of this page and get a regular dose of team motivation as well as tools, tips and tactics to help your team become Exceptional!

What tools, tips and tactics lift your team? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

David Koutsoukis Head Shot   

David Koutsoukis is a leadership speaker, trainer and team building facilitator who empowers teams to lift performance and get results. He is known as a dynamic and inspiring conference keynote speaker and recognised for his engaging leadership training workshops and fun team building activities. David is based in Perth, Western Australia and works with leaders and their teams throughout Australia and the Asia-Pacific region through speaking, training, facilitation and in-house strategic planning projects.

                     Blog Icon              LinkedIn icon              Twitter Icon              YouTube Icon              Pinterest Icon
David Koutsoukis

Written by David Koutsoukis

David Koutsoukis is the founder of the Exceptional Teams Academy - a company that Empowers Teams to LIFT Performance. David is famous for Inspiring Leaders and LIFTING Teams through engaging, clever and fun conference presentations.