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What is the Secret of Teams?

Today’s post is a guest blog from Mark Miller, Vice President for Organizational Effectiveness at Chick-fil-A and author of The Secret of Teams and Great Leaders Grow : Becoming a Leader for Life.

I’ve been fascinated by teams most of my life. I guess it started when I was about 6 years old.  It was in the days before tee ball – I think it was just called baseball then. From that day until today, I’ve been on countless teams… some good, some really bad and a few great ones. I’ve been on sports teams of all kinds, church teams (or committees) and certainly scores of teams at work. One thing remains constant; the best teams seem to have figured something out that the others have missed. What is it?

At Chick-fil-A, we officially began studying teams in the late 1980′s. It’s a journey we’re still on today. I recently wrote about some of what we’ve learned in a book entitled, The Secret of Teams. Here are five of the principles we’ve discovered:

Great teams focus on results – Teams that achieve greatness pursue great things. Performance is not secondary to the best teams. They understand their objective and they measure their progress. The best teams view the team as a means to achieving something, not as an end to itself.

Talent is the foundation of great teams – Jack Welch said, “The team with the best players usually wins.” He is correct. Great teams invest time, energy and dollars to ensure the right players around the table.

Two types of skills are essential for success – Individual members of the team must be skilled in their assigned role. Also, each member of the team must learn the necessary team skills. Team skills are things like: how to have effective meetings, how to do effective problem solving in a team setting, conflict resolution, etc.

Community separates the great teams from all the others – Many teams have talentand skills – and they perform adequately. However, the best teams, the great ones, have learned that a strong sense of Community will turbo-charge their performance.

Teams don’t drift to greatness – Leadership will be required. The formula to become a high-performing team is not complex, but it is difficult to execute. Creating the type of team that creates sustained, outstanding performance over time begins with a leadership moment – a decision that is supported by ongoing leadership.

What questions do you have about building a great team?

We are so excited to have Mark Miller presenting at this year’s National Leadership Forum.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to interview Mark. Check it out:

Join us for this year’s National Leadership Forum – only 40 spots left!


  1. Jdcoggins on May 25, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Not disagreeing, just a question. On the statement, great teams focus on the results, does this conflict with the idea that the team leader is responsible to keep the team focused on the vision and not just being results oriented? Or is the author saying that keeping focused on vision is a “result”? Also, if focusing on results makes a great team, can the team building process get lost or overshadowed by simply “getting things done?”

  2. Patrick McHugh on May 28, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Tim, i love all your posts and like this one a lot too. Not to criticize Mr. Miller who is obviously a very accomplished person, but his statement great teams focus on results just did not sit right with me. My understanding of the great coach John Wooden is that he never spoke about winning — the result — to his teams but focused to last detail on process — including teaching his teams how to put their socks and shoes on. I know business is very bottom line. But I worry that over focusing on results negates the process that gets there. Here is a blog post that was shared with me that I think expresses my point of view from a business perspective. Thanks for sharing these ideas.

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What is the Secret of Teams?