10 Commandments for a highly effective team — Did we miss some?

In order to create a successful team you will need a powerful and proven leader. Admiral Eric Olson is one of the best. The Admiral is the former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command and retired Four-star Navy SEAL who has over 38 years in government.
Admiral Olson by cdorobek


He told the crowd at FOSE about his list of 10 commandments to build a high powered team.

  1. Know the purpose
  2. Select the right people — or get to know the people thrust on you
  3. Train and educate your team from the start but don’t stop training
  4. Present your team with adversity and see how they handle it —Character under stress cannot be faked
  5. Organize for success
  6. Learn fearlessly
  7. Show trust in your team
  8. Hold them to a high standard
  9. Be their advocate and champion
  10. Live the life of a leader — Leaders are never off duty

What other commandments should be added to Admiral Olson’s list?

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11 Comments

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Profile Photo Roslyn Brown

Love the list! At IRS, my Team and I created our Seven Habits of a Highly Effective Team and had it laminated and posted on our office door for all to see the code by which we strived to operate. To Admiral Olson’s list, I would add the following to #7: ” … and provide plenty of recognition to team members when they accomplish goals.”

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Profile Photo Scott Span

Good list, though I see nothing in it about accountability – interesting. In my team performance and leadership work I often find highly effective teams start with accountable leaders, and accountable members. I would also add communication – clear, open and honest communication – which, to Francie’s point, helps create what I see as the #1 ‘commandment’ of an effective team – trust!

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Profile Photo James Deimer

#4 is jumped out at me right away – “Present your team with adversity and see how they handle it – Character under stress cannot be faked”. More & more folks today hide behind passive/aggressive behaviors – and I think the key to building & sustaining highly effective work teams is getting folks to maximize opportunities to work through conflict and creating an environment where all can air out feelings and express the root issues around frustration. Funny thing is that the passive-aggressive concept was developed by the US military to describe soldiers who would not obey instructions happily. I think the Admiral was onto something as Special Operations & Navy SEALS are highly adaptive to their circumstances – and whining is NOT allowed!!!

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Profile Photo David W. Scott

Celebrate failures! (as long as no one’s hurt or killed and there’s no excessive property damage) This encourages appropriate risk-taking.

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Profile Photo Roslyn Brown

Andrew … Sorry for the delay in responding. I have been searching for our List of 7 Habits of a Highly Effective Team but I guess I didn’t keep it. I left IRS in 2006, and worked at 2 other agencies before retiring in 2009 (after 37 years of Federal service). When you retire, you toss a lot of work-related things/keepsakes that you don’t want cluttering up your house (smile). Nevertheless, as you can see, folks have added a number of habits and traits of highly effective teams that reflect the values of their work teams. If you haven’t already done so, I challenge all of you to sit down with your work units and develop a list of values that you want to live by, and to post them prominently at your workspace or common area for all to see. Without shared values, peak performance isn’t possible. In addition to recognition and attaboys to celebrate our successes, another one of our 7 Habits was to “Keep a sense of humor” which gets to David’s comment below. Even when “mistakes” were made, it often wasn’t the end of the world. It was more important to my Team for us to simply work together to fix it, and to do a post mortem to learn from it. I like the way David put it … celebrate failures too. I’m heading over to the HR & EEO Conference for the next few days. If any of you plan to attend, please introduce yourselves to me! I’m doing a presentation tomorrow on “A Fair Workplace.”

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Profile Photo Jon P. Bird

Related to #10: Lead by example! Also as a corollary to #3: Revisit the current mission and reinforce the standards you’ve set.

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Profile Photo Ita Quattrone

I like to add for #7. Beside showing trust in your team, leaders should delegate some works to their team. It’s not a wise idea to micromanage the process when leaders have delegated projects to their team.

Give crystal clear guidance from the start up of what leaders expectation and/or goals for projects. Make team to be part of the solution in the workplace.

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