Successful Teams: Recognizing a Great Team and Growing One

Insight from Andrew Ware

People often hear that a strong team is important to success. Team members who are productive—independently and cooperatively—define how much can be achieved by an organization. As a member of the Rines Angel Fund, I have recognized that we are able to accomplish greater goals as a group due to the enthusiasm and engagement of students involved, and that the companies that pitch to the Fund are viewed most favorably when supported by a strong management team. Prior to my involvement in the Fund, while I was aware of the significance of teams, I had not thoughtfully considered what truly makes a great team. It is clear to me now, after having served as an associate, principal, and co-managing director—and after having researched dozens of companies—that there a few key characteristics of successful teams. While the strengths of individuals are important, teams thrive when emphasizing communication, clear shared objectives, and a harmonious group dynamic among its members.

A primary contributing factor to successful teams is communication. While seemingly simple, fostering effective communication among members of a group—and encouraging and empowering members to communicate effectively with other groups and organizations—can be challenging. Transparency is central to communication, but not sufficient to ensure that a group cooperates productively. Successful groups must be meaningfully transparent by articulating what it is important that people know and what people want to know. This stems from level-headed leadership, which establishes the structure of the group and implements processes by which information is shared. Within the Rines Angel Fund, we have opened channels of communication between the group’s leaders and all members, which has caused new ideas to emerge and has contributed to trustworthiness and productivity. When everyone is aware of initiatives, those interested in participating are able to easily. Further, we have found that certain companies are very forthcoming with information and candid in responses to questions throughout the due diligence process. While this helps our research to be completed more smoothly, it also indicates a commitment to communication. It is clear that communication contributes to cooperation, trustworthiness, productivity, and overall success.

Beyond being meaningfully transparent in communicating information, projects, and processes, it is important that clear objectives are established and articulated effectively. Without clear objectives, a group cannot achieve a shared vision. Further, finding focus is central to success—just as it is primarily unproductive to multitask, it is unproductive for a team to pursue too many goals or projects at one time. As a Fund, we have the opportunity to see pitches from companies in a variety of industries. While companies all have differentiated products, services, and plans, one feature of strong companies is consistent—they emphasize a manageable number of priorities that is understood by the entire team and that can be communicated to others. Within the Rines Angel Fund, we attempt to approach our objectives similarly. After establishing a set of goals for a semester, often associated with initiatives or projects, we determine how best to define these goals. Once objectives are defined, they can be communicated and achieved by the group—by creating an awareness of objectives, individuals are able to contribute where their interests and expertise intersects, shaping projects further and allowing for objectives to be achieved. In the end, establishing objectives fosters effective collaboration, and clearly contributes to the success of teams.

The group dynamic of a team is also incredibly important to its success, and follows from clear communication and establishing objectives. While the strengths of individuals must be considered, the value of a team is greater than the sum of its parts. In our recruitment of students and throughout the application process for the Rines Angel Fund, we seek strong students and value interdisciplinarity. Encouraging students from all majors to apply and become involved, we create a group with many distinct perspectives and areas of expertise. These unique views, though, do not determine to the success of the group as much as they define the dynamic between group members. Rather than hoping to find a balance of strengths, it is more valuable to create an environment in which everyone contributes, and in which there is harmony among team members. The collaboration that results from a respectful and welcoming atmosphere is reflected by the strongest companies that we see in the Fund. While successful management teams incorporate a variety of perspectives and present a balance of technical expertise and business knowledge, it is clear that companies with team members who simply get along are more productive than those with teams that are less cohesive. Rather than augmenting the skills of one another, strong teams have members that enhance and amplify each other’s abilities. By creating a team with a harmonious group dynamic, more can be achieved more effectively.

Ultimately, I have found that strong teams are critical to success. Within the Rines Angel Fund and among the companies on which we conduct due diligence, it is clear that a team with a focus on communication, shared objectives, and a harmonious group dynamic contribute more to productivity than any other aspect of a project or venture.

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Andrew Ware is completing a dual degree in Economics and Philosophy. He plans to attend law school and to pursue a career at the nexus of ethics, economics, and innovation.