Don Yaeger on Great Teams: 16 Things High Performing Organizations Do Differently

In this episode, Don Yaeger, author of Great Teams: 16 Things High Performing Organizations Do Differently, discusses his research on why some teams win when others fail. “My research of the business and sports world uncovered sixteen things that successful teams do, and I grouped them into four main pillars,” explains Yaeger. (As you listen, you’ll realize the names of the four pillars create the acronym TEAM.)

Pillar One: Targeting Purpose

“Every team has to have a shared sense of purpose,” says Yaeger, “but this is more a belief than a statement. A high performing team feels a shared purpose in their bones. It becomes part of who they are as a team.” You may have heard about Simon Sinek’s Why concept (if you know the answer to why your work matters, you will enjoy your work more.) The concept behind this pillar is very similar to Sinek’s concept, but it applies to entire teams, not individuals. The sense of purpose for a team identifies who they are serving and why that matters. Whether in business, sports, military operations, or day-to-day life, teams show up more positively when they share a sense of purpose.

Pillar Two: Effective Management

Yaeger explains that team leaders need to be committed to developing others. To build a team to its full potential, a leader should recruit people for a cultural fit and then train them for skills. Profit and loss statements are the roadmap to the future for many companies—but Yeager suggests having the right people in the right positions is a better way to ensure that people and teams are constantly developing and improving. The most successful teams have markers on their roadmap of performance defined as developmental goals, not monetary goals.

Pillar Three: Activating Efficiency

This pillar focuses on a willingness to not just accept change but embrace it, so the team can be successful even in transition. “It is important to build a culture of mentorship. Leaders do that by making their expectations clear and praising good performance that supports the culture. Every member of the team must act as a mentor when necessary. It isn’t the job of only the team leader to be a mentor—everyone needs to own that role.”

An especially good example of this pillar is for leaders to be fully engaged in all meetings or practices to let the team know their performance is the most important thing at that moment. In fact, Yaeger recommends that leaders be either fully engaged and present or fully absent. If a leader isn’t prepared to be there 100 percent, they might as well not show up at all.

Pillar Four: Mutual Direction

Great teams have a true sense of what they ultimately want and what it will take to get there. A football team focuses on the fourth quarter and a business team focuses on the completion of a project. Both teams focus on the finish. By preparing all along the way, great teams build a culture where they can win even in critical situations.

Most important, Yaeger urges team leaders to design the culture they want. “By design or by default, your team will have a culture. So design it the way you want it to be and focus on creating and maintaining it. The best teams aren’t necessarily the ones with the best talent—they are the ones with the strongest culture.”

About The Ken Blanchard Companies

The Ken Blanchard Companies is the global leader in management training. For nearly 40 years, Blanchard has been creating the best managers in the world, training over 150,000 people each year. From the award-winning First-time Manager program—based on the best-selling business book, The New One Minute Manager®—to SLII®, the most widely taught leadership model in the world, Blanchard is the provider of choice of Fortune 500 companies as well as small to medium businesses, governments, and educational and nonprofit organizations.

About Don Yaeger

For more information about Don Yaeger go to



About the Author

Chad Gordon

Chad Gordon is the host of the LeaderChat podcast and one of Blanchard's top client partners dedicated to helping global organizations lead at a higher level.

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