The defining characteristics of a “best team”

In an appendix to Nine Lies About Work, Roanne Bisby Davis and Ashley Goodall explain, “Four years ago, the human resources team at Cisco set out to measure the world of work as carefully and reliably as possible. Since then, we have led a group of a dozen researchers and data scientists in exploring the characteristics of Cisco ‘s best teams, the relationship between attention and performance, the relative importance of teams and company in our experience at work, and much more. Here are some highlights of what we’ve discovered so far.” They studied a total of 97 different teams at Cisco and share seven highlights. Here are the first three:

l. The best teams are built on strengths.“Harness the individual excellence of each team member, unlock the collective excellence of the team, and do so in an environment of trust.”

2. More-frequent check-ins are associated with increased use of strengths. “Team members who check in with their lerader frequently have an enhanced sense of being able to use their strengths every day, of being recognized for excellent work, and of having opportunities to grow.”

3. There are three distinct sources of engagement. “One way to think of these results is to imagine a team leader having three distinct jobs.” To ensure “her team members feel connected to the purpose and future of the company…to ensure that her team members, as a group, understand and support one another…and to ensure that her team members, individually, understand what’s expected of them and how they can do their best work now and in the future, all while feeling recognized for who they are.”

The other four highlights are:

4. Decreasing engagement leads to voluntary attrition.
5. Attending company events is associated with higher purpose and confidence.
6. Highly engaged people talk about work differently.
7. Some forms of attention are better than others in creating engagement.

Each of the seven is thoroughly discussed (See pages 247-260).

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Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World was co-authored by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall and published by Harvard Business Review Press (April 2019).


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