Forging Elite Teams: A Two-Day Team Experience

Two things differentiate elite teams from others: they regularly and consistently perform to a distinctively high level, and they are much more player-led rather than manager-led. They are not only better on the field of play, their leadership is emergent from the team itself, which allows them to be more agile as opportunities and challenges arise around them. This custom program brings the routines of the most elite teams to bear on existing teams through a combination of dialogues, learning experiences, and exposure to experts of elite team performance. The goal is to combine practical insights with applied change in a manner that helps already functional teams move from strong to elite. 


The world’s best teams perform at the highest level while being player-led. While leadership from the top matters, it’s not a bottleneck to decision-making or performance. Elite teams bring this way of working to life in how they select members of the team, how they operate and work together, and how they develop themselves over time.

Selection: Whom Elite Teams Choose

Like all teams, elite teams admit new team members based on a combination of assessed judgment, cultural fit, potential, and skillfulness. Unlike other teams, though, elite teams work hard to ensure strong selection of new team members across three attributes:

1. Team Culture Fit 
2. Peer Leadership Ability
3. Standards of Excellence

Operations: How Elite Teams Work

Elite teams perform differently. They exhibit greater agility in a changing environment, leadership can emerge from any member of the team given the demands of the situation, and they foster the climate of trust, respect, and accountability that this type of performance demands. They do so by creating distinctive ways of working in three areas:

  1. Agility. Elite teams respond with speed to emergent opportunities and threats, and they recognize that no plan survives contact with reality. As a result, they cultivate networks and ways of engaging the world around them that foster strong situational awareness, and they cultivate conversations and routines by which they can continually assess and reassess their priorities, routines, and assumptions.
  2. A player-led ethos. Elite teams operate with the understanding that peer accountability to high standards is the highest form of accountability. This means a willingness to defer to colleagues, respecting collegial territory, and the ability to lead as first-among-equals when the time is right. For the team leader, this means knowing how to create an environment of strong psychological safety and empowerment and acceding leadership when the time is right.
  3. Trust. Members of elite teams operate with high levels of trust in each other and in the outcomes they can create, and they are marked by trust in what colleagues can do AND who colleagues are and what they stand for. This trust is not an accident – it’s hard-won through an ongoing pattern of conversation, shared experience, and rituals.

Development: How Elite Teams Improve

Elite teams recognize that getting better is central to their ability to continually outperform others, and as a result, they make team development a central component of their culture and routines. They foster this developmental environment in three ways:

  1. Frequent, difficult practice. Elite teams spend significant time preparing for and practicing their work as a unit rather than as individuals and do so under circumstances more challenging than what they typically face. They also create a much higher frequency of practice than other teams, making routine team practice a norm of their operating motion rather than something that is done when needed.
  2. High individual standards of self-development. “Always getting better” is a maxim of the individuals on elite teams, and team members establish structured annual developmental goals, backed by practical developmental plans, focused on keeping strengths contemporary and improving weaknesses.
  3. A feedback and learning culture. Consistent, practical feedback is not only present in elite teams, but also nearly constant. In addition to providing feedback in informal settings, elite teams also have formal routines by which they can mine structured improvement from their performances and strong cultures of learning away from structured feedback routines.

Program Agenda

The program agenda centers on six dialogues specific to the functioning of elite teams based on the pre- program assessment. The dialogues have two parts: an initial conversation about how elite teams function in that aspect of their teamwork and a second conversation in which the team in the room comes to specific conclusions about how their process should change based on that dialogue. An elite team expert – a member of CRA | Admired Leadership®, an outside expert, or both – participates in each dialogue and adds insight to the conversation. The six conversations can be any mix of the following:
  • Articulating team culture and selecting talent for cultural fit
  • Selecting talent for peer leadership ability
  • Defining and conveying team standards of excellence
  • Fostering team agility and situational awareness
  • The player-led ethos: Accountability, performance, and respect among peers
  • Developing practice routines of difficulty and repetition
  • The player-led ethos: Granting and exerting player-leadership
  • Setting and maintaining high standards of personal self-development
  • Creating and maintaining relationships of trust among peers
  • Cultivating a culture of continual feedback and learning

Pre-Program Assessment

Forging Elite Teams program is bespoke based on a pre-program assessment of the team’s strengths and opportunities across our Elite Teams Model. This brief assessment garners team members perspectives on how the team selects talent, how the team operates, and how the team develops its members and evolves its work over time. Based on this assessment and brief interview with team leaders, the program team curates an agenda of six conversations designed to address the team’s most notable developmental opportunity. 

Program Location

The location for Forging Elite Teams is Colorado Springs, CO, a 90-minute drive from Denver and a direct flight from Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, and Minneapolis. Colorado Springs offers proximity to the United States Air Force Academy, the US Olympic & Paralympic Training Center, and the National Museum of World War II Aviation. Event lodging and most sessions will take place at The Broadmoor, a five-star resort near Colorado Springs. It also offers the Ranch at Emerald Valley, a 16-acre mountain ranch with cabins on Cheyenne mountain.

Program Leaders

Eric Springer: A 25-year veteran of US Special Operations Command, Eric applies a career of executive leadership, strategic planning, and consulting to coaching and advising organizational leaders at all levels. Raised in Germany, he brings an international perspective from operational experience spanning 61 countries across EMEA, APAC, and LATAM. He is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and holds master’s degrees from the University of Oklahoma and US Army Command & General Staff College. 

Alan Nelson: Alan Nelson serves senior CRA | Admired Leadership clients as a process advisor and executive coach, and he specializes in the unique communication challenges of C-suite executives. His recent clients include BAE, Bristol Myers Squibb, Charles Schwab, Dell Technologies, Facebook, General Mills, Hasbro, Levi’s, McDonald’s, Morgan Stanley, and NASCAR. He also works with several multilateral institutions, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank Group.

Contact us for additional information:

Admired Leadership Institute provides participants with a unique and memorable environment to explore how to be a better leader. It is designed to create a rich dialogue among peer-like leaders who can share organizational challenges, exchange innovative ideas, and better themselves.