6 Keys to a Winning Team

Selecting the right people is just the beginning of building a successful team for your business. However, you cannot simply expect that your team alone will transform your business and take it to its next level of performance.

It is equally important to have the following six elements in place:

1. Strong leadership

Tom Landry, the former coach of the Dallas Cowboys, said, "Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you're in control, they're in control."

Strong leadership requires creating a working environment that encourages the cooperation of your team members. By encouraging and inspiring them, and in turn, they will inspire and encourage the customers.

The goal of strong leadership is to maximise the "discretionary effort" that team members provide to meet the team or company goals. That's the extra effort people provide if they want to. Too often employees will do just what they have to do in order to get by.

In his best-selling business book "Good to Great," author Jim Collins identifies common leadership elements that top performing organisations have in place to allow them to tap into this wealth of discretionary effort.

The most important element is what Collins calls "Level 5 leadership." While these leaders have the ability to motivate their teams to pursue a clear and compelling vision and generate higher performance, they also demonstrate a unique blend of personal humility and professional will as they lead from the front to create the discretionary effort from all team members.

Another important element is the "the window and the mirror" concept to both protect and energise the leader's team. When things were going well, Level 5 leaders look out the "window" and credit their team for the success; when things are going poorly they look in the "mirror" and take the responsibility for poor performance.

2. Common goals

Teams need to understand what their common business goals are and those goals need to supersede all individual goals. Sports teams provide an excellent example of this concept.

If the team understands that a common goal is to win the championship, then it will be easier for all team members to focus and concentrate on the team goal. If one or more team members are focused on individual goals, such as winning the scoring title, the performance of the entire team can be negatively affected.

Business is similar in this respect. If the salesperson is just focused on bringing in orders regardless of the cost to produce and ship that order, the common goal of maximising profit will be at risk.

As people do what they are recognised and rewarded for, it is critical that the recognition and reward structure for individuals and for teams is consistent with the company's common goals.

Setting common goals for the business starts with the owner's vision. This must be regarded as the central aim and leaders must enlist the support of all team members to inspire them to do the things that they have to do.

3. Rules of the game

Employees also need to understand the rules that govern the way the owner conducts the business. The rules must be written down and available to them.

If the owner doesn't provide employees with the "rules of the game," they will go outside the boundaries.

The process of setting the rules of the game will include specifying company culture and values as well as ensuring that individual roles and responsibilities are defined with positional contracts, and operations and procedures manuals.

Without providing defined rules including the company's culture, the owner or manager will need to rely on policing to run the business. Also, if the owner doesn't establish the culture, the employees will create a de facto culture that may not be to the owner's liking or in the best interests of the company.

4. Action plan

Another key element for a winning team is a strong action plan that is spelt out in clear and unambiguous terms to all members of the team. While the common goals referred to above identify what the owner and the business want to do, the action plan identifies how the goals will be achieved. A good action plan will assign ownership of tasks, identify what resources are required, set timelines for when tasks should be completed, and provide measurement details of the current status of the tasks over the defined time periods.

5. Support risk-taking

Business is all about risk and reward. To make the business grow, a leader must be willing to support prudent risk-taking by the team. If the owner doesn't allow risk-taking, the business will lag behind market leaders. The level of risk-taking is usually related to the company's culture.

6. 100 percent inclusion and involvement

The art of inclusion is driven by communication to all members of the team. By providing 100 percent inclusion the owner can then require 100 percent involvement as an expectation of the organisation's culture.

This will lead to trust and a comfort level by the owner to delegate responsibilities.


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