Creating Championship Teams for Your Business

It's game time--for your work team, that is! Your business team faces tough competition every day. As a leader, it's your responsibility to help them win. The best way to ensure their success? Treat your employees like a sports coach treats his players:

  • Spend time developing them before they have to perform;
  • Make sure they have a solid game plan they can use;
  • Manage from the sidelines and let them execute;
  • Celebrate wins and learn from losses.

Use these Great Ideas to build a cohesive, productive team that achieves its objectives without micromanagement:

Help Them Prepare.
Just as a winning team practices regularly to prepare for a big game, you should help your work teams prepare to succeed. The quality of your team's execution will almost always be directly proportionate to the quality of its preparation. So put the hard work in now, to make sure they're ready for any game-time situation:

  • Nurture each individual's role - Discover and develop the unique talents and strengths of each team member. Help them overcome their shortcomings and grow as professionals.
  • Create a game plan - Establish clear, agreed-upon objectives, and outline the steps for achieving them.
  • Equip your team to execute - Supply the resources your team needs to accomplish its goals.
  • Lead them through adversity - When things get tough, make sure they don't give up.

Play up each team member's strengths.
Creating a championship team takes more than just hiring the fastest, brightest, most experienced players. You have to understand each employee's unique strengths--and use them to the team's advantage. Just as some athletes have a natural affinity for defending or attacking, some employees are naturally made to support or sell.

A great team is more than just a collection of great individuals. It leverages each member's natural strengths, so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Actively manage egos.
Team members should have a healthy sense of self; but if one person's ego gets out of control, it can jeopardize the entire group's success. And although it may be easy to give an egomaniac the boot if he's a slacker, it's much harder to fire him if he's an essential high performer.

To maintain a balanced team, proactively manage self-centered members. Nip egotistical behaviors--multitasking during team meetings, failing to respond in a timely manner, exhibiting dominant behavior--in the bud. Decide, as a team, how to address counterproductive behaviors--and then follow through.

Create individual and team agreements.
No matter what responsibilities your team has, members must agree upon who will do what to accomplish their objectives. So ask individuals to openly commit to what they will do. Collectively set rules for how the team will function. Establish guidelines for managing interdependencies. Declaring agreement upfront clarifies employee obligations, fosters collaborative management and lays the groundwork for successful team operation.

Manage from the sidelines.
As a "coach," you don't actually play the game--that's your team's job. So once you've established clear expectations and guidelines, it's time to let go. Take your hands off the wheel and trust your employees to make good decisions.

To keep from micromanaging your teams, follow these simple rules:

  • Don't try to teach team members while they're executing. Instead, plan the next learning opportunity and make notes for future lessons (kind of like reviewing Sunday's game tape on Monday morning). When mistakes occur, help everyone learn from them.
  • Be a source of guidance, motivation and advice for your employees. Resist the temptation to correct their actions based on how you would've handled a situation.
  • Stay objective when leading your team, especially when strong emotions are involved. If you address a person's actions and behaviors, you set the stage for resolution and collaboration.
  • Find ways to eliminate the obstacles that block successful teamwork. Improve your company's support structure to facilitate execution of your plans.

Recognize and reward team accomplishments.
Make sure you have systems in place to acknowledge successful teams, including taskforces, workgroups and your company as a whole. When the efforts of more than one individual combine to create a successful outcome, mark the occasion in some way. Whether it's a simple "pat on the back" during a meeting, a mention in the company newsletter or a cash bonus, rewarding team accomplishments promotes cohesiveness and paves the way for future success.

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