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Winning Team

Build a Winning Leadership Team

One of the most important things an Entrepreneur or CEO can do is build a strong leadership team.  Even in solo sports, such as professional mountain biking or golf, there are people who help with strategy, skill development, strength training, and the list goes on. No top athlete, Entrepreneur, or CEO can reach peak performance without a winning team.

Winning Team

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Whether you are putting together your first leadership team or pushing an existing one to a higher level of performance, there are five aspects to get right. If you are going to have a team, ensure it is the BEST team possible.

  1. Decide how many will be on the team. Five plus or minus two is the magic number. Drop below, and you lose the benefit of collective intelligence. Go above, and you lose the ability to ask the really hard questions and really dive deep into strategy.
  2. Commit to a Team #1 mindset. This is hyper-critical for peak company performance. Team #1 means that, for whomever is on the team, the health and well being of the leadership team takes priority over the divisions or teams that the members support. Said another way, Team #1 must be committed to the Full Company Objectives and not just the objectives for their divisions.
  3. Create a Team #1 playbook. Hopefully your company has Core Values and a Core Purpose in place to drive healthy growth. Team #1 needs its own set of rules, agreements, and aspirational values to guide them through People, Strategy, and Execution discussions. Team #1 is still accountable for the full company Core Values, but to hit peak performance or reach a higher level, aspiration to achieve more is required.
  4. Behave your way to Trust. This starts with the CEO. The company leader must be vulnerable, admit to mistakes, and share fears so others can see vulnerability in action. Once the team learns to be vulnerable as well, their guards will come down and real work can get done. This accelerates the team’s ability to separate themselves from what is good for them personally versus what is best for the team and the company. A good rule of thumb is ensuring one quarter to one half of meeting agenda is committed to building team health.
  5. Set the cadence. Establish an annual calendar of Team #1 meetings. These are usually separate from Annual and Quarterly Planning sessions. Annual and Quarterly sessions are focused on Strategy and Execution while Team #1 meetings are focused on organizational health and full company alignment.

You have heard it before and you’ll hear it again. The best players don’t win, it’s the best team that wins. Leverage the power of the Team #1 concept and Crush the Competition!

The Winning Team

For a sports team to win the big game and stand atop the podium with the big trophy, it not only needs the best players at each position, but also all of the individual athletes working well together toward their ultimate goal: winning. To be the champ, an athletic team can’t just have the best players on the field, coaches on the sidelines or front-office staff to manage the day-to-day business. It also needs everyone who influences its success – vendors, sponsors, ticket buyers, consultants and the league office – to buy into what it’s selling.

The same things are true in business, and, just like in sports, a poorly functioning team will prevent you from achieving your version of the Ultimate Podium Finish™, the goals you’ve set that will determine whether you’ve beaten the competition and won the game of business in your field.

Just like in sports, your team isn’t just the people who work at your organization, but also your entire universe of customers, vendors, contractors, advisors, coaches, consultants, etc. You want to attract and retain A-players – the people who are onboard with your Core Values and achieving (or beating) performance goals – and weed out the players who drag your business down.

Build A Team Of A-Players

We’ve all heard stories about locker-room issues that prevent a sports team from winning games. This also happens in business. To build a team full of A-players you must address the things that repel A-players from your business. Often, this is management not taking any action to fix problems with B or C players, bad processes or customers who are more trouble than they’re worth to the bottom line.

A-players maintain your Core Values – the rules and behaviors that define your culture and personality – and are repelled by co-workers whose bad or inappropriate behaviors cause workplace tension or reflect poorly on your business.

First, make sure that everyone on your current team knows your Core Values and has a fair chance to show whether they can live by them.

Next, you need to identify your A-players and deal with the B- and C-players. Place everyone on an ABC matrix.

  • B-players: weak job performers, but their behavior reflects your Core Values
  • B/C-players: strong performers, but they have behavior problems
  • C-players: poor performance and poor behavior

Now you need to deal with what you’ve learned. Let’s tackle this in reverse order:

  • C-players: eliminate them, either by terminating them or finding a new role that will give them an opportunity to become A-players.
  • B/C-players: clarify behavioral expectations and give them an opportunity to change the attitudes or actions that are keeping them out of the A quadrant.
  • B-players: offer job training to help improve their job performance. (Consider Laurie Bassi’s exhaustive research, which showed that training and development produced a 672% ROI, more than any other investment a business owner could make.)
  • A-players: take actions to keep the A-players happy and engaged. (Dealing with the B- and C- players should help.)

Get Your A-Players Working Together

Building a team of A-players isn’t enough for small and midmarket companies to achieve the Ultimate Podium Finish™. Those A-players must work together, driving as a team toward your goals. The technique to breaking down those silos is creating cross-functional responsibilities. During your quarterly planning, identify quarterly Rocks, and the Tasks needed to achieve them, that involve multiple departments. Although one person is accountable for each Rock, he or she must work with people across the business to achieve it.

This strategy encourages leaders to work together, and it also exposes any interpersonal issues or other below-the-surface things that are preventing your people from being a team. As those issues surface, they must be quickly addressed with team-building exercises or other interventions to get healthy.

Why It’s Important

Just like in sports, your team can make or break your ability to achieve your Ultimate Podium Finish™. Take steps now to ensure that your team is full of A-players – high-performers who reflect your company’s Core Values and are committed to the business’ success.