December is a magical month for sports fans. The football and hockey seasons are heating up and the baseball season is just a memory. This can be a noisy month, too, if you have as many sports fans in your household as I do. But isn’t it fun to see your favorite teams rising to the challenge and performing at their very best?
I think it’s also fun to see successful business teams performing at the highest levels. But, there’s more at stake to successful teamwork than just fun. Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx, the $36 billion transportation and logistics company, says “Leading a team is the single most important issue in running an organization today.”
Why is teamwork such a critical issue? Perhaps it’s because we see the results of poor teamwork every day: ineffective communication, misunderstood goals, mistakes, misunderstandings, personality conflicts, finger pointing and so on. What team in your organization hasn’t suffered from similar problems, at one time or another? Even the greatest sports teams stumble occasionally on their way to a championship.
“Individual commitment to a group effort . . . that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
-- Vince Lombardi
What Makes a Team Successful?
Sports teams and business teams have much in common. In order to win, all members of a team have to understand the vision and recognize their role in accomplishing the team’s goals. Teammates have to learn the playbook (strategies) and work together to execute the game plan (procedures) when it counts most.
Successful team members know the key roles that they play whether they are the star performers or the steady role-players who keep the team glued together. Team members also know what they need to do to backfill when teammates go down with injuries or setbacks. But these skills and behaviors don’t always come naturally, so it’s up to the team leader or coach to set the ground rules and expectations.
How Leaders Build and Sustain Strong Teams
Here are a few ways you can build your teams to the next level of play:
Keep the Vision Alive - Spend time reminding your team of the “big picture”—the dream and picture of success that you are trying to achieve.
Motivate and Coach - Make sure you set team and individual goals and constantly provide feedback on what is going well and what can be improved.
Reward and Celebrate – Great coaches and leaders celebrate the milestones that are achieved and acknowledge the individual and team efforts that contribute to success along the way.
The process of building a winning team starts in “training camp,” but the foundations of success run much deeper. In any successful organization winning is built into the culture. Do you think it’s an accident that certain teams win championships time and time again? Whether we’re talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Yankees, Detroit Red Wings or any other long-term winning franchise, successful teamwork always starts at the top and runs throughout the organization.
Dr. Jan Ferri-Reed is president of KEYGroup, a speaking, training and assessment firm that provides guidance to leaders who want a more engaged, productive and profitable workforce. As a consultant and speaker, Jan provides support to organizations including GlaxoSmithKline, U.S. Steel Corporation, Pitney Bowes and MTV Networks. She is also co-author of the best-selling book, “Keeping the Millennials: Why Companies Are Losing Billions in Turnover to This Generation and What to Do About It.” To hire her, visit: www.KEYGroupConsulting.com or call 724-942-7900.
If you missed Dr. Jan Ferri-Reed’s Lab Manager Academy webinar “Attracting, Retaining and Motivating a High-Performance Team”, originally broadcast on Wednesday December 1, 2010, visit www.labmanager.com/motivatingteam to watch the archived video.