“Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.” – Casey Stengel
It’s that time of year again – that time where winter and spring do their tug of war and the local baseball teams don their cleats in preparation for what promises to be a winning season. Each team starts out thinking that, of course, they will be the champions this year.
The fact is, no team starts out wanting to lose. We all want to win. But somewhere along the way, we realize there are winners, and there are losers…and so we have to fight to win.
In my work, I often am called upon to work with teams. Sometimes I’m engaged to help make a good team better. Sometimes I’m called upon to help the losing team begin to score some wins. It’s tough work – but it’s also rewarding when I get to see folks hit home runs.
From my observation, here are 4 Corner Posts to Having a Winning Team:
Train – Every team must train, even the pro athletes. You can’t just go out there and wing it and expect to win. And yet, I see business leaders just throwing work at employees without taking the time to be sure they are trained and conditioned to do the work. If you are an employee, on the other hand, take the initiative to get trained in your career area. Be the best you can be, and never stop growing. Be, as Seth Godin writes about, a “Linchpin”.
Evaluate– A good coach knows his players. He knows their strengths, their weaknesses, and where they will play their best. Do you, as a leader, know your people that well? Do you know who is best suited for very specific types of work? Putting the right person in the right position makes a huge difference in the performance of the team and the organization as a whole. Having all your players in their proper positions will create a winning team any day.
Ask – When was the last time you asked the advice of someone who reports to you? The fact is (and this may be a hard pill to swallow), there are areas where they know more than you. Asking them shows honor. And, by the way, if you’re going to ask, make sure you also listen to what they have to say. A good leader doesn’t know everything; a good leader finds a team that knows what he or she doesn’t know.
Manage – You must manage your people well. Ensure they have the tools and the environment they need to thrive. Manage the flow of work so their time can be focused on the things they do best. Be sure they have enough work to keep them challenged, but not so much that they feel buried beneath the load. This is very common today, as companies are forced to do more work with fewer resources. Put the right people in the right places and manage the load, and you may be surprised at the productivity level. And on a more personal level, keep in touch with your people enough to know when something is wrong, and address it early on. Most team dysfunction stems from some small misunderstanding or issue that was not dealt with at the onset. Resentment on the part of any team member can be detrimental to a team.
I challenge you to do all you can to make your team a winning team. And keep in mind, when building a team, you are really in the people-building business. Give your players a chance to win the championship in your business!