Most people will tell you that the secret to success is a great team. It really doesn’t matter the field or industry. A team’s ability to fight and win against the odds is probably the single biggest asset of any business. And everyone knows it, either you are talking in the corridors of a large multinational corporation, or the locker-rooms of a sports club. However, while in sports there is a great care and investment put into building high-performing teams, in business this is still very much an undeveloped area.
The performance of a leader is and should be directly correlated with the performance of his team. Above business KPIs, above market-share developments and above project deliveries, the one things that is demanded from a leader is to build a strong team and an organization under him. After that, meeting KPIs and delivering shareholder value will follow naturally. It is this webbed organization that will ensure, through cooperation, engagement and specific knowledge, that business objectives are met. When a company’s performance fails to meet expectations or is below market average, the most probable cause behind it is the inability of its leaders to create sustainable and strong teams.
It is the ability of a team to perform consistently above the average over time and as a unit that defines them as a Great Team.
Here are my 7 Golden Rules for a Great Team:
1. Get to know yourself
Matching people in a team is as important as matching them with yourself. Although you might want to find complementary skill areas, the attitude and character of your team should be a mirror of yourself. This will ensure managed expectations and smooth communication and cooperation. So take some time to figure out what type of person you really are, what you admire in others and what type of people you enjoyed the most to work with in the past. Find the similarities. Your team should be 100% aligned with you and amongst themselves on these attributes. Remember: trust and cooperation are the foundations of every great team.
2. Know each member inside out
Every single member of your team is a valuable player. It is a manager’s role to acknowledge this in the first place. Get to know every one by their name. Get to know what they like, what they do in their free time and how they look when they are happy. This is valuable knowledge to manage the day-to-day operations, just as well as to motivate them to take on bigger challenges. Remember: not everyone scores goals, but it is always the team that sets them up. Individuals in your team should also acknowledge this and live the team spirit.
3. Treat people differently
This is probably the most controversial rule in here. But people are different. They demand different levels of attention, communication and direction. If you try and treat everyone the same, you end up creating inefficiencies within your time. You spend too much time with people that don’t need it, and too little with people that actually need it. Also, every team has star players. Every team has workers. Every team has glue-members. All these should be treated differently. Yet, you should preserve common values when discussing individually with the team. If you are a straightforward person, you should be straightforward with everyone. If you are a critic, you should be critic with everyone. Remember: The key to treating people differently is the HOW. Be fair and find HOW everyone is different.
4. Define well the present and the future
Everyone should know what they are responsible for, what is their role and where they stand in the overall team and organization. It is key for doing their job well. And everyone should know what is their next step. It is important to keep going. This works for the individual, as well as for the team and organization. A strategy, a common goal, brings people together. This said, you should still leave space for people to stand-out, go the extra-mile and leave their comfort zone. Things shouldn’t be too mechanized. Teams need improvisation and free-will. But it all should fit a structure of normality. And your people will revert back to this framework when they get confused. Remember: Stability in the present is exactly the platform for change when change becomes the way forward.
5. When you achieve it, celebrate it!
A team needs goals. And needs to feel the thrill of achieving them. It is this rush that will keep them together fighting for the next level. This encompasses all the acknowledgment, reward and celebration of success. This shows respect for the hard work within the team. Of each individual members’ contribution. You should also step-back and reflect at this point. Think about what went well and what could have gone better. Discuss it in the right time with your team. This is what separates you from them. They should be enjoying the success and getting the rewards. You should be planning the next assault. Remember: Building a great team is not a feat in itself. It is a means to an end. And that end is “to consistently perform above the average over time as a unit”.
6. Pick well
Probably the most difficult task in building a great team is choosing one. The group chemistry that comes from individual people is extremely powerful. Nevertheless, although the weight of choice is enormous on the future performance of a team, a leader should be able to adapt and bring together teams in different situations and cultures, rather than using a cooked-up approach. Team spirit must be nurtured from the individual towards the team, rather than forced upon a group of individuals. Remember: It is as important to chose well who joins your team, as it is to chose well who has to leave.
7. Work hard… Rest harder
A healthy body makes a healthy mind. One of the keys for great performance, either individual or team, is what happens off the pitch and off the company. An active life-style with sports, a balanced diet and sleep, are as important for performance, as is a specific skill-set or knowledge. It is up to you, as the boss, leader or manager, to provide the possibility for everyone on your team to have a work/life balance. You should manage their time-off accordingly, lead by example a healthy life-style and set-up the right incentives for an off-the-pitch behaviour that brings-out the best of each team member. Remember: Your role is to make it available, explain how important it is and motivate people to embrace this body & mind approach. Still, it is everyone’s choice.