Why Teams Win


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9 Keys to Success in Business, Sport, and Beyond

By Dr. Saul L. Miller
Why do some teams manage to accomplish far more together than they could individually, while other teams don't?

In a world that increasingly emphasizes winning, many of the characteristics that contribute to team success in sport are also applicable in business - and in life. In this execuBook, author Saul Miller identifies nine keys that characterize winning teams and successful organizations.

He describes why each of these keys is important, and how winning teams use them to achieve success. He also lists the four stages of team development and the different leadership styles that are required to be maximally effective for each one.

This summary explains how teams work well together. It will be of interest to anyone who wants to lead a team to success.

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Why Teams Win

  1. 1. Why Teams Win9 Keys to Success in Business, Sport, and BeyondBy Dr. Saul L. MillerBusiness Plus, 2009ISBN 9780470160435IntroductionWhen a group of people dedicate themselves towards a common goal, incredible things arepossible. A team requires a dynamic, shared commitment that embodies the principle that thewhole is greater than the sum of its parts. Winning involves a co-operative synergistic process,where team members learn they can accomplish more by working together rather thanindividually.In a world that increasingly emphasizes winning, many of the characteristics that contribute toteam success in sport are also applicable in business - and in life. There are nine keys thatcharacterize winning teams and successful organizations:  A meaningful goal  Talent  Leadership  Strategy  Commitment  Feedback  Confidence  Chemistry  IdentityA Meaningful GoalPeople who have a meaningful goal are willing to work harder, persist longer and endure more.Whether driven by an internal force or sparked by the teams leadership, people motivated by ameaningful goal will invest more of themselves in achieving it.Ken Dryden - goalie of the most successful team in professional sport in the 1970s, hockeysMontreal Canadiens - recalled that the teams leadership made winning the championship the toppriority from the first days of training camp, unlike other teams, which didnt focus on winninguntil much later in the season. Having a dream and a clear sense of purpose can help individualsand teams weather the inevitable challenges, obstacles and disappointments while remainingpositive and productive.In business its often more difficult to define ones contribution to the companys overall success.To help people feel relevant and involved, its imperative that management create separate andrelevant mission statements for smaller function-based teams that integrate into the largercorporate goal.Talent
  2. 2. Talent is vital to a winning team, which often possesses a combination of maturity (bringingexperience and know-how) and youth (bringing enthusiasm and energy). Along with practicalskills, winning talent also incorporates psychological qualities such as functional intelligence, apositive mindset and willingness to work together.A perfect team involves players assuming different roles, including monitor-evaluator,implementer, co-ordinator and specialist. All these aspects must be developed and shaped into afocused, integrated unit to become a high-performance team.Although talent is a significant factor in team success, it cant ensure success on its own.Examples abound of teams with superior talent that were unsuccessful because of ego, lack ofcohesion or lack of leadership. Conversely, weve all seen groups of individuals withoutextraordinary talent who have achieved success as a team through their intense work ethic, byfollowing a game plan that everyone understands and supports, and the philosophy of a "we notme" mentality. Talent may win games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.LeadershipAn effective leader knows the heart and mind of the team and can direct the teams talent tomake their vision a reality. Effective leaders have focus and an ability to prioritize. Theycommunicate clearly, pay close attention to detail, and motivate by demanding and modeling acommitment to excellence.Leaders in business and sport must be tough-minded visionaries. But leadership on winningteams must come from within as well as from the top down. Successful teams have a core ofleaders among team members who model winning behavior and ensure that others follow.Personality plays a significant role in leader-team communication, and the interaction ofpersonality styles can affect how messages are transmitted, translated and played out by bothleaders and team members. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can help identify differentpersonality types and lead to a greater understanding and respect for individual differences,ultimately improving team performance.StrategyFocus is key to superior performance, and a well-laid-out plan is a blueprint for focus. The planshould define what has to be done, how and when it will be done and who will do it. EvenPellerud, a World Cup-winning soccer coach, suggests two key steps: a clearly established"philosophy" on how to play the game, and clear individual roles within it that playersunderstand, accept and respect. It works the same in the business world.A clear plan of action must be continually assessed, refined and adjusted as new challengesarise. Leaders should avoid using phrases like "work harder" or "raise the bar" when underpressure, but should instead be specific about what they want from each player. The pressureengendered by simply demanding "more" will often only produce stress and anxiety.CommitmentWhile many people set goals, few are willing to do what it takes to actually achieve them.Commitment involves the willingness to pay whatever price is necessary and surrenderingindividual egos for the sake of the whole.
  3. 3. Commitment is typically ranked as the most important key to successful teams by both businessleaders and sports managers. Even teams with average skills have attained greatness becausetheyve been willing to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve their goals. Persistence anddetermination are omnipotent.Any leader must get team members to "buy in," and as business and sports teams have becomemore diverse, this has become increasingly challenging. The coach must communicate a visionand gain the players trust and commitment to execute the plan. Often this means shaping teamcommitment by rewarding gradual approximations of the desired end behavior and workinghard to avoid egocentric behaviors by key players.FeedbackEffective feedback involves two elements: that players have an objective, accurate way tomeasure their own performance, and that they benefit from regular acknowledgement andcriticism of their performance. The ability to assess and adjust performance is critical tocontinuous improvement.How players are measured depends on the task, but clear performance indicators should beunderstood and agreed upon in advance. Only factors that truly represent team success should bemeasured, whether its profitability, earnings/expenses, points scored or wins/losses.Winning teams must establish a standard of excellence, for which good performance isacknowledged and reinforced, and substandard performance receives feedback thats clear andfocused on the behavior rather than the individual.Most people are very responsive to honest, relevant feedback. When the feedback is excessivelynegative and critical, performance can suffer as confidence is undermined. Team membersshould be actively involved in their assessment in order to gain a deeper understanding of theirspecific role in the game plan.ConfidenceSuccess builds confidence. Winning builds a winning expectation. But if youre not experiencingsuccess or havent previously been successful at a certain level, then preparation is vital.Confidence-building preparation involves knowing the specifics of what has to be done in yourjob to succeed, and improving the required physical and technical skills through practice. Theroad to excellent execution is paved with repetition, which breeds preparedness, consistency andstrength.People tend to perform under pressure as theyve performed under pressure in the past. Havingthe right mental skills and emotional control to deal with the intense pressure of competition isparamount. People who embrace challenge and competition with confidence are energized,creating a context for excellence.ChemistryIn the mix of personalities and talent within an organization, good chemistry is the positiveenergy and support that flows between team members. Chemistry is a feeling that evolves fromthe shared commitment people have when performing and competing alongside each other in
  4. 4. meaningful pursuits. Winning chemistry is about selflessness, sacrifice and support.The respect among players at all levels on a team and the belief that each player has somethingto contribute are vital to build a winning team. Strong leadership can help nurture goodchemistry, encourage bonding and a surrendering of ego among team members.Increasingly, corporate teams are operating in a virtual reality, spread across the globe andmaking it harder to stay in touch in basic ways. Without eye contact and real proximity, its stillpossible to build trust and chemistry - it just takes more time, patience and conscious effort.IdentityIdentity is self-image. Its who you think you are and is critical to how you perform individuallyor in a team. Winning teams, like successful individuals, have a winning identity that drivesthem to excel. When a team performs poorly, they should think: "Thats not who we are. Weare ? " (fill in the blank with a positive thought or image).Everyone experiences doubt and negative thoughts. What differentiates successful people in allfields is that they dont focus on the negatives, but instead on the positive - what theyre trying tocreate. Winning teams are composed of individuals who consistently contribute to an identitythats positive, powerful and enabling.Creating a power statement, a list of positive affirmations that describe them performingconfidently and effectively, can help individuals or teams strengthen their self-image. Positive-mindedness is fundamental to success. The mind leads and the body follows. Positive thoughtsof belief, confidence and desire release neurochemicals in the brain that stimulate the body torespond with greater energy and power. Negative thoughts have the opposite effect.Different Teams, Different DemandsDifferent sports and businesses require different kinds of coaching. Football, like manufacturing,is a game of the plan - where authority flows vertically and top-down. A small group ofindividuals (coaches or executives) create a game plan thats passed down to the team, whopractice its execution until, on game day, theyre challenged to perform according to the plan.Operating the plan efficiently produces a win.Hockey, basketball and soccer - like marketing - are horizontal, flow games where workingtogether and using each other effectively is key to success. The synergy of team players createsscoring opportunities or produces new business ideas that make things happen.Baseball and sales are "I" games, or individual team sports. The key to winning here is selectingthe right players, sharpening their skills, building their confidence and placing them in situationswhere they can perform and excel.Just as the different kinds of business and sport challenges demand different coaching emphasesfor success, individuals and teams at different stages of development require different leadershipstyles to be maximally effective.  In the forming stage, where team members come together, theres a high dependence on
  5. 5. the leader to define team purpose, objectives and processes while individual roles are still unclear.  During the storming stage, there may be power struggles as team-mates vie for position. Although theres some clarity of purpose, the team needs to stay focused on its goals to avoid becoming distracted by relationship and emotional issues.  The norming stage sees growing consensus among the group as roles and responsibilities are understood and accepted, and major decisions are made with group agreement. The leader takes a facilitating role and shares some leadership with the group as commitment and unity grow.  In the final performing stage, the team has considerable autonomy and focuses on achieving goals. Team members make decisions using criteria agreed upon with the leader, who simply delegates and oversees.Team-Building ExercisesA number of exercises that help develop awareness and relate directly to the work a team doescan be helpful to build the nine keys of team success. These include:  Reflection-action  What we appreciate/need more of  Logo "identity"  Overcoming inertia  Leadership for all  Team identity  Personal identity and personal power  The power of the circleConclusionThe nine keys arent independent entities, but rather interactive, interwoven threads thatcomprise the fabric of a winning team. The overwhelming majority of us live, work and performin teams. Its important that we learn to use our team experiences as a way to evolve into betterplayers and leaders as well as healthier, happier individuals.- End -About the author: Dr. Saul L. Miller is a performance specialist consulting in sport, business,health care and the arts.Related ReadingAny of these books can be ordered directly from Amazon (A), Barnes & Noble (B) or Chapters(C) or may be summarized in our execuBook library (E).Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink, Riverhead, 2009,
  6. 6. ISBN 9781594488849. A B C EThe Right Fight: How Great Leaders Use Healthy Conflict to Drive Performance, Innovation,and Value, by Saj-nicole Joni and Damon Beyer, HarperBusiness, 2010, ISBN 9780061717161.ABCECoach Woodens Leadership Game Plan for Success: 12 Lessons for ExtraordinaryPerformance and Personal Excellence, by John Wooden and Steve Jamison, McGraw-Hill,2009, ISBN 9780071626149. A B C E