Without the right culture, it is impossible to build a winning team, no matter how much talent is within that team. From our experience within both elite sport and high performing sales teams we have identified the following 5 rules that team leaders are consistently implementing throughout winning teams...
1. Have a Game-plan
2. Create Leaders
3. Ask don’t Tell
4. Fail Fast Learn Quick
5. Hold each other Accountable
How can you guarantee you are going to win if you do not know the steps you need to take to get there? A winning team is made up of individuals who are all aligned to a common goal or purpose. We have seen many times in sporting history where a team that on paper has less talent, ends up winning because they had such a strong goal that it energised the team to perform at a new level. However, often this goal will have something of an emotive link that motivates a team. Consistent performance cannot be dependant solely on emotion as this leads to mental burnout. Therefore, to reach this goal it is your role to determine a strategic game plan in order to achieve it.
A clear strategy or game-plan ensures that all members of the team know their role and also what is expected of them in terms of performance in order to achieve that team goal. A game-plan also prevents the natural peak and trough nature of performance because even after a period of low performance the team know what they need to do in order to refocus their attention on to ensure they are back on track quickly. A game-plan also prevents any potential rogue team members to go off and do their own thing which ends up being to the detriment of the teams overall performance.
As a team leader, there is a huge array of things that you need to be thinking about at any one time, including your own personal performance which requires your focus too. It is therefore imperative within winning teams that you can identify members of your team who have the characteristics to be a future leader who you can begin to share some of the burden with. There are a number of reasons for this, firstly if you lead a team of individuals who thought like you did, then you would in theory be leading a team of leaders.
How this benefits you is that they then have the ability to think autonomously and require less guidance from you in terms of what they should be doing at any one time, therefore leaving you with more time for your own activities. Identifying your future leaders or captains and giving them some responsibility within the team is also a very successful way to motivate a high achiever who otherwise requires little involvement from yourself.
They require less developmental feedback however still want to feel invested in and so by instilling trust in them it shows that you think highly of them and therefore will keep them engaged with the team goal. If you think of any of the successful teams in history, they all had a core leadership group who didn’t necessarily have a captain’s armband on their arms. The treble winning Manchester United team of the late 90’s, or the 2003 Rugby World Cup winning England team were both famed for having multiple leaders within their respective groups.
Tell me and I forget, show me and I will remember but involve me and I will understand
… A winning team is built up of individuals who have the ability to think for themselves and determine their next action best suited to achieving success. An individual with the understanding of why a certain activity or opinion is the right one, will give them the experience and neurological pathways to be able to make the right decision themselves next time they face a similar situation.
However, if you just tell someone what to do all the time then they become dependent on your experience every time they face a challenge, which will consistently interrupt your day. Spending an extra minute answering a question by a team member by asking what they think the right thing to do is and talking them through why that is the case, may seem like a distraction at the time. However in the long term this will in fact save you time as they will not need to keep coming back to you for the answer and can therefore mean you have a team of people who think like you.
Leaders need to create a‘mist free’ environment for their people to thrive. The aim is to create a relaxed and focused mentality. Mistakes happen, it proves that people are stretching themselves and getting outside their comfort zone. When people make mistakes, they learn, if they learn they get better and if they get better the performance of the team will improve.
I’m not suggesting that a team lowers its standards. What I am encouraging is an environment where people feel relaxed and accepting failure is a possibility. A relaxed and focused team will perform better than stressed and distracted team, certainly in the long run.
A winning the team has the ability to assess in the live environment whether or not they need to change their game-plan or maybe have a renewed focus on a certain area. Rather than just sticking to an activity that is not generating any success. If you are going to fail then embrace it, learn from it and then change what you need to do in order to bring back that success.
It is all well and good having a game-plan, involving your team members in decision making and developing your captains. However, the major change comes from when your team begin to hold each other accountable for these actions. When we go back and revisit teams that we have worked with, it is this rule that leads to the greatest change in performance and raises the standards that drive consistency.
We discussed in point one how important having a shared team goal is, but this team goal needs to be supported by good habits that are consistently being implemented to drive that continued success. If the members of your team are on each other’s case when these habits drop then this is when the real mentality shift to high performance happens.
It removes the need for you to be constantly being seen as the negative voice in the team but also peer to peer feedback is one of the most proven developmental methods when it comes to activity. They don’t want to be the team member that lets the team down. Start holding people accountable for their actions and activities that they have committed to as part of the shared team goal and watch the shift in performance happen.
To conclude, the culture within a team environment is one of the major determining factors in the success of a team. As the leader it is your responsibility to set this culture and by following and instilling these 5 rules within to your team, you will be able to create a culture of high performance that drives you and your team to success.