Winning Gold: How to Build Team Spirit

Winning Gold: How to Build Team Spirit

Like many of you, I spent a good part of two weeks in August watching the Olympics on television.

Even though I wasn't in the stands, I was thrilled to see such high-level performances from these athletes – swimmers… gymnasts… runners.

I especially enjoyed team events like volleyball, water polo and basketball. And so did the media paying a lot of attention to the U.S. basketball "redeem team" coached by Mike Krzyzewski.

In the 2004 Olympics, you probably recall, Team USA, America's "dream team" made of this country's top basketball players, came home with the bronze medal, not the highly prized gold everyone expected.

The team lacked a key ingredient: the chemistry that smoothly blends a group of stars into a unified whole.

So learning from this group of superstars, U.S. planners built a foundation for 2008 that sent an "actual team" to the games. As I understand it, they recruited NBA superstars carefully mixing defenders and shooters, and required them to play together in early qualifying matches.

Naturally, watching the Olympic events and listening to the commentators talk about the difference between the 2004 "dream team" and the 2008 "redeem team" got me thinking about teams in business. Mostly I considered how, when seeking success, organizational heads repeat the same mistakes we saw in the "dream team's" shortcomings.

Many business leaders throw talent at a problem, and then quickly discover that a bunch of talented people is just a bunch of talented people. Players and workers need a reason for being and a plan for working together if an organization is to have the beginnings of a team.

Which is why today I want to look at three key ingredients that go into making up a team:

* Balance
* Vision (or a common focus)
* Chemistry

Find balance
Just as the redeem team needed defenders and shooters, any group needs a mixture of talents. In other words, a good team needs:

* those who grasp the big picture and know how to create a plan.
* those whose strengths lie in checking fine details.
* those who can take charge and move a project along.
* those who hear opinion differences and build verbal bridges.
* those who can encourage open and lively communication.

If you lead a team and want to help ensure its success, you must first discover your peoples' strengths and weaknesses. (Assessments that review employees' strengths and weaknesses will help.) You must carefully select the right strengths for your specific project and a good mix of necessary qualities.

Share the vision
The U.S. Olympic basketball team had one goal — win the gold medal. Coach Krzyzewski kept the goal in plain sight, among other things using the fist as a sign of unity. His team members learned their lesson well. I doubt I heard a media interview of a team star that didn't bring up this team's goal.

As a team leader, you should follow a similar pattern. Keep your team's “eye on the prize" by repeatedly advancing and discussing its specific mission. Include your organization's vision.

And beyond this, let members ask questions or voice doubts. Treat each concern or idea with respect. By doing so, you will set a good example. If you make light of their fears or play down their ideas — or if you allow teammates to do so — team members will hesitate to speak up in the future.

So encourage team sharing and discussing. And always keep the goal front and center.

Mix carefully for good chemistry
People differ. On any team. Coach Krzyzewski knows this. I've read that he adapts well creating different coaching plans for different players and different teams.

What about you? When members of your team clash – when they play off each other to create charged discussions — they just may need you to adapt your leadership style.

Members of the highest performing teams learn from each other, and the best team leaders find ways to coach players over the bumps that conflicts cause and use them to the team's advantage.

Even when a team performs beautifully, it still needs coaching. Disagreements can erupt, or the waters may calm too much and impede progress.

As coach you need to monitor team balance constantly as members leave or come in, and as the mission changes. But if you build the team on a firm foundation, assembling and regrouping dream teams is a reachable goal.

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Tips: Four Ways to Help Make Your Team a Winner

Why do teams — even teams with talent — lose?

There are many reasons, of course. Perhaps leaders or coaches assemble an array of talent ignoring the talent the team actually needs. Or maybe they fail to give clear direction.

Here are four tips to help make your team a winner:

Assemble talent to fit your team's needs As a result, your team members will have much in common. They will more likely listen to one another and work together on a common agenda.

Give clear direction
As a result, your team members will more likely participate. They will attend meetings and arrive on time. You will find communication with them easier as they will openly communicate with you and one another. And they will perform up to your set standards.

Devote enough time to development
As a result, your team will find it easier to set and reach goals. Its members will grow and move forward. Projects will get finished.

Acknowledge fears and worries
As a result, your team members will likely open up to discussion. Treated with respect, they will trust you and they will trust one another and continue to communicate.

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Your Solution Toolbox: Profile XT® Coaching Report Helps Turn Business Leaders into Great Coaches

According to experts, successful teams need members who:

1. Assertively take charge.
2. Are outgoing, people-oriented and extroverted.
3. Show patience, tolerance and understanding.
4. Focus on details, precision and accuracy.
5. Show a desire to compete and win.
6. Reveal a positive attitude regarding people and outcomes.
7. Are easygoing and casual.
8. Enjoy identifying and analyzing problems.
9. Desire to meet deadlines and take action quickly.
10. Show emotions and share feelings.
11. Participate in the team and work well with others.
12. Show concern for standards and a high quality of work.

How can you assure that your team includes members with these characteristics?

One recommended approach is to use Profiles' Team Analysis™.

Profiles' Team Analysis™ produces reports that include:

* an analysis of key factors your team lacks,
* an analysis of each team member's strengths including the above 12 behavioral team factors, and
* a summary you, the leader, can use to assign tasks to individuals.

Having this information will help you build a united team. It will help you eliminate conflict, build cooperation, improve communication and put together a team that will deliver.

Profiles' Team Analysis™ is simple to use. Each team member can complete the assessment in 15 minutes using an Internet connection or by writing responses in a booklet. A computer compiles the results and prints them in minutes.

If you are interested in learning more about this complete tool that can help you build successful teams for your organization, give me a call or send me an e-mail. I'll happily show you what Profiles' Team Analysis™ can do for you and your organization.


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