Winning Teams on the Football Field and in the Office

Teams, teams, teams. They're all the rage these days. Whether you love-em or loathe-em, you'll have to learn to live, not only with them, but within them. You career will depend on it. Here are five strategies for building a high-performance team.

Manage by adultery.
It's a term coined by Chaparrel Steel to describe its management philosophy of treating workers like adults instead of children. People are hired, not to do mindless jobs, but to put their brains to work. Management's job is to give the team or work group a mission; see that they get the necessary resources, provide feedback and encouragement; and then turn them loose to be creative problem solvers.

Hire people who care.
When evaluating prospective employees, a major airline brings all job candidates together in a room and asks each person to make a presentation. Everybody thinks that the company officials are evaluating the person making the presentation. But in reality, the company is evaluating the candidates in the audience to see who are attentive and supportive as others are presenting. It is a strong signal that these people have the ability to care about others and are potential candidates to hire.

Make sure there is a scoreboard.
One critical difference between a group and a team is that a team knows what constitutes a win. Players in sports know instantly where their team stands and whether they are winning or losing. This information then affects how they are going to play the rest of the game. But in most organizations, employees may work for weeks and months and never know where their team stands and if they are winning, losing, or just hanging in there. Like sports teams, business teams should also have scoreboards. Then team members would have some idea how close they are to a win and what they need to do to make it happen.

Don't encourage employee dependence.
The Romans had an interesting practice regarding ownership. After building an arch, the engineer in change was expected to stand beneath it as the scaffolding was removed. If the arch didn't hold, he was the first to know. Effective leaders also keep ownership where it belongs?in the team. If the leader keeps running in and lifting the weights for his team, they are never going to build any of their own muscle. The trap in becoming a "hero leader" is that every time you pull a rabbit out of a hat, you generate more dependency from your team. Important: Astute leaders welcome their employees to discuss problems and solutions, but never let them leave their problems with the leader.

Set up your team to win, not be slaughtered.
If your team is faced with multiple tasks or problems, don't always tackle the worst ones first. Conventional wisdom says prioritize your tasks and then begin tackling your most important problems, solve them and then move on to smaller ones. This approach ignores the fact that the biggest problem is usually the hardest to tackle. Therefore, if not prepared mentally, team members are more likely to fail, become demoralized, and give up. This is not permission for all of us procrastinators to put aside our tough assignment. Rather, it allows us to gain the confidence to first experience success on a smaller level before going for "the big one."

If we don't know it, how can we do it? Paul "Bear" Bryant, the legendary football coach at the University of Alabama, said winning team members need to know the following:

  • Tell me what you expect of me.
  • Give me an opportunity to perform.L/li>
  • Let me know how I'm doing.
  • Give me guidance where I need it.
  • Reward me according to my contributions.
  • I couldn't have said it better than Bear Bryant. Do you have a winning team?

    Marcia Zidle, the 'people smarts' coach, works with business leaders to quickly solve their people management headaches so they can concentrate on their #1 job ­ to grow and increase profits. She offers free help through Leadership Briefing, a weekly e-newsletter with practical tips on leadership style, employee motivation, recruitment and retention and relationship management. Subscribe by going to and get the bonus report "61 Leadership Time Savers and Life Savers". Marcia is the author of the What Really Works Handbooks ­ resources for managers on the front line and the Power-by-the-Hour programs ­ fast, convenient, real life, affordable courses for leadership and staff development. She is available for media interviews, conference presentations and panel discussions on the hottest issues affecting the workplace today. Contact Marcia at 800-971-7619.

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