Watching a championship team excel provides inspiration to every manager involved in the pursuit of his or her own corporate victories. High performance teams blend a diverse array of talent around a common goal to achieve results far beyond their individual abilities, and often in the face of obstacles that would derail others. By learning what makes those teams tick, you, too, can cultivate the same winning attitude among your staff and start your championship run within your own department.
Steal a few plays from some of the country's best coaches and start applying them in your management style today when coaching your employees.
Rules. Regardless of the sport, there are certain underlying rules, boundaries and principles that are unalterable. You have a similar set of rules in your business world. They're called mission statements, policies, overarching business goals, and corporate culture. You likely can do little to change them, at least right away. So it's not worth fighting them. Accept them and adjust your strategy so that your objectives align with the corporate strategy. Focus your energies and the efforts of your staff on what goes on within that playing field. That's where you can make a difference.
Fundamentals. Each sport can be broken down into a series of small movements that many people take for granted. When you take time to understand how to maximize a portion of a set skill, combine them with other skills and repeat the pattern until it becomes engrained behaviour, then your team's skills can be improved. Before the start of every golf season, Jack Nicklaus used to go back to his golf coach and work on his grip. Imagine the world's finest golfer (at the time) not knowing how to hold a club. In business, it's too easy to lose sight of how we got where we are. Go back to basics. Evaluate everything you are doing to make sure you are bringing the most value to your customers, whether they be external or internal.
Training. Nobody is perfect. But that should not stop us from making our team better. We practice to improve because we can always be stronger, faster and better. Take practice seriously. Commit to training your people. They will return the investment many times over in both improved productivity and enhanced attitude. Make sure the training regimen is aligned with the business strategy. Also take time to communicate at the beginning and end of each training session how it relates to what you want to achieve. Many managers shy away from training for fear of what happens if the employee leaves. The bigger worry should be: what if you don't train them and they stay?
Discipline. Develop and stick to an intense routine. This should include regular meetings to talk about the last game and review the strategy for the upcoming contest. Meetings should be held regularly to talk about what you have learned from past successes and failures and to agree upon an action plan for the future. Set an agenda to keep meetings productive and so your staff knows what is expected of them. Ideally, that agenda should be built around your business plan and should be tied into employee performance evaluations. Remember that if you're not disciplined, someone, somewhere is and when the two of you meet, given roughly equal ability - and sometimes given unequal ability - they will win.
Focus. Do not let distractions consume you or your team. Sustaining focus after a failure isn't a problem. Indeed, it might even sharpen your alertness because you become intent on making up for the mistake. It's after you have pulled off a great play that focus becomes more difficult. In the celebration, it's all too easy to lose sight of what you could do better. Beware of self-congratulations. Check with all members of your team and your customer base to ensure that you did indeed hit the target.
Determination. How much does your team want it? They have to buy into your strategy. There's an old saying that the harder you work, the luckier you get. Even the best players are outworking - and outthinking - their competition. Never rest and never tire from pursuing your objectives and communicating them relentlessly. You must lead by example. Your actions shout much louder than your words.
Passion. Related to hard work is showing a love for who you are and what you do and recruiting those team members that evidence similar attributes. Remember that while you can measure the size of the dog in the fight, you cannot measure the size of fight in the dog. Sports and business are not solely head games. The fire must be fueled in the heart.
Selflessness. Sometimes being all you can be means asking your star performer to set aside their talent and strength and take a back seat for the good of the team. Force them to play their position and let the game come to them. You can suck the life out of a team by allowing the stars to carry the entire load. Learn how to mesh the talent around you and you quite literally move mountains.
Courage. Like mountain climbers, you must overcome the fear of taking the first step. When the slope is too steep and the summit too far out of reach, it is too easy to say that you can't achieve your goals. Once the journey is underway, the greater danger is complacency. Too often failure comes to those who begin taking the fundamentals for granted. Never lose sight of what it took and takes to get you where you are or where you are going.
Leadership. That means getting people to think, believe, see and do what they might not have without you. It means possessing the vision to set the right goal and the decisiveness to pursue it single-mindedly.
Visualisation. Have the courage to dream. You must always imagine your team succeeding. Unless you create a vision of a compelling future and a positive outcome, defeat and loss will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Victory. Never be satisfied with anything other than your team's best effort. Victory is not judged merely by your performance against your competition. Rather it is measured on what you did to take advantage of the resources at your disposal. Take advantage of them and you win. Fail to exercise them and you lose.
Resilience. Rudyard Kipling said, "Meet triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same." Unfortunately, not everybody has that power. Too many people allow defeat to crush them or exult unrealistically in victory. Even good teams lose. The difference is that they learn from it, grow from it and let it fuel their hunger to excel.
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