A to Z of Building a Winning Team

a-z team

Being part of a winning team is a great feeling! Building a winning team is hard work, but can be great fun with some amazing results! Below I’ve detailed Think Oak’s A-Z of Building a Winning Team:

A – Audit Abilities

The very first thing to do when you take on a team or you’re building a new one is to look at the skills you need to win, starting with yourself. What are you good at and where are you lacking? What does your management team need to look like? What types of roles do you need in your team? What skills are needed? It’s really important that you think about these things up-front, before you look at the people you have, are available to you or the gaps you need to fill. Once you’ve answered these questions at the right level of detail, you’ll be in the right position to look at your options.

B – Breakdown Personality Barriers

At any point in a team’s lifecycle there can be conflict. A difference in management or leadership style, a difference of opinion, personal enmity for one reason or another or simply a clash of personality. It’s really important that these are dealt with quickly and you find ways to resolve them without disrupting the team’s momentum. In my career, I’ve found it really useful to take people out of the work environment for a day or two to do some straight talking from the heart about your aspirations, motivations, concerns and ambition as well as taking time to relax and have some fun together.

C – Choose to Win

We all have choices in our lives, but it’s critical for the whole team to be behind your vision from the outset. Everyone needs to make a choice to be part of a winning team and all that it entails to get there. People that don’t want to get on the bus or want to stay along for the ride shouldn’t be given a ticket!

D – Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

It is extremely easy to spend inordinate amounts of time on things that don’t contribute to becoming a Winning Team or your end goal. Keep an eye out for them within the team and on yourself. If you find them, stop them immediately. If people are working on things that aren’t central to the plan, you need and they need to be asking ‘Why?’

E – Energy Management

Ensuring that there is high energy in your team at all times is not an easy task, but an important one for building a winning team. Effective energy leadership is the ability to read the energy of the group and then alter one’s own energy level to get the group to where it needs to go. You can see this at play in sports, or equally so in the classroom or in board meetings. If people are starting to get discouraged or disheartened, you need to step up, raise the energy level and bring more enthusiasm into the room. Quickly, the team starts to feel more optimistic, the energy of the group shifts up and success, and whilst not guaranteed, is much more likely.

F – Focus on Focus

By aligning everyone’s personal objectives to yours and that of the wider organisation you can ensure that people are focussed on the right tasks. Review performance against these objectives on a regular basis and ensure the objectives are SMART.

S – specific, significant, stretching

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational

A – attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

T – time-based, timely, tangible, trackable

Make individuals accountable for key deliverables and reward them for delivery.

G – Get Out of the Engine Room

Your people will not develop, unite or learn from their mistakes if you deal with every problem that comes up or, if you tell them what to do in minutiae of detail. As a leader you shouldn’t be in the engine room, except for the odd inspection. You need to be on the bridge watching for icebergs and pirates!

H – Help Each Other

The best performing teams in business watch each other’s backs. If they see someone struggling with a task, they’ll help. If one department is really struggling for resource they’ll offer another pair of hands. Passionately investing in other people’s success will ultimately raise their performance and that of their teams and ultimately the organisation. As a leader, a good proportion of your time should be spent coaching, supporting, developing and promoting the rising stars within your team. It strengthens your team, protects it for the future and motivates individuals.

I – Ignite Passion

Find out what motivates your people. We are all motivated by different things and a good manager and leader gets to know what motivates their people and tailors their communication style, delivery and behaviour to get the best out of everyone. Praise and recognition for success and cheering the progress goes a long way too!

J – Just Do It!

You can have the best business strategy and business plans, but they are little use if they are not executed effectively. Decisions deferred, reversed or not made at all will not drive your team forward.

K – Knowledge Share

Winning teams share information, and I’m not just talking Key Performance Indicators. They share best practice when they come across it, they share customer and competitor news, they share any lessons they’ve learnt from a project or product launch. By pooling collective knowledge within and across departments, the organisation can reap dramatic results.

L – Learn From Your Collective Mistakes

Things go wrong. Learn from them, fix them where you can, and move on. We can often spend ridiculous amounts of time brow-beating ourselves and others on things that went wrong. Spend that time working on ensuring that those mistakes don’t happen again by changing process, putting controls in place or ensuring that we watch out for those banana skins we slipped on last time. Should the same mistakes keep happening, you need to look more deeply into the problem and find a way quickly to resolve it – Change the process or system, develop the people or change the people.

M – Measure, Monitor and Manage

The key to long-term success for any winning team is measuring the right things, setting appropriate targets, monitoring your performance against them and altering course or taking action when required.

N – Never Give Up

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up – Thomas Edison

In a previous post ‘6 of the best…failures’ I talked about some famous names from all walks of life who persevered with their objectives to reach their goals. Building this ethos into your team’s behaviours will go a long way to driving success.

O – Organise Yourselves around Your Objectives

Many established businesses organise themselves in traditional hierarchies and functions – sales, marketing, finance etc. Sometimes, especially when changing course with your strategy, it is worth challenging team structures to ensure that they are still optimal to meet the strategy. Some businesses build multi-functional teams that are focussed on one particular project or programme at any time, allowing complete focus on delivery and then breaking the team up again on completion. This approach can have significant benefits over traditional team structures by focussing the right people on the right project with the right skills and motivation.

P – Performance Manage All of the Time

Don’t wait for a quarterly or half-yearly review to give feedback – good or bad. Many people need to know how they are doing every day – ask them what will help them most. Most people need feedback at least once a week. A few can get by with feedback once a month, but even for seriously capable high-level strategic people this is not enough.

R – Robust Dialogue

Being able to challenge team members positively is a key part of building a winning team. In winning teams, people trust each other to challenge ideas, ways of working and strategic plans. By being challenging of each other, for the good of the team and your customer experience, the team gets better. Challenging each other to gain personal advantage or to score points over one another are the signs of a losing team!

S – Set Out Your Expectations Clearly

A huge proportion of performance problems can be traced back simply to a failure to explain and agree expectations and/or a failure to understand and provide the help that the person needs. Don’t assume everything is understood and perfectly within people’s capabilities. Instead, take time to explain, check and ask until everyone concerned is happy and sure of what needs doing, how, and most importantly why.

T – Treat Everyone with Respect

I love this quote from Winston Churchill – “I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”

Whatever your level in the organisation, treat people as equals and with respect.

U – Understand Your Business

This may seem obvious, but I am frequently disappointed by people’s lack of knowledge of their business. Whether you’re on the front line in Marketing, Sales and Service or supporting these functions in IT, Finance or HR, you need to at least understand your company’s vision and strategic objectives. In winning teams, everyone knows these things as a minimum plus they know how their team is performing against Key Performance Indicators as well as what they’re doing to improve against them.

V – Values & Vision

In my view, these are the fundamental building blocks of a winning team. A shared vision together with values that are lived every day ensure that your team is heading in the same direction.

W – Win / Win

This is a personal philosophy, which I’m sure that many in senior positions will disagree on. I believe in openness, especially when it comes to recognition and reward. If the team does well, then the managers and leaders should be rewarded. Obviously levels of reward will differ according to responsibility and personal performance, but if the leaders are remunerated differently on different targets you will not get synergy in the organisation, and certainly not on a sustainable basis.

X – X Marks the Spot

X = the end result on your map – treasure! Whatever your winning team does, there will be an end goal – a successful product launch, a sales target, an improvement in Customer Satisfaction, improved production and so on. Your treasure map is your plan and your team’s focus is reaching the ‘X’ as soon as possible, and before anyone else! Your team need to have a copy of the ‘map’, understand how to read it in case they get lost, and know the importance of beating the competition. They should understand the potential pitfalls along the way, but you need to give them enough tools to make their journey possible and ideally enjoyable!

Y – Yell Success from the Rooftops

Celebrating and publicising success breeds more success, both within your team and organisation as well as externally. People like to associate with winners. You only need to see the number of Olympic medallists on TV at the moment to see that. Success, especially in today’s gloomy climate, is newsworthy, and will put your team and your business in the spotlight, for all the right reasons….and will hopefully bring you more business, and more success.

Z – Zigzag around Barriers

There is rarely a single solution to a problem in business. Winning teams find ways around problems that would leave other teams scratching their heads or giving up. Find out who your ‘Can Do’ people are and keep them close!

Hope you enjoyed this A-Z. As always I’d love to hear your thoughts…

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Aptitude or Attitude~ What makes a Star Performer?

Star Performer - Attitude or AptitudeI’ve been thinking a great deal of late about what makes the difference between a good team member and a great one, or for that matter a good leader or a great one.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Attitude is a key defining factor.

Who are the stars in your organisation? What characteristics do they possess that make them your top choice? Generally, the best employee is the one who exhibits desired behaviours, i.e. attitude, in addition to having a strong skill set in what’s needed for the job.

What constitutes a ‘great’ attitude? What attitudes make a STAR PERFORMER?

S – Self-belief

The person with self-belief believes in his or her abilities and strides forward with the expectation of success. Others can see and feel that confidence. They are not arrogant – they don’t have to be. Being self-assured means you are secure in your own specific abilities and are happy to let others shine in their own ways. Confident people are not overly sensitive and don’t have big egos. Those who are truly self-assured are the ones you feel good being around.

T – Tenacity

It is often not always the strongest, nor brightest that succeed. Sometimes it is the one who simply refuses to give in – who fights against every discouragement, who presses through every difficulty, who ignores every prediction of failure, who spares no effort, who sees no problem as insolvable and no obstacle as insurmountable. A person with tenacity simply believes that there is a way even when everyone else thinks there is not!

A – Approachability

Don’t you find that your highest performers are often the most approachable? They’re always happy to help, even when they’re really busy. You often find that your star performers are also great coaches because their so approachable and are good at what they do.

R – Resiliency

I’ve also discovered that those who are extremely positive don’t resist life’s events, curse their fate or bemoan how bad things always happen to them. Instead, they believe that everything happens for a reason. This approach helps them to overcome setbacks and “go with the flow.” They learn lessons fast and don’t make the same mistakes again.

P – Positive Energy

A person with high personal energy has a positive outlook on various situations, even during difficult times, maintaining the perspective that the glass is half full rather than half empty. Their energy tends to motivate others as well as themselves!

E – Exceed Expectations

Star Performers go above and beyond the call of duty of their day-to-day tasks. They pay attention to details, seek solutions to problems, and provide a high level of commitment in their duties. In short, they deliver and some, consistently.

R – Responsibility

Anyone that says – ‘That’s not my job’ or says ‘I passed it on to Dave to do, hasn’t he done it?’ or ‘Oh sorry, I forgot’ is not taking responsibility. People that take responsibility, take ownership and take the initiative. If they see something that can be done in a better way, they make it happen; they take decisions; they’re accountable for their actions and they also take responsibility for their own personal development and performance.

F – Focus

Star Performers focus on the right things, not only to meet their objectives, but they also focus on doing the ‘right thing’. Star performers are driven by results and stretch targets. See my previous post ~ Focus on Focus.

O – Openness

Authenticity and generous listening are great behaviours that are not always prevalent in business. These behaviours do get results and often much more quickly. Great businesses need people who speak up and express their thoughts and ideas clearly, directly, honestly, and with respect for others. Such a team member does not shy away from making a point but makes it in the best way possible — in a positive, confident, and respectful manner.

R – Reliability

Star Performers deliver. You can count on him or her to deliver good performance all the time, not just some of the time.

M – Motivated

No matter what the task, a star performer will always perform it without grumbling or with lacklustre, in fact quite the opposite. They’ll absolutely immerse themselves in the task until it’s complete.

E – Enterprising

An enterprising employee is one who is always coming up with new ideas, new ways to do things and innovative solutions to problems. They can be difficult to manage and they can get frustrated by lack of pace. BUT, if you can harness their energy and help them deliver some of their ideas that make a

R – Respectful

Star Performers are always respectful of others, even if they have differing views. They generously listen to what others have to say before expressing their viewpoint. They never speak over, or cut off another person. Star performers never insult people, name call, disparage or put down people or their ideas. They treat people the same no matter their status, race, religion, gender, size, age, or country of origin.

Know any Star Performers? Take some time to spot individuals demonstrating these attitudes in your organisation. With the right coaching and support, they could be your greatest asset and leaders of the future.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

High Energy – High Performance

In my last post, I talked about the importance of Focus. In this post I will be talking about the importance of energy and how you manage yours to ensure you achieve your goals. While both focus and energy are important, neither by itself is sufficient to produce the kind of decisive action organisations need most from their leaders. Focus without energy leads to poor execution or burnout. Energy without focus leads to ‘busy fools’, or worst case to a series of wasteful failures and lost opportunities.

It is widely acknowledged that personal energy comes from 4 different energy sources:Energy

Personal Energy = Physical Energy + Mental Energy + Emotional Energy + Spiritual Energy

Few people in business comprehend the importance of managing all four energies to perform at their peak. Should one or more energies be running at a deficit you will not perform to your best.

Physical Energy

Physical Energy is the primary energy and the foundation of personal energy. Physical energy is regulated by diet, exercise and sleep. This energy is tapped regardless of whether the task is physical. Most of us do not do particularly physically demanding jobs, but physical energy is still incredibly important. There are tens of thousands of blogs, books and articles about how to improve your physical energy so I won’t dwell on it in this post. Suffice to say that it is fundamentally important to manage your Physical Energy and to be aware when you are running on empty. With low physical energy, you tend to draw more heavily on your other energy sources leading to ill-health or burn-out.

Emotional Energy

Emotional Energy is our ability to tap into a full range of emotions, i.e. feel happy when something joyful happens, feel sad when something bad happens.

People with a high amount of emotional energy will be positive, enthusiastic and happy. Low amounts of this energy are the manifestations of anger, despair and frustration. Emotional energy can be heavily influenced by others either positively or negatively. I’ve highlighted some areas for you to think about to maintain and strengthen your Emotional Energy.

1. Avoid ‘Energy Vampires’ – We all know at least one Energy Vampire; someone who nags, complains or always involves you in their problems and never has anything positive to say. Energy Vampires suck the life (your Emotional Energy) right out of you. Ideally, you need to surround yourself with positive people. Spending more time with those who make you feel good about yourself or inspire you in some way will revive you.

2. Stop living to please other people. Trying to be someone who you are not is a drain on your emotional energy. We all have important relationships that we need to foster and nurture, but many of us try to be someone who we’re not just to please them. This expends significant energy and actually is counterproductive to building strong honest relationships.

3. Always have something to look forward to. Plan your next holiday or get a date in the diary to meet that friend you have been too busy to see. Looking forward to milestones and events stimulates people. It gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and that increases your desire to work toward your goals. Actually putting the wheels in motion (for example, calling the travel agent, sending a some dates to your friend to meet up) will also make you feel better .

4. Don’t live in the past. Learn from the past, by all means, but focus on the here and now and what you need to do to move forward. Although you can’t predict everything that will happen to you, you can make a flexible plan to accomplish your goals. Things like your career path, relationships in which you’d like to invest and how you would like to spend your free time are all under your control.

Mental Energy

Mental Energy is our ability to intensely focus and perform complex mental tasks when needed but to also be able to let our mind rest and do nothing.

As many of us now work in knowledge based roles, we use a lot of this type of energy on a daily basis. This is the energy of creativity, decision-making, writing, reading, learning new information and much more. Most of us now rely on our mental energy to survive.

How effectively we use our mental energy will ultimately decide how successful we are in our lives. It is our mental energy, through our thought processes, that determines our values and goals and the actions we take, which ultimately determine what we make of our lives.

How well we maximise the use of our mental energy and powers will be a major factor determining how successful and happy our lives turn out.

Like our bodies, our minds need exercise, feeding and rest to get the most from it.

  1. Read – The simple act of reading can help to improve mental sharpness and energy. Reading is like brain exercise and it doesn’t matter what you read as long as you read regularly. You may even learn something! With the advent of smartphones, kindles and tablets, it’s easy to read almost anywhere and you can make the most of ‘dead’ time in your day.
  2. Write – Writing is good for your mind in a number of ways. It is a way to tell your memory what is important, so you’ll recall things more easily in the future. It is a way to clarify your thinking. It is a way to exercise your creativity and analytical ability. Diaries, idea-journals, blogging, note-taking and story-writing are all ways to use writing to boost your mental energy.
  3. Take Time to Reflect – Often our lives get so hectic that we become overwhelmed without even realising it. It becomes difficult to concentrate because nagging thoughts keep interrupting. Spending some time alone in reflection gives you a chance organise your thoughts and prioritise your actions. You’ll have a better understanding of what’s important and what isn’t.

Spiritual Energy

Spiritual Energy reflects our values, our meaning and our purpose for living the way we live. When we tap into our values and truly know our purpose in life we unleash our spiritual energy. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, purpose is a necessary ingredient to live successfully. Purpose fuels your spiritual energy, which, in my view, is the most important and most powerful form of energy. Purpose is a key to success and happiness and is often the key that will unlock all your possibilities.

Improving and replenishing your Spiritual Energy will be very personal to you, but here are some techniques that I use to help me keep my spiritual energy high:

  1. Identify your “Spiritual” activities — those that give you feelings of effectiveness, effortless absorption, and fulfilment. Find ways to do more of these. For me it’s walking in the mountains and connecting with nature.
  2.  Allocate time and energy to what you consider most important. For example, spend the last 20 minutes of your evening commute relaxing, so you can connect with your family once you’re home.
  3. Live your core values. Nothing saps spiritual energy more than you doing things that are not in line with your core values.

I hope you found this post useful and would love to hear from you on how you manage your energies.

Focus on Focus

FocusBill Gates achieved monumental success with Microsoft, and attributes “focus” as the key to his success. He stated “maintaining focus is a key to success. You should understand your circle of competence and spend your time and energy there…I’ve learned that only through focus can you do world-class things, no matter how capable you are.”

There are many reasons why a person loses focus while pursuing their goals. The constant distractions in today’s world mean that maintaining focus can be very difficult. Distraction of work, home, friends, socialising, events and everything else constantly compete for our attention and dedicated time. It takes time to stay focused on achieving our goals and it’s so easy to fail in our attempt to maintain enough momentum, desire, energy and persistence needed to achieve our goals. As a result we often give up and think our goal is unachievable.

Another reason why we might lose focus in pursuing our goals is that we may talk ourselves out of pursuing our dreams. When we first begin pursuing our goals, we may be motivated by the fact that we are improving our lives and achieving our wishes and dreams. Shortly after starting the process of taking action towards achieving our goals, we can often begin to question the plausibility of achieving what we want. As soon as we start questioning our ability, we start to lose focus.

Create SMART Objectives

Specific – Objectives should specify what they want to achieve clearly.

You may want to achieve an increase in revenue of 5%  in the next 12 months.

Measurable – You should be able to measure whether you are meeting the objectives or not.

A 5% increase over 12 months means that each month revenue targets can be measured against a specific goal.

Achievable – Are the objectives you set, achievable and attainable?

Is the 5% objective for the 12 months achievable? Does the you have the resources, man power and finances to achieve it?

Realistic – Can you realistically achieve the objectives with the resources you have?

Is the 5% objective over a 12 month period realistic or does the company need longer? Does the company have the skills and resources to achieve this over the time period set.

Time – When do you want to achieve the set objectives?

In our example the company have set themselves a period of 12 months to achieve the 5% revenue target.

Build your Plan. Your plan becomes your road map and helps you determine the best course to follow. Build your plan with enough detail to ensure that your activities are aligned clearly to your SMART objectives and can be tracked.

Minimise Distractions. Get rid of as much temptation as possible that deviates from your focus on your goal. Use every method you can think of to remove distractions from your situation and it will certainly help your focus. Ensure that you don’t take on further work unless you are clear that it won’t impact your objectives.

Measure Your Progress. You can’t control your progress unless you can measure it. Create a system and timetable to measure your progress against your plan. Record your progress, daily if necessary. This can tell us if we are on track or if we need to make adjustments to either our plan or activities. Be honest with yourself. Moving dates and activities out and recalibrating to ‘Green’ is not the way to hit targets.

Prioritise your Goal. Focus on a few goals at one time. Try not to overburden yourself as it will limit your chance of achieving your goal and demotivate you. Concentrate on the important ones first, achieve them and then you can look at addressing the other goals.

Work your Goals into your Daily Plan. Do something towards achieving your goals every day. The best way to achieve your goals and maintain your focus is to do something that will make it happen each and every day. Even if it’s only 15 minutes each day, it is better than not doing any goal related activity at all. Give your goal daily attention and you’ll remain more focused and at a better chance of achieving your ambitions.

Celebrate your Milestones. Mark your successes and acknowledge your progress towards your desired goal. Set milestones and as you achieve them reward yourself and / or your team. This will motivate you and make you see your milestone in a very positive way.

Sustain your Energy and Motivation

The importance of maintaining your energy and motivation today cannot be overstated. We have seen the impact that the lack of consumer confidence is having on our economy. When people feel uncertain about the future they stop spending money and the result further weakens the economy. The same is true of our goals. When we are not feeling confidant and positive about our prospects we stop spending energy on our goals, which results in set-backs, which further reduce our confidence. The result is a downward spiral similar to what we are seeing in the economy. There is an important difference though, while we cannot control the economy, we can control how we spend our energy.

Look out for a future post on how to manage your personal energy!

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