Raising the Game

Use the five pillars of teamwork to build a stronger culture at your company.

Have you ever noticed that the teams with superstars are not necessarily the ones who win the championship? There is something more valuable than superstar ability or taking the shot every time you get the ball. We have all witnessed a tier-two sports team upset a top ranked, top talent team, and we scratch our heads asking “How in the world did that happen?”

Most sports fans have heard of famed basketball player Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Magic was so good in high school that his coach would tell him to take the shot every time he got the ball. Even though they would win big, Magic could see the faces of the parents who came to watch their sons play the game, and the disappointment in it. At one point he decided to make a huge change in the way that he played the game.

Magic decided to positively affect the play of everyone on his team by raising their game and acting more like a team working together for a common goal. Magic’s change was to pass the ball. Over Magic’s famed career he passed the ball so well that he holds the career record for assists at 11.2 per game. Arguably, Magic Johnson is one of the greatest players ever to play the game of basketball, and he did that by making everyone around him better. Not by taking the shot every time he got the ball.

You see, being a leader or a great team doesn’t require the “superstar” to take the shot every time, but what it does require is that everyone work collectively for a common goal with a set game plan. Good businesses realize they are not competing with like companies in their industry, but instead competing with themselves. Business is a perpetual game, so we should not worry about what the “competition” is doing today, but instead focus on our team, and how we are going to positively impact our industry.

The million-dollar question is how do we make our teams better and not focus on the competition? What steps are necessary in beginning to understand and implement this process?

1. Humble yourself and admit you do not have all of the answers. In doing so, you allow yourself to see that you already most likely have team members that possess different strengths than you do — surround yourself with them. Don’t work independently on projects, but start to have discussions with your team, because I am certain there will be a lot of valuable input they bring to the organization.

2. Provide education and training opportunities to your team members. None of us have the capability to grow if we do not invest in a conscious decision to do so. In an effort to spur on development within your team, you have to encourage and present the challenge to your team members to learn new skills. I know training and development can be expensive, but if you do not invest in your team members and encourage them to grow, they are going to cost you more money in the long run.

3. Surround yourself with the right team. Spend a lot of time determining what characteristics you want the leadership on your team to have. In doing so, make sure you do not compromise on what you deem to be important (humility, empathy, drive, growth, integrity, etc.).

4. Find the right outside business partners. A lot of business owners do not do a great job in this area, because they tend to go with whoever the bank recommends, who they know personally, or the first person who shows up on a Google search. Outside business partners are those that come alongside of you in order to help assist you in running the administrative duties of your business (key partner life insurance agent, general liability and workers compensation insurance, attorney for contracts review, collections, human resources issues, your business banker, marketing company, accountant and payroll processing company and so on). Make sure that you interview, get quotes, and compare those that you use as your key partners. Ensure that they thoroughly understand your business, the nuances, the risks and the challenges. A key partner is not going to be able to effectively meet your needs unless they fully understand your business.

5. The right kind of communication. Life is busy! Business is busy! But we have to understand that if we do not take the time to ensure that we are effectively sharing information throughout our company, we could be stifling morale and production. Where there is a void in communication, people tend to make up answers and assume things. If we are not communicating effectively, it is our problem; it is everyone’s problem. Knowledge is power, and you would not give the play you are running to the quarterback and receiver, but leave the other nine players out of the loop. That would handicap your offense and set your team up for failure. Unfortunately, that is exactly what a lot of businesses do, and precisely why a lot of them fail.

There are a number of other things a business could do to increase teamwork, but I believe the five pillars I have shared with you are paramount in the journey to effectively begin this process.

Remember that you are not alone in this process. Every great leader must go through stages of unlearning in order to discern how to step away from myths we have been taught about leadership and teach ourselves how to serve our team in a way that brings everyone together toward a collective vision.


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