Team Building For Success

I am not the biggest football fan in the world, but it’s been hard to escape the news that Leicester City have just won the Premiership title. Their success got me thinking: How did it happen? Leicester City are a comparatively small club, with many larger and much better funded rivals. One website calculated that Manchester United spent more on new players in the last two years, than Leicester City have throughout their entire 132 year history. This is a triumph that to many observers seemed utterly impossible, so what made the difference?

The credit for their unlikely victory must be largely given to Claudio Ranieri, and his transparent management style. He spent as much time working on mental preparation as on physical skills. He helped the players to focus on one game at a time. He concentrated on building teamwork, and ensuring everyone understood the part they must play for the team to succeed. The strategy he adopted can be just as successfully applied to business start-ups as to football teams.

When well funded businesses define their employment strategy its often a matter of hiring the best people and assuming they will do a great job for the company. However, if you work out the performance vs the cost of the salaries it is frequently the case that the revenue per employee is actually less.

Consider Chelsea for instance, How much have they spent on employees this year? How many points have they ended up with in the league? Compare these figures to Leicester City and you will see my point. This is the same in business. In the past, I have made the mistake of hiring people who on paper should be the top striker for my team. I looked at things like:

  • they had worked for a competitor
  • they had industry experience
  • they had great contacts

Despite these apparent advantages these employees often ended up performing very badly. In fact one person I hired didn’t make the company a single dime in revenue. Compare this to our top performing sales person, who had no history in Sales but had a work ethic beyond most people’s comprehension. Having people with the right skills in your company is important, but taking those individuals, and turning them into a team is what can make the difference between success and failure.

I believe that there are three key components to building and motivating teams that can take on and beat the best:


1. Transparency

Having the right people and a positive approach to your business is great, but how can employees really be part of ‘your team’ if they are not able to see all the detail? Being totally transparent with employees on issues such as revenue numbers and business costs helps the employees to understand your point of view, and to start thinking in the same way you do.

I want my employees to understand the direction of my business and how their day-to-day work helps us achieve our goals. At the same time I want people to speak freely. A transparent business model means all employees are given meaningful insights into the way the business operates. They should able to understand the business priorities, and the progress the business is making against defined metrics. Everyone should be kept up-to-date with a real-time view into  all business activities throughout the week. By members of the management team sharing information with the rest of the company in such an open way, individuals will be encouraged to do the same.


2. Defining Success

One of the biggest problems with corporate culture can be employees becoming disengaged with company goals. How can someone know they are winning if they don’t know what winning is? Defining success is critical to achieving it. By outlining exactly success looks like, it becomes far more likely that success will be achieved. Every employee needs to know specifically how their routine tasks help the company to achieve its stated goal.

There must be clear criteria for measuring the success of each team member’s contribution to the company goals, and procedures put in place to measure whether those goals are being reached. The individual goals must be realistically attainable. No employee is going to invest in a goal that they know they will be unable to reach. Managers must have an appreciation for the day-to-day realities of their team members tasks.


3. Sharing credit for both failure and success

When your team is successful it is easy bathe in the glory of achievement. Even if you had only a small part to play in the achievement it’s still great to be associated with it. It isn’t quite so easy when the team fails. Everyone fails sometimes, it’s is a natural part of business life, and this can be especially true in sales. Encouraging people to admit when they have failed means they can assume total accountability, this makes winning even more of a big deal when success is achieved.

If you don’t risk failure, then you will not achieve anything. When failure comes, the important thing is not to think that an individual team member failed, but to decide how you respond to that failure. Failure should encourage the whole team not to apportion blame, but to review what happened, and why it happened, so that their methods can be refined and improved, and the next attempt leads to success.

It is vital that the team are prepared to assume responsibility for both success and failure, everyone must work together. Fear of failure is a major inhibitor to success, team members who are scared of being blamed for letting the team down, will never really take the risks needed to succeed. By working as a team to learn from a failure, achieving success becomes a team effort in which every member has a part.

For Leicester City every team member was vital to their success. They would not have achieved the League title unless they were focused on winning, and working together. For your business each employee is equally vital, and must be engaged in working towards the common goal.

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