How to build a winning team

Every VC will tell you that their ultimate investment decision was based on “the team” – and that’s fair enough – because the marketing graveyard is littered with great product ideas that simply lacked execution ability. (Just another way of saying: the team just didn’t bring it…)
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/So what defines a winning team and how do you build one?
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/I recently came across this article in Newsweek by Jack and Suzy Welch, the authors of the bestseller “Winning” entitled “How to Build a Winning Team”, and parts of it resonated with me, so here is my abbreviation of the article (it still turned out long).
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/Jack and Suzy start out by saying that when you’re looking at “Winning” you can really spend a lot of time pontificating on competitive strategy, disruptive technologies, resource allocation, asset management and the like but once all is said and done, winning teams have a great coach and great players which results in great performance.
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/To become a great coach to great players, they propose that you should lead in four very specific ways.
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FIRST, the leaders of winning teams always—always—let their people know where they stand.

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/It’s not about saying “Good job, Sally,” or “Thanks for your hard work, Tom.” Effective leaders let their people know where they stand – constantly.
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/Leaders evaluate their people all the time – but they don’t often share those observations with the team members themselves. In the silence, stars become disaffected and leave seeking more appreciation, either in the soul or the wallet, or both.
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/Meanwhile, the solid center wanders around in undirected ignorance, and the real underperformers drive their teammates crazy because others must carry their load (and no one upstairs ever seems to do anything about it).
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/By contrast, on winning teams, leaders spend the vast majority of their time lavishing love on top performers, rewarding them for every contribution, building their self-confidence so they have the guts to take on even greater challenges.
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/On winning teams, leaders devote a lot of energy to middling performers, relentlessly coaching. And as for the do-nothings: leaders face into these individuals with a sense of reality, spending only the time to help them put together a résumé and find a job where they will be more successful.
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/Unfortunately, in most organizations, managers spend an inordinate amount of time working around their worst people, counseling their aggrieved co-workers and rearranging work to accommodate their incompetence. They also spend a lot of hours fretting over how they can possibly break it to their underperformers that they’re terrible at their jobs without hurting their feelings.
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SECOND, winning teams know the game plan.

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/There will never be a winning business team that lacks a clear sense of where they are going. They understand how the competition thinks and fights – and how it’s going to think and fight better.
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/Winning teams believe that winning will make life better in very real ways.
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/It’s not necessarily about strategic planning in the business school sense of the word.
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/It means picking a general direction and executing like hell. And that’s what winning teams do!
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/Here’s the catch. Most leaders explain the game plan in mushy, vague terms.
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/Ready, forward – what?
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/On winning teams, leaders infuse their people with crazy-positive enthusiasm about what winning will look like for the company and, more important (as it’s often forgotten), for them as individuals. “Look, Acme’s killing us,” they might say. “Their on-time delivering makes us look like we’re driving horses and buggies around here. But we can beat them by coming up with a better idea for efficiency every single day. And when that happens, your life is going to change and everything is going to get better. Our company will start to grow again; you’ll have more job security and a chance for advancement. Even though we’re going to enter into a long, hard slog of change ahead, at the other end of it you’ll be smarter, richer, and your life will be more exciting.”
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/Clarity. Direction. Outcome.
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/Ready, forward, charge.
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THIRD, winning teams are honest.

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/On every single winning team the leader is candid; he rewards everyone else who is candid, and outs the people who aren’t candid. Oh, sure, there are exceptions. But in time, they always backfire. Because when people don’t say what they mean, play politics, or withhold their ideas, everything gets skewed. Resentments accumulate. Cliques form. Good people leave. Work slows down.
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/Candor breeds trust, and when a team is infused with trust they share ideas freely. They help their colleagues when they’re stuck.
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/What they do every day then becomes about the group’s success, not their own. They’re not worried about not getting the credit for some big win; they know a teammate will say something like, “Hey, don’t thank me. Cary was the one with the eureka moment that set the whole thing in motion.” And Cary will say, “Thanks. I may have had the idea, but you executed.”
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/The candor-trust connection has another benefit: it promotes an environment of risk-taking. Who wants to try something new if they sense they’ll get a stick in the eye (or worse) should they fail? Leaders of winning teams encourage their people to take on huge challenges and let them know that they’re safe no matter what happens. And then they make good on their word.
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/Only in such environments will people be bold. And only bold teams win.
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FOURTH, and finally, winning teams celebrate.

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/Most leaders don’t understand the tight link between celebrating small successes along the way and achieving the big one at the end.
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/Teams that get pizza when they land a new client, or go on trips when they hit a sales milestone, or otherwise whoop it up every time something good happens create a delicious dynamic. They teach people what it feels like to win, a feeling that they never want to go away. So they do everything to keep winning.

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