The team challenge

I’ll admit it; I’m a sports fan. No matter the season, I enjoy the teamwork and competitive spirit displayed in any sport. One of the most revealing things about watching a good game is the commentator’s use of statistics.

I’ll admit it; I’m a sports fan.

No matter the season, I enjoy the teamwork and competitive spirit displayed in any sport.

One of the most revealing things about watching a good game is the commentator’s use of statistics.

The wide range of detailed statistics and the conclusions drawn in the commentator’s analysis often reveals the strengths and weaknesses in the team.

Whether you operate a small business with six staff or manage a larger company of 50 or more, getting staff to work as a team is challenging.

Business theory stresses that a group of people working together achieve better outcomes or results than one person working alone. If teams have the potential to deliver great results, why is it so difficult to translate the theory into reality?

Consider a professional sports team as an example.

The manager and coaches analyze the team to determine where the strengths are and what positions need to be filled. Individuals are selected for their skill and past performance.

After hours of conditioning, drills and plays, the team is accountable to perform at a professional level.

Expectations are that everyone respects each other’s abilities and differences will be set aside.

Seems straightforward enough. So let’s transfer the above example to a business model.

It begins with planning.

As the owner, your vision and goals provide the framework for your business.

Conversations with partners, mentors, and occasionally coaches, can provide perspective. Planning should be current, clear and concise.

So what are some of the fundamentals to the foundation of a winning team?

Success depends on your ability to identify and choose the individuals who possess the specific technical skills, as well as good communication and problem-solving abilities.

Have you established hiring standards in your business?

Job or position descriptions with specific competencies and clear responsibilities are critical.

Does your company offer fair and friendly customer service?

Do you and your team model these same values?

A business that creates and adheres to a strong set of principles will stimulate intelligent and responsible behaviour.

Respect, trust and honesty are key points that will influence positive teamwork.

Develop a set of working standards, including agreements about when, why and how information is shared.

These types of agreements should state how knowledge and ideas will be shared to encourage collaboration.

It’s important to review the standards and implement changes when necessary.

Make it a priority to talk openly about the company’s vision, goals and objectives.

The whole team should have input based on their role.

Options should be openly discussed and documented; decisions, goals and strategies shared. Understanding roles, where they and others fit, creates ownership and accountability.

Distribute the work equally. Staff is also motivated when the working environment allows them to take responsibility.

Regular reviews can measure and chart progress. Issues can be identified before they become major complications.

Clarity and transparency will ensure your team has a clear purpose.

Expect to have disagreements and encounter conflict occasionally.

It’s human nature. Encourage and support constructive and open dialogue. Destructive or disrespectful language is never acceptable. Focus on solutions, not just the problems.

Within any team, there are those who give 100 per cent and those who do just enough to get by. This causes friction and, if left unaddressed, affects the entire team.

Recognize natural leaders and follow through on working agreements.

If an individual is not able or willing to perform, they are not on the right team.

A variety of personalities and working styles makes for a powerful team.

Each one of us possesses different knowledge, skills and experiences.

These diverse perspectives will challenge the status quo and supply different viewpoints. Encourage innovation and risk-taking.

Creating the right conditions for success is vital to achieve real success as a team.

ActionCoach is written by John MacKenzie of ActionCoach, which helps small- to medium-sized businesses and other organizations. He can be contacted at or by phone at 403-340-0880.