With the summer Olympics saturating every social media site, news outlet and water cooler conversation, there’s one thing every business leader is wondering: “How do we create Olympic-level teams in our company?” Andrew Neitlich, the founder and director of the Center for Executive Coaching and author of the new book, Coach! The Crucial, Deceptively Simple Leadership Skill for Breakaway Performance, offers these eight strategies for leaders:
Understand the type of team that’s right for you
Many leaders talk in vague terms about teams, when sometimes they don’t want a team at all. Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith’s book The Wisdom of Teams notes the huge differences between a working group and a team. In a working group, people come to work, do their jobs, and go home. They don’t go out of their way for their colleagues, and basically want to get the job done and be left alone.
A team can increase performance exponentially compared to a working group, but it takes a lot more time, commitment, and effort to become a true team. In a team, people care about each other, go the extra mile, and figure out how to work closely together to perform at the highest levels. Many leaders set up incentives and structures for people to come together as working groups, yet they talk as if they really have a team.
At the same time, there are many different types of teams. In a symphony, everyone works together in perfect synchronicity, following the exact score. Contrast this to a jazz band, which encourages improvisation and creativity and sometimes creates the music on the spot. Getting back to the sports analogy, a winning basketball team has specialized roles for each player, and works fluidly to find openings, pass the ball, and make baskets.
At the other end of the spectrum in terms of coordination, there is the swim team or track team, in which players compete more or less individually in order to help the overall team win. If you don’t define what kind of team you expect, and support people to create that type of team, you won’t get the kinds of results you need.
Ask yourself: “What changes do we need to make in order to attract Olympic-level talent?”
Olympic-level teams have Olympic-level talent. If you want to attract Olympic-level talent to your organization, you need to be the type of organization – and have the type of leaders — where Olympic-level talent would want to work. For instance, hospitals strive towards the designation of Nurse Magnet by putting in place systems and structures that attract the best nursing talent. Every year certain companies make the ‘Best Companies to Work For’ list – and some of them make the list every single year without fail. Whether you are a Fortune 500 company or a smaller business, you can put in place the kinds of incentives, career paths, management team, and culture that encourage people to do their best and also tell others about how great it is to work with you.
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