Build a Real Winning Team

by  Chris Edmonds  |  Change Management
Build a Real Winning Team

We won! ’Tis the season of football playoffs here in the US, both on the college and professional fronts.

Fans, players, and coaches can be heard loudly bragging that their team won much to the chagrin of the opposing team’s fans, players, and coaches.

Many societies – not just Western ones – place a great deal of value on winning. However, that emphasis can cause leaders and team members to tolerate lousy behaviors and practices so long as their team “wins.”

If winning is the only thing, then winning at any cost – behaving badly, cheating, bending the rules, withholding information – is OK. It might even be reinforced, if unintentionally so.

For example, I remember a sales award meeting where the top sales person was called to the podium to pick up their award – a trophy, a bonus check, and a trip. A sales colleague of the winner turned to me and said quietly, “It’s taking her a while to reach the stage – she’s dragging a lot of body bags behind her.”

I believe it is important to be very specific about how you define winning for your team or company.

Highly regarded, best-companies-to-work-for organizations define winning as performing well and operating well. Those companies make values and culture as important as results and profits.

Let’s Look At These Two Elements

Every organization needs to perform effectively. To ensure desired performance, clear goals must be defined and embraced by all leaders and team members. With clear agreements about performance expectations, progress towards goals as well as goal accomplishment can be measured, monitored, and rewarded.

In addition to performance, every organization needs to operate effectively. To ensure a healthy work environment, values must be defined in behavioral terms – and embraced by all leaders and team members. With clear agreements about values expectations, progress towards great citizenship as well as consistent demonstration of valued behaviors can be measured, monitored, and rewarded.

Once leaders have defined what winning means, they must align everyone’s practices and behaviors to deliver on their winning expectations. Everyone, including the leaders themselves, must be held accountable for delivering expected performance while modeling the organization’s valued behaviors.

This approach redefines what a good job looks like – what winning looks like. Desired team members embrace your values and deliver on promised results.

What about those players that deliver the results you want but don’t model your valued behaviors? Like the story of the top sales person, they bust their quota while busting chops!

If leaders accept or tolerate the lousy behaviors because of a player’s great performance, what does that tell the rest of the organization about their valued behaviors? They’re a lie. That’s not a good message nor is it a good practice.

What’s required is that leaders hold those players accountable for both performance and values. They engage, clarify, and coach so that results are delivered in desired ways, with desired behaviors.

If a player, be they a leader or team member, is unable to embrace both performance and values, the leader must lovingly set them free and release them from employment.

That action sends the right message – our values will not be compromised while we deliver promised performance.

The challenge today in our winning global culture is to help leaders pay as much attention to values as they do to performance.

Take the time and energy to create a real winning team, one that delivers high performance and treats others with trust, dignity, and respect, every interaction, every day.

Have you been on a team that truly lived its values? Tell me about it…

About The Author

Articles By chris-edmonds
S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, thought leader, author, and executive consultant. He writes books. He blogs and podcasts. He’s a working musician on the side.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Paul LaRue  |  05 Jan 2015  |  Reply

Chris, this a terrific post! It cuts straight to the heart of the matter in both culture, leadership, and individual performance.

How many times have we seen bad behavior tolerated, or even encouraged, because of the “winning” results? A true winning team has a win-win-win culture.

I hope that leaders and organizations read this and realize the positive message they send when they stand up for winning value-based behaviors.

Chris Edmonds  |  05 Jan 2015  |  Reply

Thanks so much, Paul – I’m so glad this post rings true for you!

My charge on this planet is to help leaders create workplace inspiration – hopefully ideas like these will help leaders modify their team’s expectations and behaviors to make it win-win-win-win for all involved.



John E. Smith  |  07 Jan 2015  |  Reply

Hi, Chris – very well-stated and valuable post:)

I particularly enjoyed your clear distinction between outcomes (Performance) and follow-through (Operations). Too often we do not understand the difference between these two important and related functions. Your beginning story about awards and body bags was a perfect example of what to avoid.

What value an award if we lose our soul?

About that sports analogy, I would add that another aspect of our mania about winning is the need for affiliation. You mentioned fans, players, and coaches all whooping it up when the team wins. This is the power of affiliation. The coach provides leadership, the players provide skills and tenacity, and the fans support the coach and players. Everyone is invested in the outcome and shares the emotional reward when the group prevails.

The dark side is when people are so affiliated with a group that they become emotionally distraught based on the ups and downs of what other people are doing. I have seen otherwise sane people become enraged when their team does poorly. I worked in one organization where the fortunes of the local football team (Texas:) would determine the attitude of many for the next week. When a win occurred, the week was good no matter what, but when the team lost, tragedy struck and hung around.

Sometimes the affiliation thing can be a negative value.

I wonder how the two-sided affect of affiliation shows up in our organizations and whether we ought to pay more attention to how we engage folks in healthy ways and positive relationships.


Chris Edmonds  |  31 Jan 2015  |  Reply

Thanks for sharing the affiliation need concept, John – that’s very powerful! I’ve seen it and been aware of it but never had it described so eloquently for me.

I have absolutely seen the benefits and costs of affiliation in organizations – folks affiliate with a bully (with logical consequences) or they affiliate with a great boss (with different logical consequences). Very powerful.



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