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.