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4 guidelines for building a winning team

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When a great coach sets out to build a great team, he evaluates his athletes’ talents and commitment, of course. But he also considers the dynamics of the group he is attempting to assemble, says J. Allan McCarthy, author of Beyond Genius, Innovation & Luck: The “Rocket Science” of Building High-Performance Corporations. How well those athletes play with others can have profound ramifications.

It’s not merely about getting the best players on your side, explains McCarthy. “If you’re building a championship team, you’re gauging how the individual athletes fit together; how their personalities, talents, drive and abilities will mesh to meet the team’s goals. It’s exactly what you need to do to build a winning corporate team. As Michael Jordan, put it, ‘Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.’ ”

In his book, McCarthy provides some essential principles for building the most successful team possible:

1. Build a team, not a group. A team of leaders is much different from a group of leaders. “It comes down to clear goals, interdependencies and rules of engagement,” McCarthy says. All companies strive to hire the best, but getting them to work together is another matter entirely.

2. Know your goals. McCarthy cites Bill Gates, who said, “Teams should be able to act with the same unity of purpose and focus as a well-motivated individual.” Sounds great, but how does that translate to the gridiron? Successful teams need players who can think creatively but also function within the confines of job in order to attain common goals.

3. Not everyone can be the quarterback. The trouble with executives is that they all want to be in charge, says McCarthy. Like thoroughbred stallions confined to a small space, a group of executives crammed into the same company can result in lots of kicking and biting. Clearly defined responsibilities are in the best interests of both the executives and the company. Counterproductive behaviors such as having a know-it-all attitude, multitasking during team meetings, exhibiting dominant behavior, not responding to others in a timely fashion and engaging in avoidance techniques need to be nipped in the bud.

4. Draft individual and team agreements. This is where defined responsibilities come into play, where you can establish who will do what for the company. Ask team members to commit to their duties while in a group setting; the public declaration will encourage them to fulfill their obligations.

According to McCarthy, “You get the team that you plan for, not necessarily what you pay for. If time is money, then I’d invest it in creating and building a championship team.”

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