How to Build a Successful Team

Use these four points of emphasis to build a strong culture of teamwork in your utility.

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Have you ever noticed that the teams with superstars are not necessarily the ones that win championships? There is something more valuable than superstar ability or taking the shot every time you get the ball. We have all witnessed a tier-two sports team upset a top-ranked, top-talent team, and we scratch our heads asking, “How in the world did that happen?”

Most sports fans have heard of the famed basketball player Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Magic was so good in high school that his coach would tell him to take the shot every time he got the ball. Even though they would win big, Magic could see the faces of the parents who came to watch their sons play the game and the disappointment in it. At one point, he decided to make a huge change in the way he played the game.

Magic decided to positively affect the play of everyone on his team by raising their game and acting more like a team to work together for a common goal. He began passing the ball, and he did it so well that he still holds the NBA career record for assists at 11.2 per game. Arguably Magic Johnson is one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball, and he did that by making everyone around him better — not by taking the shot every time he got the ball.

A great team doesn’t require the superstar to take the shot every time, but what it does require is that everyone work collectively for a common goal with a set game plan. Good organizations realize that they are not competing with like organizations in their industry, but instead competing with themselves. Good leaders shouldn’t worry about what the “competition” is doing today, but instead focus on their team and making a positive impact.

The million-dollar question is how do we make our teams better and not focus on the competition? What steps are necessary in beginning to understand and implement this process?

  1. Humble yourself, and admit that you don’t have all of the answers. In doing so, you allow yourself to see that you most likely already have team members who possess different strengths than you do. Surround yourself with them. Don’t work independently on projects, but rather start to have discussions with your team because I am certain there will be a lot of valuable input they bring to the organization.
  2. Provide educational and training opportunities to your team members. None of us have the capability to grow if we don’t invest in a conscious decision to do so. In an effort to spur on development within your team, you have to encourage and present the challenge to your team members to learn new skills. I know that training and development can be expensive, but if you don’t invest in your team members and encourage them to grow, they are going to cost you more money in the long run.
  3. Surround yourself with the right team. Spend a lot of time defining the characteristics you want your leadership team to have. In doing so, make sure that you don’t compromise on what you deem to be important (humility, empathy, drive, growth, integrity, etc.).
  4. The right kind of communication. Life is busy. Work is busy. But, we have to understand that if we don’t take the time to ensure that we are effectively sharing information throughout our organization, we could be stifling morale and production. Where there is a void in communication, people tend to make up answers and assume things. If we are not communicating effectively, it isn’t just our problem — it’s everyone’s problem. Knowledge is power. You’d never give the play you’re running to the quarterback and receiver but leave the other nine players out of the loop. That would handicap your offense and set your team up for failure. Unfortunately, that is exactly what a lot of managers do and precisely why a lot of them fail.

There are a number of other things that leaders can do to increase teamwork, but these four points are paramount in beginning the journey.

Remember that you are not alone in this process. Every great leader must go through stages of unlearning in order to discern how to step away from myths that we have been taught about leadership and teach ourselves how to serve our team in a way that brings everyone together toward a collective vision.


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