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The 6 elements of a winning team

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If you are hoping to grow your business to anything beyond a small enterprise, then you're going to need to get leverage from a team – especially if you are eventually planning to sell-up.

Your team needs to be helping you in the pursuit of growth and expansion. They should be facilitating the smooth running of your business, not creating fires that you constantly have to put out.

I'm often asked in my business coaching sessions, "What do I need to create a team that actually helps me grow? A team that wins everytime?"

After years of seeing great teams, as well as those that simply aren't working well, I've discovered six elements that will help any manager create a truly winning team.

1. Strong Leadership

Just because this is obvious, doesn't mean it shouldn't be a focus. The strength of your leadership directly relates to the success of your team. Make sure you are taking time to assess and improve your leadership style constantly to ensure your methods are effective.

2. A Common Goal

In a sports team, every player on the field knows exactly where the ball is meant to be heading. That way, whenever the ball is going against the agreed-upon play, every player knows where he or she need to go to get the ball back on course.

If you were to ask each of your team members, 'What are we aiming for in the next quarter?' how will they respond? Will they all give you the same answer?

Your team shouldn't just have a 'sense' of where the company is headed – they should be explicitly clear of what the goal is for at least the coming year and certainly the coming quarter. That way they can shape their own goals around that.

3. Rules of the Game

Some may call this something like 'values system', 'culture' or 'guidelines' – but I am quite intentionally using the term 'rules of the game here'. Business is a professional game that we're all playing. This isn't a family outing where it's all a bit fuzzy and emotional. Those sorts of close, comforting feelings are great to have on top of it, but at the core we are professionals who are playing to win

What you need to create here is a 'loose-tight culture'. What that means is that you have clear boundaries around the edge of what is acceptable and what is required, but within those boundaries you have a more loose and flexible culture. Within those boundaries your team should be free to innovate, take risks and try different things. But they should still be bound by what is required for the business to survive and grow – you must define what is non-negotiable.

This isn't some little story you tell, or even something you just write and stick up on the wall. In a sports game, if a player steps beyond the boundary line, there is a consequence. What consequences have you set up for your team members – and yourself – for not working within those boundaries? Talk is easy – but you must actually implement this.

4. An Action Plan

You have your goal clear, you have defined how you're playing the game – so now it's time to set up the strategy. What is your action plan? How detailed is it? Have you sat down with your team and delegated the responsibility of different areas to the appropriate people?

Your team should be given input into this plan as well. You are not the overlord whose minions are doing your bidding. Your team need to feel the ownership of their role. They need to know what part they're playing the grander scheme of things and feel the satisfaction of achieving something that is their own.

In a football game, players aren't guessing whether they're a goalie or a defender or a forward – they know exactly what their role is and how they fit into the play. Yes, sometimes in the pace of the game their roles will switch momentarily because things happen on the field that cannot be predicted – but they know what their core responsibility is and will revert back to that when the ball has moved on once again.

At some point you need to pause and think – how do I align my team members with the common goal and ensure they are working together? How do I make sure they are clear about the action plan? This may require really effective team meetings that are led by you.

5. Support for Risk Taking

Your players know where they're trying to score, they know what the rules are and they now have a strategy in place that's designed to take them there. Now it's time to play the game.

And it's time to enjoy the game. Support your team members when they want to take a risk – encourage it! You should be striving for near-impossible opportunities so that you can truly celebrate when you win, and learn plenty even when you fail.

To get a big gain, you have to take a big risk.

6. Effective Management

This is the final component and I've purposely left it for last. You might think, 'Hey, that's the same thing as strong leadership.' But I assure you that is far from the case. In every business you need a leader and a manager – you may fulfil both roles, but you must learn to identify your various actions as one or the other.

The manager is the final component to a winning team. You see, a leader is someone who has the vision – who sees where the company is headed, communicates that vision and motivates the team to strive for that vision.

A manager, however, is the one who goes in and makes sure that the team is taking the right steps towards making that vision a reality. The manager sets up processes, ensures the right people are in the right jobs and allocates the correct resources to achieve milestones to constantly climb towards that ultimate vision.

If you sit down and come up with your common goal, define the rules of the game, form an action plan and encourage innovation in your business you'll start out with a great team. If you fail to constantly manage that, and move it along, and ensure that everything is in place, you'll find your team will begin to wane and the efficiency quickly diminish.

Effective management is the final and most important piece of the winning team puzzle: manage your team effectively and you'll create a well-oiled machine of a team to grow your business sustainably and quickly.

This article was contributed by The London Coaching Groupwho help businesses grow quickly and sustainably to where they want to be.

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