Real Leaders

7 Ways to Develop a Championship Culture

A former New York Yankees coach shares seven lessons on how to develop champion teams from stories and insights gleaned from some of the world’s top performers in sports, life, and business.

01  YOU GET WHAT YOU TOLERATE

How often do you find yourself adapting as a leader? I’m guessing frequently. Instead of adapting, why not create a set of standards that all company team members help develop, create, maintain, and enforce? Instead of going nuts as a leader and worrying about who’s not doing what, you can build a culture of full accountability. Your people, working alongside you, can help create the game rules and help enforce them.

02  CONNECT TEAM SUCCESS AND INDIVIDUAL SUCCESS

A company needs to win, but so do its people. It has to go beyond the paycheck. In today’s mindset of “What’s in it for me?” realize that you can get more from each team member by connecting their goals to team and company goals. As a leader, you must demonstrate to team members that they can achieve higher levels of success when both company and team win. Have a closed-door strategy session and ask team members two questions: “What does winning mean to you?” How can I help you win?” The trick is this: As the leader, you now have to help them win.

03 LEAD LIKE A COACH, NOT LIKE A BOSS

What is the most significant difference between a coach and a boss? A coach is a teacher, motivator, encourager, and inspirer. A coach makes sure the fundamentals are being focused on and practiced daily. A coach knows the fundamentals of the game and knows that perfect execution is what leads to winning. A great coach also knows when to push, and, most importantly, when to call timeout and have a heart-to-heart with players.

A boss is frequently just an enforcer who works in isolation with a hyper-focus on quarter-over-quarter growth and securing the next big deal. Yet, there are good bosses and bad bosses. The reality is, most people understand the idea of a “good boss” by what they give — time off, extra pay, pizza on Fridays — but not usually from challenging team members on what they could become. Be a coach; bring out the best in your people.

04 DO NOT LET YOUR TEAM QUIT ON YOU

When things aren’t going well, it’s easy to blame others and point a finger. It’s even easier to quit. If opportunity doesn’t present itself fast enough in your company, its another reason for employees to move on to something better. With much variety in the marketplace today, many team members keep their eyes peeled for what’s next. Their desire to grow is high, so make sure that you, as the leader, take advantage of that desire.

Instead of external staffing companies baiting your team with new opportunities, make sure that you’re encouraging them to find their next, new role in-house. Create and nurture a culture of internal advancement. When somebody advances from within, make it known to everyone. Use this as a reminder that when they’re on your team, their future is with you.

05 BE ADAPTABLE, OPEN, AND WILLING TO IMPROVE

Things are always changing, and your team must be adaptable, open, and willing to improve. Leaders must be flexible, accessible, and willing to improve. One way to do this is by bringing in outside speakers, coaches, and development experts to help your people grow. Work the entire skillset of your staff over the period of a year. Focus on their mental wellness and readiness, build their confidence through training, and improve team connectivity by exposing them to team building techniques and experiences that move them into new ways of thinking, behaving, and interacting. This takes a courageous and vulnerable leader, who is comfortable repurposing a few hours of deal-making each month toward team development. A real leader understands the importance of investing in human capital and playing the long game.

06 HIRE A TEAM THAT CAN KEEP UP WITH YOUR PACE

Do you often get frustrated that your people don’t work fast enough? Well, those who cannot keep up get frustrated with your demands, too. Many leaders make a crucial mistake when it comes to hiring. That mistake is hiring people who cannot or will not work at their pace. Some people prefer to go slower in low-pressure environments. That’s how some people do great work. Others love the pressure and enjoy moving quickly. Building the right team goes way beyond a shining resume and a great interview. Ask about the candidate’s preferred pace of work — to make sure they can keep up with you.

07 TALK ABOUT WINNING, BE ABOUT WINNING

It is OK to talk about winning in the workplace. Be excited about it. Let your team know it’s the reason they work at your company. They are here to be the best. They are here to win. They are here to dominate your category of business. It’s great to be humble in how you go about your business, but it’s equally essential to portray pride and confidence in your company’s vision and purpose. Demand excellence. Stay ahead of the competition by focusing on the details of your process and the importance of your purpose. Be a team that stands for and embodies winning. Over time, that culture of winning will help attract top talent, more sales, and the attention of your competition — making you the talk of your industry.

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