Before starting a career in oilfield operations and ultimately consulting, I was fortunate to coach ten high school football and baseball teams to state championships. As I look back at what made us successful as sports teams and then start to look at the very successful business teams I have been fortunate to serve on, I notice a trend. They both have the same five critical factors necessary to be successful.
- Great teams set high goals. We never set a goal to win X number of games, we always set a goal to win the championship. In business, we never set a goal to be average, rather we set goals that would create a competitive advantage for our team and company.
- Great Teams hold themselves accountable. As we have stated before, accountability does not mean punishment. We must focus on three things for which we must hold all team members accountable:
- expected behaviors related to how team members respond to one another
- continuous process improvement to reach higher and higher objectives
- tasks done on time and done right.
Great teams believe in their mission/goals. A Gallup Poll released June 11, 2013 indicated that only 30% of workers are engaged at the workplace and that the vast majority do just enough to get by. Great teams get their teammates to understand how their efforts impact the team and company and ultimately get them to buy-in. They know that to motivate the employee to a top level of performance they must align sub-team goals with the goals of the overall team.
Let’s look at these 5 critical behaviors through the lens of one of the more underrated American sports team. The San Antonio Spurs have quietly built a dynasty of sorts. No, they may not be the Celtics of the of the ‘60s that won 8 in a row and it’s not the Bulls of the Michael Jordan era, but they are great in their own right. No, they didn’t win the World Championship this year, but they did take a far superior team (on paper) to 7 games and they have 4 championships since 1999.
This is what is amazing about the run the Spurs have been on over that time, they are ALWAYS overmatched on paper. If you simply compared the talent of the players, the Spurs are almost always on the short end of that stick. Sure they have Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and had David Robinson. These are all names that the casual fan has heard at some point, but they may not have heard of them if they hadn’t played for the Spurs. Ginobili and Parker look more like law partners than world class athletes and the two big men quite honestly are closer to Will Purdue than they are Wilt Chamberlain. So how do they win? How have they continued to be so successful?
Look back at our list of 5 critical factors and imagine what it must be like to be on that team and playing for a leader like Greg Popovich. Do you think each team starts with the goal of winning a World Championship? Do you think the coaches hold the players accountable to their actions and performance, as well as the players to other players? Do you think they deal with tough issues that arise over a grueling 82 game schedule? Do you think the front office, medical staff, coaches, players, etc. all have the same mission and vision for the organization? Do you think that the entire organization has bought into this vision? If you answered “yes” to all of these questions then you see what an incredibly functional team must look like. The other side of that coin must look like the Dallas Cowboys, but it pains me far too much to discuss that disfunction in this blog.