Build a Championship Team

When we talk about leaders being made and not born, one of the things that we know is that the number one quality that puts you on the fast track to the executive suite, or puts your outfit at the top of its field, is the ability to put together a championship team It is the ability to put together a group of men and women who can work together in harmony to accomplish great things.

Here are seven keys to building winning teams:

1. Clear Coaching and Leadership. Everybody knows who calls the shots. There is a coach, and everybody knows who the boss is. Winning leaders surround themselves with good people. You can tell the quality of the leader by the quality of the people the leader picks to surround himself with. Strong leaders always pick people that are better than them. Weak leaders will try to pick people who are weaker than they are.

2. Intensive People Development and Training Focus. To build a winning team, the entire focus internally has to be on building, motivating, encouraging, training, and upgrading the skills and abilities of your people.

3. Heavy Emphasis on Planning. This means one critical thing: Get the facts. In Harold Geneen's great book on managing, he writes that the key is facts. Don't be satisfied with the assumed facts or the hoped- for facts or the possible facts, but the real ones. Geneen writes that the facts don't lie, and the ability to plan well depends on market intelligence. If you look at a winning team or a winning general, what you find is that great battles are won because people on the winning side have good intelligence. They get accurate information and incorporate it into their planning. World War II may have been decided by the ability of the British to decrypt the German cipher machine, which allowed the British to translate secret messages going back and forth between enemy headquarters and the commanders in the field.

Also develop fallback plans. One of the characteristics of all great generals is that when they go into battle, no matter what the circumstances, they always ask themselves what they would do if they had to withdraw. At the Battle of Waterloo, Wellington held 17,000 veteran troops in reserve to cover his retreat should he lose the battle and be forced to withdraw. Even though he was almost defeated on the day of the battle, he never deployed those reserves. If he had, Wellington might have won earlier in the day and not have come so close to defeat. But an excellent general always has a fallback plan for the worst possible outcome. A leader who initiates a plan with no thought of what might go wrong is invariably one who will make a fatal mistake in business.

4. Selective Assignments. As a leader, you hire good people and you put them in assignments where they can make a major contribution. If they can't do well in that position, you move them around and keep rotating them until you find a place where they can make that valuable contribution.

5. Ability to Weed Out Incompetents. If the people you've selected cannot make a contribution, you must get rid of them Because the longer you keep incompetent people, the more you look like an incompetent leader. Not only that, but you send a signal that there is a reward for being incompetent in this organization, and it's called job security. This situation demotivates others and causes them to contribute less than they are capable of contributing.

6. Better Communication. One of the biggest weaknesses in any organization is poor communication. There is not enough information flowing up, down, and sideways. Championship teams need open communications so that people can get information anywhere they want in the organization very quickly.

7. Committing to Excellence. A commitment to excellence is the only thing that really motivates people. Being the best gets them out of bed in the morning, excited and dedicated. That's why leaders are always talking in terms of winning, success, and being better than the others.

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