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Have You Got a Grand Final Team?

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We have all enjoyed over recent weeks listening to the hype and watching the grand finals.  Some of you may wonder what makes a winning team and what can we learn from sport to apply to our approach to our staff recruitment, remuneration, retention, and staff motivation and a winning team.

There are so many elements that go into a winning team, whether it be in sport or a club.  It starts with the coach or the manager, as the motivator, and strategist, and involves everyone in the organisation.  A team must have the desire and the passion to be the best and to win, but how do sporting teams create the passion and desire to win?

It must start with the leaders to create a successful team; leaders have to demonstrate their commitment and passion to win.  Many quotes have been written by many great sportspeople over the years to help foster this burning desire to win.  In my early years as a long-distance cross-country runner, I recall being influenced by the writings of Percy Cerutty, the coach of Herbert Elliott one of Australia’s greatest ever runners. Percy trained Herb Elliott to a series of world records culminating in the Olympic gold medal at the Rome Olympics in 1960.  A quote of Percy’s that sticks with me still today, and I call on often, is “to compete and not win is not to compete”.  My interpretation of Percy’s quote was why compete if you don’t have a burning desire to win. We saw this burning desire on the television during the grand finals. The elation at winning and the deprivation at losing on the players faces.

But how do we create a winning team in our club? Vince Lombardi the greatest American football coach who led the San Francisco 49ers to their record-breaking wins, wrote frequently about winning. In one of his books, he wrote “whether in sports or in business, it always comes down to one thing: people. Hiring the right people and growing the talent” is therefore one of the most important responsibilities, and might I add moral obligation, for every manager in every organisation” It is the one part of every leader’s job that will have the biggest impact in the long term; it’s not something that a winning leader should abrogate to other people.

Seven steps to help develop a winning team

1. Never stop looking for good people

We must get out of the syndrome that great people will come to us by placing an ad in Seek. Motivated managers will never stop looking for great people wherever they are and whatever they are doing. I’ve written in the past that I was always handing out business cards to people I met who I thought could be a great addition to the businesses I was managing at the time; finding winning people should be a manager’s ongoing passion. There has to be investment in an ongoing process for continuously seeking and hiring the next star performer. This goes beyond your recruitment team – everyone in the organisation should be empowered to look and incentivised to bring in talent.

2. Invest in the interview process

Again, we often fall into a trap of assessing people on how well their practical skills might be. I get tired of reading adverts for hospitality staff with a list of 20 criteria the employer wants but rarely does the employer set out what they are offering, other than perhaps remuneration. Winning is a state of mind that can’t be measured by list of criteria.  We need to spend more interview time assessing what motivates people, gauging their enthusiasm, and what their dreams and wishes are. I often challenge hospitality managers as to why did they employ people who don’t smile in an interview process, assuming they will automatically smile the day they give them a job.  Smiling regularly is a personality trait people either have or they don’t – the same with the desire to win.

3. Look for different strengths

We need to focus more on finding talent that brings different, unusual and exciting strengths to our clubs; they will automatically add energy, innovation and enthusiasm which are key elements of winning.  The practical skills people need in hospitality are not rocket science they are easily learnt. Millions of people have learnt to play sport but only a handful get to play in the grand final. It’s the different strengths that they bring to the game other than the basic skills; look for these different strengths in your recruitment strategy.

4. Winning for the team

We often hear the term doing it for the team.  Creating a culture with a team who wants to win for each other and not just for themselves is a key element of winning teams. When new members are brought into a team it’s important that they are mentored by fellow team members, this helps to create the bond that we are doing it for each other.  A program of familiarisation with the team’s values and winning culture must form part of any recruitment process.

5. What does winning look like

While sports have a clear definition of what winning is, whether it’s the grand final or a gold medal, that’s what athletes know they’re aiming for. But what does winning look like in our industry?  That needs to be defined, whether it’s increase growth, increase profit, improve customer service measures or even greater community recognition. If we don’t set out what winning is for our team then the result is logical – we will be average at the best. Whilst everybody bangs on about setting goals, it is the basic element of winning; we can’t enjoy success or winning if we don’t know how to measure it. Spend some time defining what winning will mean for your team. Document it, advertise it, and make sure everybody understands what winning will look like in your club, then filter that down to what winning will look like for individuals within your organisation.  Don’t tolerate mediocrity. Setting ambitious but clear and quantitative goals is imperative to define a clear definition on what is winning and removing any uncertainty on how it will be measured.

6. Empower

Don’t micromanage.  If you find a degree of micromanaging is necessary in your team then you have employed the wrong people.  Empower employees to do what they do best. That doesn’t mean not to oversee or supervise their work, it means a healthy balance where individuals and teams can exercise their enthusiasm, empowering the individualism, thinking for themselves, and allowing them to demonstrate their passion for winning, means the organisation will win.

7. Make the hard call

People do change.  They may be influenced by a range of issues internally and externally, so a passion for winning can wane.  Winning leaders need to be on the lookout for team members who are losing this star, ways need to be assessed on how to reinvigorate team members or groups to stay on the winning path. But as we see in business and sport, often difficult calls must be made.  It’s the strong and successful leaders who will face up to their responsibility of making these difficult calls and perhaps assisting staff who have lost their enthusiasm for winning in their team, to find another path.

8. Rewards

By creating an organisation of winners, the rewards are in the culture a leader creates, a sense of belonging, stability as well as the number one reward the opportunity to win.  Dollars become secondary in these enthusiastic winning teams because leaders know their worth and have rewarded them with benefits well in advance.

John Dickson | john@dws.net.au | 0417 721 942

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