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The Foundation of Winning Teams

By: Brian Tracy

To help people become happy, productive members of a team, you must understand their motivations. People at work are most motivated by four factors.

The first is challenging, interesting work. Most people want to be busy and happy at work, doing things that keep them active and force them to stretch, to move out of their comfort zones, to continually learn and grow. People won't buy into the goals and objectives of a team if they are given only the most mundane tasks.

Second, people are highly motivated by working in a high trust environment. This is created by keeping people in the know.

When people feel that they are aware of everything that affects their work and their position, they have higher levels of trust and motivation to perform than if they feel that they are being kept in the dark.

Perhaps the best way to keep people in the know is to have regular weekly staff meetings, where everyone gets a chance to talk about what they are doing in front of everyone else. This is one of the most powerful team building exercises of all.

Third, people are motivated by being made personally responsible for results. This is one of the most powerful tools of all to build competence and confidence in people. Give them important, challenging work to do and then support them while they do that work. The more responsibility a person takes on, the more he or she grows as a decision maker and leader and the more valuable he or she will be to your company.

Fourth, people are motivated by opportunities for personal growth and promotion. Many people will take or stay at a job that pays less than they can earn somewhere else if they feel that they are becoming better skilled and more competent as a result of the work they do. They know inherently that these additional skills and experiences will make them more valuable in the future.

Much to the surprise of most managers, money and working conditions are fifth and sixth on the list of what motivates people at work.

The Dynamics of Top Teams
The dynamics of top teams and the reasons for their outstanding performance have been studied for many years, all over the world. The teams in these studies had all achieved remarkable business success.

They had reduced costs dramatically in short periods of time in order to stay competitive in tough markets. They had often reduced product development time from three years to six months. Some had created brand new products and industries in the face of vigorous competition and gone on to world domination.

Each of these top teams have five characteristics in common:

1. Shared Goals
The first characteristic of top teams is that they share goals and objectives. Each team member is perfectly clear about the job to be done. They know the answer to the question, "What exactly are we trying to do?"

Top teams seem to be highly interactive. They discuss and agree on the ideal future vision of what the perfect product or service would look like or what their goal would look like if they achieved it. They discuss, explain, and agree completely on exactly what needs to be done. There is a direct relationship between the amount of time taken to discuss the goals of the team and each person's level of commitment to achieving those goals when the discussion is over.

When your team comes together, the first questions to ask are, "What results are expected of us? What are we trying to do? How are we going to go about doing it?"

The second area to be resolved is your standards of performance. How will the team measure progress, and how will the team know that the job has been done well?

You can't hit a target that you can't see. If people are not clear about the results or clear about how results will be measured, the job usually does not get done. If it does get done, there are often unnecessary delays, problems, and defects.

2. Shared Values
The second quality of top teams seems to be shared values, shared beliefs, and shared principles.

Prior to beginning the team task, the members sat down and asked, "What do we stand for? What do we believe in? What are our common unifying principles? How will we govern our relationships together? On what basis?" "Do we believe in the importance of integrity? Of being honest and open at all times with each other?” “Do we agree that, although we disagree, we will each show respect for each other?” “Will we always tell the truth?” “Will we resolve to accept responsibility and refuse to make excuses when things go wrong?"

Living in harmony with your innermost values and convictions is essential to feeling good about yourself and your work and to performing at your best. It is said that every human problem can be resolved with a return to values. What are yours?

3. Shared Plans
The third quality of high performing work teams is shared plans. Everyone discusses and agrees about both the goal and how that goal is to be achieved.

Socrates said, "We only learn something by dialoguing about it."

Once you are clear about goals and standards, you have to set deadlines and sub-deadlines for each task. Each person must know exactly what he or she is expected to do, and to what standard, by what time.

The best thing about group discussion is that, at the end, individual responsibility is clearly illuminated. Everybody knows exactly what they're expected to do, and they know what everyone else is expected to do, as well.

One of the biggest motivators of excellent, timely work is peer pressure. When everybody knows what everyone else is expected to do, a powerful, unspoken pressure not to fail in the performance of your task results. Everyone is watching and evaluating.

Shared ownership of a desired result leads to a feeling of mutual commitment and empowerment. It gives people feelings of both autonomy and dependence. It makes individuals feel proud of themselves and their personal performance and happy to be part of a larger team.

4. Clear Leadership
The fourth quality of high performance teams is that the team leader is visible. He leads the action. He is out in front.

The team leader keeps involved with each person and each task, continually offering encouragement and feedback.

Top team leaders lead by example; they set the standard. They see themselves as role models for others and always carry themselves as though everyone else was watching, even when no one is.

The best team leaders accept total responsibility for the members of the team. They go to bat for them when internal misunderstandings or difficulties arise. They stand up for them if they are criticized or attacked by other people. They are loyal to the members of their team, and the members of their team are well aware of this.

A good team leader acts as a blocker, always looking for ways to remove obstacles from the individual team members' performance. The leader runs interference and gets the team member the time, money, and resources he or she needs to get the job done.

The good team leader sees himself as a helper and as a facilitator of teamwork and team activities.

5. Continuous Evaluation and Appraisal
The fifth quality of high-performance teams is continuous performance evaluation and appraisal. Most activities and projects at work encounter problems and unexpected reversals, over and over again. Mistakes are more common than successes. The best rule to adopt is that failure is merely another form of feedback.

Good teams continually ask their customers, the people who use their work, for feedback. In business, everyone has several customers. Your boss is a customer. He or she plays a huge role in your success or non-success. Your peers or colleagues, who also depend upon you to do your job, are your customers as well. You must be clear about what they want and expect from you.

As a leader, your staff are also your customers. If you do not take good care of them, you will be unable to satisfy the customers on either side of you and your boss above you.

Finally, you must be hypersensitive to your customers in the marketplace, the people who buy or don't buy your product or service. Good teams continually ask their customers how they feel about their current performance and what they could do better in the future.

Excerpted, by permission of the publisher, from How the Best Leaders Lead: Proven Secrets to Getting the Most Out of Yourself and Others by Brian Tracy. Copyright 2010, Brian Tracy. Published by AMACOM. For more information, visit www.amacombooks.org

About the Author(s)

Brian Tracy  is a professional speaker, trainer, seminar leader, and consultant, and chairman of Brian Tracy International, a training and consulting company based in Solana Beach, California.