Building a Winning Team

August 7, 2013 10:50 pm Last Updated: April 24, 2016 6:41 am

In today’s volatile business climate, organizational success depends on people working together. There is intense pressure to quickly turn ideas into profitable action. 

Creating high-performance teams is a competitive edge, but you can’t build a team unless individuals significantly improve their performance and bring that improved performance to a team effort. 

Teams often deliver impressive gains in three key areas: quality, productivity, and customer service. They also bring other advantages to their organizations:

• Improved flow of information across business boundaries
• Heightened respect for diversity of ideas
• Strengthened employee morale and loyalty

However, approximately 70 percent of team initiatives fail, usually due to ineffective leadership, and only 43 percent of employees feel they are given the skills needed to fulfill their job responsibilities, especially when they are assigned to a work team. 

If you’re tired of team development models that promise results but instead deliver platitudes, theories, and confusion, read on. 

Successful organizations provide their employees and managers with challenging work in a healthy team environment. Each person’s results depend on securing the willing cooperation of others, and being part of a winning team energizes people to produce tangible outcomes together. 

The approach outlined here consistently produces literally millions of dollars of results in Canada and around the world for our clients who are tired of the following:

• Lack of executive “buy-in” or support for team initiatives
• Team meetings that drag on, producing little, if any, progress
• Academic theories that may work in large, bureaucratic organizations but are inappropriate for medium-sized or small companies—the bulk of Canada’s employers 
• Complicated processes that, ironically, lock teams up in an endless loop of “team” training

An effective team has a clear purpose and mandate. To ensure focus, these teams regularly revisit their purpose and desired outcomes. 

They invest time at the conclusion of each formal meeting to determine what worked, what did not work, and what adjustments they require to make their next meeting even more productive. 

They improve their team process as they advance toward their desired outcomes. One of our teams reduced their meetings from an average of 45 minutes to 8 minutes, and produced even better results.

Effective teams implement their action plans. While this seems self-evident, often team members fail to act on promised actions. While they have “good” reasons, lack of action slows momentum. If a team member is unable to complete an action assigned to them, it is their responsibility to ensure that the action gets completed. 

The owner of an Ontario-based construction company told us his experience with a team-based approach: “There was head-butting going on and I wanted to resolve that issue. Working as an effective team we generated 3 to 5 percent more on the bottom line. That may not sound like much, but, in the construction business, that’s huge!” 

Ingredients for Effective Team Implementation

1. Team members give their unqualified commitment.
2. Team members show up (when you are missing, we lose your input).
3. Members are willing to be coached.
4. Meet when we say we’ll meet and follow our time schedule, including beginning and ending team meetings on time.
5. Avoid speculating, over-scrutinizing, or over-analyzing.
6. Listen from a common commitment, rather than an agree/disagree perspective.
7. Keep asking what’s next and take required actions. 
8. Influence and include others. (Together Everyone Achieves More)
9. Minimize the use of PowerPoints. Engage others in focused conversations.

High-performance teams create actions that clearly move them from where they are to where they want to be. If they need to “sell” actions, then they are off track. People who have a strong desire for the end result will take actions without persuasion.  

Dave Mather is a Performance Improvement Specialist at Dale Carnegie Business Group in Toronto. 

His columns can be read at

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