Building a Team

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IN SPORTS OR IN BUSINESS, GREAT TEAMS SHARE TRAITS

Being 23 years old, new to the job at ATG, and fresh out of college, I am far from what you might deem “qualified” to preach any business-related sermon.

Some of the folks I work with have been involved in our field longer than I have been alive, and set a daily example of what it is to be a true business professional. However, if there is something I know a bit about, it is creating a team.

I am fortunate enough to have been involved in countless teams: undefeated basketball teams, totally defeated football teams, highly productive consulting teams, national response teams, and on and on. I have been the head of teams, a key member of teams, the ugly out-of-place kid on teams, and everywhere in between. That said, my visibility into truly building a successful team has come from coaching high school football. This experience, combined with the aforementioned items, leads me to believe there are two invaluable traits required for a successful team.

01 COMPETITIVENESS

During the season, a work colleague asked me, “What do you tell your players to get them fired up before the game?”

The answer is simple.

Try as I might, there is not a damn thing I can say to my players before a 48-minute football game that will change its outcome. What will change the outcome is their Competitiveness.

Competitiveness, as I have come learn, drives the actions of your team. It inherently builds the single most intangible characteristic of any team – pride. Come the day when you have a competitive group of individuals who take a sickening amount of pride in their name, and you have yourself a real team.

Competitive individuals constantly seek a path of success, along the way taking the steps necessary to succeed. From a high school football perspective, this includes things like lifting weights, conditioning, keeping up with grades, saying no alcohol, while infectiously passing this mindset along to teammates.

Not unlike business, all these actions represent an investment, and the more this investment grows, the more we care. For this reason, competitive teams succeed. I would much rather give a boring pregame speech to a group of so-so guys who are ready to slug it out for their team’s name, than give an Oscar-worthy address to a good team that now really, really wants to play.

02 UNSELFISHNESS

Flip to any news source and you are bound to hear how one individual is compromising his or her team through their actions. Sadly, professionals putting themselves above others is a daily occurrence.

Latrell Sprewell made headlines in 2004 when he refused the Minnesota Timberwolves $30 million contract extension because it was “insulting,” stating, “I got my family to feed.” The business world is no different. Bernie Madoff, Jeffrey Skilling, the list goes on (it is worth noting that Sprewell crashed his yacht, foreclosed his home, and is battling a $200 lawsuit, while Skilling is behind bars for 14 years and Madoff is walking free in 2139).

Contrast the above with unselfish acts we see on a regular basis.

Daily I see coworkers drop everything to help another in whatever way they may need. The team captain went out of his way each morning to give a lift to a sophomore who otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate in sports. I see leadership with an open door policy welcoming questions, concerns, and suggestions for improvement. Our team’s running back was so focused on his teammates it was unknown to him he had shattered nearly every rushing record in school history.

The point is that actions like those listed above, added up over a week, a month, and a year are special. Those are the people I want on my team.

It’s easy to describe a great team: hard-working, talented, respectable, ambitious, and so on. It is extremely difficult to manifest a great team. On any team – football, business, or otherwise – it is the individuals who determine the outcome (that “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” pitch). I’ve spent time on some really unbelievable teams, both good and bad, and the difference has always been clear. A team made up of competitive, prideful people who somehow still manage to put their teammates before themselves, is a successful team.

Mitch Coyler