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Build a team, not a group, to find success

Published November 9, 2012 6:51 pm

Members must be willing to mesh to get best results, author advises.
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J. Allan McCarthy, author of "Beyond Genius, Innovation & Luck: The 'Rocket Science' of Building High-Performance Corporations,"says coaches in sports gauge how individual athletes fit together and how their talents, drive and abilities will mesh to meet a team's goals — exactly what goes into a winning corporate team.

Describe the building of a championship business team?

The secret sauce starts with the raw materials —intelligent, agile, motivated professionals who are interested in working together. Hiring people with a team aptitude is half the equation. Many job prospects, even those with extensive experience, lack this capability. Then, make sure to address the second half of the equation, that is to get the fundamentals right when building a championship team.

This has to do with a team of leaders, as opposed to a group of leaders, right?

There is a profound difference between the inner-workings of a group and a team. A team is operating under clear rules of engagement, understood interdependencies (and best with financial interdependencies — meaning that team members are dependent on one another to make a bonus and/or incentives), a method for in-the-moment conflict resolution so things don't melt down, and specific decision-making protocols. A team isn't formed by placing a bunch of employees or leaders into a business unit with a fancy label. That's a group. A team is evolved over time after deliberate effort is expended to get the fundamentals in place. A group is a loose federation of people who may be working toward a common objective — but haven't, as of yet, evolved into a unified, aligned, efficient workforce.

Why is it so important to build a team?

It's likely a key contributor to this statistic. About 50 percent of business failures can be traced back to ineffective execution — even if a company's products and services are competitively viable.

Don't all leaders want to be the quarterback, and doesn't that present issues?

Most companies focus on hiring the best and the brightest, which means that a high percentage of the workforce seeks a leadership role. Some employees may believe they are entitled to that, but effective team building can help neutralize this divisive dynamic. A sports team of highly paid athletes would self-destruct in a nano second if they weren't bound together by clear roles and responsibilities, interdependencies directly tied to pay, clear decision-making protocols and ways to manage disagreements in real time. What would happen if a quarterback barked out a play and half of the team decided to do something else?

What about teams going off track?

Team environments are somewhat fragile because they can be easily sabotaged (consciously or unconsciously by members). Missing a meeting, not listening, being argumentative, not responding in a timely manner, working in a silo are all forms of a team going off track. I recently had a client say, "The executive team really works well together but when we leave a meeting, everyone just goes and does his own thing — as though we never had the meeting in the first place." I'll let you decide if this organization had a championship team at the helm or simply a group of executives.

Dawn House J. Allan McCarthy, author






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