Leadership Skills – 4 Steps to Building a Productive Team







By: Lou McAlister, Senior Consultant

The New York Times has at least 8 professional sports teams to cover, 6 of which are in the middle of competitive seasons. And yet, it was an out-of-season baseball team from the Midwest that captured major space on the front page of the Sports Section recently. Why did the St. Louis Cardinals become a feature story instead of the hometown Yankees or Mets?

In a word – team. The Cardinals announced that they were trading, or otherwise disposing of, players that made key contributions to their success during the last few seasons. They were announcing the promotion of young players likely to be the new heroes for the organization. They were announcing the re-assignment of players to better match their playing skills to positions on the field. In short, they were doing what they always do. Now, that isn’t news in St. Louis, but in New York…

Even a quick review of the Cardinals’ record, reveals an organization that is a great example of high-performance teambuilding at its best. Team building is one of the most important leadership skills to develop and it applies to more than just sports teams.

4 Steps to Building a Productive Team

1.         Find good people

Sometimes this is expressed as recruiting the best athlete, the smartest talent, or the best and brightest. That isn’t the whole story, though. It really boils down to finding people who fit into your overall philosophy and value system. Sure you want talent, skills, brains, abilities etc. But once a certain level of expertise is met, what really matters is how the individual integrates into the big picture for the organization. A great fit is extremely important to any team. Great teams are remembered for great results. They don’t always consist of great individuals. They do always consist of team members who fit well together and work together to achieve extraordinary results. The Cardinals have jettisoned great players (Albert Pujols) who became too expensive to fit into their management system. Nothing wrong with the talent, he just didn’t fit into the system any longer.

2.         Match the best people to the right job

Often, a player can perform well in more than one role. Part of the team builder’s job is to understand those different roles and seek those matches. As the team roster changes, the contribution expected from other team members can change. This means looking beyond the immediate skills and past performances of the individual. The successful team builder strengthens the team by looking into the future and making new assignments to the player.

3.         Train, coach, and teach continuously

Everyone has something new to learn, no matter how accomplished they are. Tiger Woods still has a golf coach. Regardless of profession, high-performance individuals seek coaching, training and new learning. From CEOs to doctors to athletes, new skills and techniques are demanded if one wants to maintain a competitive edge. Great team building organizations use continuous training as well as experienced coaches to develop their team’s talented individuals.

4.         Give meaningful feedback

Once the team is formed, great team builders continue to evaluate performance and give meaningful feedback. Annual performance reviews? Forget about them. Great for meeting HR requirements; poor for building a high-performance team. Immediate feedback that is specific to the job at hand is critical to building a strong and successful team. This means that the team builders (there can be many different team builders in an organization) have to be present and engaged in the team’s activities at the appropriate level. Meaningful feedback isn’t about doing just one particular thing the same way again and again – i.e., annual performance reviews.

Meaningful feedback is about communication. It is looking at actions at the right time, measuring the right results, and making the right adjustments to achieve better results. If a team member is consistently making customers angry, talking about it at the end of the year is pretty meaningless. The idea behind meaningful feedback is to encourage better behaviors and discourage poorer behaviors. Another way of putting it is that meaningful feedback is meant to improve productivity.

Building an awesome team doesn’t mean that you’ll always win, make the big sale, or even be profitable. It does mean that you’ll give yourself the best chance to compete and succeed.

If you’d like to know more about how to improve your individual performance, or how to improve your team’s performance – call us today. 501-255-7751