How to Build a Great Team

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What a week for sports teams! Spurs win the NBA championship. USA bests Ghana with a stunning set of goals at the

Great teams can do what solo players never could.

Great teams can do what solo players never could.

World Cup, beating the odds. The Texas Stars take the 2014 Calder Cup in American Hockey League. It’s the perfect week for me to write about teams. As we can clearly see, a great team that works well together makes everybody a star. There’s this whole magic around one team member passing the ball—proverbial or otherwise—to another and the other person completing the play so they both look awesome. It’s even more thrilling because of the beauty of the teamwork. But building a great team is work. So what do you have to do?

First, communicate. You’re undoubtedly sick of hearing it but it’s true. Communication is the first rule of any team, whether work related or personal. As I watched the basketball, soccer and hockey games, I notice the players talking, signaling and sometimes shouting to each other. In each of these fast-paced sports, team members must stay connected, so they are interacting continuously. It reminded me the kitchen of busy restaurant on a Friday night. The more you communicate, the better you communicate, the easier it is to use shorthand, signals and slang to get the message across quickly and take action. If somebody’s blocking communication—in some subtler form of sticking fingers in the ears and saying “Lalalalala”—because they don’t like who’s in charge or they don’t approve of the direction you’re going, your team is going to miss the shot and lose the game.

Secondly, trust. You have to know that when you pass the ball, your team members are going to knock themselves out to catch it and get it where it needs to go. Or that they’ll protect you from other players when you’re sliding the puck toward the goal. Sometimes, the Spurs didn’t even look at each other before they passed the ball, because they just trusted that their team mates would be where they needed to be. If one team member works hard to make a deadline and another one lets it slide, they all look bad. If one team member waits days to return a client’s phone call, the whole team is assumed to be lax. A team wins a championship….or loses it.

Finally, celebrate successes together. I was on my feet in the first 30 seconds of the USA/Ghana game as Dempsey scored a surprising goal. Dempsey jumped up in the air and the team piled on the hugs and backslaps and then the coaches all high-fived each other. The crowd I was with went wild, screaming, high-fiving like we were actually participating. It feels great to have your whole team celebrate when things go well. Celebrate launching the product to market and don’t forget to relive great moments in the process when one or a few team members pulled out a great play. Celebrate your best day ever. Celebrate the feedback card from the customer who really appreciated the employees’ outstanding customer service during the busy holiday season.

So here’s to successful teams on and off the field. Now get ready for Sunday’s game against Portugal. Go USA!

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