What’s the secret of a winning team?

England delivered its worst performance in a World Cup in 60 years and manager Roy Hodgson has promised that he will build a better stronger team – but how will he achieve it?

Business coach, Marielena Sabatier, CEO, Inspiring Potential who specialises in leadership development looks at how leaders can create high performing teams – whether they are in the world of sport or business.

England’s manager Roy Hodgson has claimed that his enthusiasm to lead England has not been diminished by their poor performance in Brazil. With the next major challenge for England being the 2016 European Championship he has his work cut out to improve their performance. What can he or indeed any leader do to improve team performance?

Most people work in teams, even in smaller organisations so it’s crucial that teams work well together. Richard Branson[i] said that carefully coordinated teamwork is as important in business as it is in sport. Branson surrounds himself with experts and has always worked as part of a team in all his businesses, despite being the figurehead and this has helped him gain such huge success.

Managing and motivating teams can however, be very challenging as individuals all have their own opinions, knowledge, values, goals and skills.

Develop a clear vision

To inspire a team a leader needs to create a clear vision and clear expectations of what they expect from their team, both collectively and as individuals. They need to develop an environment of open communication and trust, and ensure that every team member is on-board and understands the team’s goals and the business goals.

It’s essential that every part of the team pulls together and is striving for the same goals. The phrase ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ can be applied to successful team working. That’s not to say individual goals are not important, they are, but for teams to be effective everyone in the team must understand their role and also how it fits into the bigger picture.

As Bill Gates said “Teams should be able to act with the same unity of purpose and focus as a well-motivated individual.”

Creating successful teamwork though can be a difficult process, but here are some tips on how to achieve high performance and effective teams:

It’s important that everyone in the team understands and buys into a vision. This is something that the team could work on together as part of the process of building a better team. If people feel they have input from the start they are more likely to embrace the vision.

Develop clear expectations

Develop clear expectations of what you want from the team and how you expect it to be delivered. Recognise that some people are more inclined to be team players than others, and some people may prefer working alone. It’s important to motivate and inspire team working in every team member.

Ensure people know why they belong to the team

Whether the team is old or new it’s important for people to understand why the team is important. A good way is to ask each person to answer the following questions individually, and to then have a discussion, where the team leader shares his views. This could be done once a year to see how the team has changed.

· What is the purpose of the team?

· What is the team goal and how does this fit into the business goals/strategy?

· How do you as an individual perceive your role in the team?

Clear communication and tolerance for other styles

Clear communication is at the heart of successful teams and it’s important to think about how you do this. Aim for two-way interaction and the exchange of ideas and make sure to have regular team meetings to encourage this. Good team working also means being tolerant of other people’s styles and ways of communicating. It may be that some people prefer one to one meetings for suggesting new ideas, rather than doing it in front of the team, so managers need to allow people to communicate in the way they feel most comfortable.

Develop an environment of open communication and trust

Make sure that outside of scheduled meetings there is opportunity for open dialogue between team workers and the team leader. It’s important that the team leader is approachable and that people feel they can ask for support or help at any time. This helps build trust and a feeling that people are part of a team, rather than just left to struggle on with an issue until the next team meeting.

Team building

Team building activities can really help bring a team together. These could be monthly lunches, Friday afternoon drinks or perhaps bi-annual team-building sessions involving a special activity. Managers should get the team to suggest what they would like to do, rather than imposing work-based team building exercises, as they are more likely to enjoy it rather than see it as a chore. Activities should combine valuable learning as well as fun.

Hold them accountable to results

Enforcing accountability is key to successful teams as it gives a sense of purpose and achievement. Leaders need to set expectations and timeframes for tasks in writing and get a commitment from individuals. They need to monitor people’s work and ensure there is a reporting process in place to discuss results regularly.

Give constructive and positive feedback

Successful team leaders are able to give constructive and positive feedback to their team members. Constructive feedback increases self-awareness, offers guidance and encourages development and it’s important to learn to both give it and receive it. People make mistakes but the important thing is to learn from them, feedback can help make this possible.

Celebrate achievement

Celebrating individual and team performance is essential too as people need to feel their work is valued. Encourage people to highlight one key achievement a month at a team meeting and host a team breakfast or lunch to reward team achievements twice a year and to say thank you.

Laugh together

Laughter is a common language, be prepared to encourage your team to share a joke or funny story now and again. Making the work environment a little more relaxed, open and jovial can make people feel less stressed and can actually make people work better together.

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