Sunday, June 20, 2010

8 Ways to Create an “A Team”

'Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing."
- Vince Lombardi

How would others describe the performance of your team? Would they refer to your team “the A team”? Or are they compared to the Los Angeles Clippers (winning percentage: .362)?

In either case, here are 8 things you can do to boost the performance of your team:

1. Invest in your team’s development.
It makes me want to set my hair on fire when I hear about a manager who doesn’t think there’s enough time or money for training and development. With that attitude, in the long run, you’ll end up with an underdeveloped and under performing team and probably out of a job. Taking the time to coach, train, mentor, and stretch your employees may cost you in the short term, but you’ll get a long term payback that’s well worth it.
Start by sitting down with every employee and creating a development plan.

2. Pick A players and onboard them.
When and if you have the opportunity to hire, don’t cut corners or lower your standards during the selection process. Use a rigorous and proven process for selection interviewing and assessment. Then, when you do make that hire, put the same amount of rigor and effort into the onboarding process. Onboarding isn’t just handing a new employee over to HR and giving them a training manual. It’s about taking to time to teach, assimilate, set them up for continuous success.

3. Walk the talk – be a role model.
So you’re going to raise the bar and set high standards? You’d better start by taking a good look in the mirror and evaluating your own performance, work habits, and leadership skills. The best leaders are always working on 2-3 things they want to get better at, and they are very open about admitting it. It set’s an example for performance excellence and continuous improvement.

4. Provide meaningful work.
It’s every leader’s obligation to their team to make sure they are doing value-added, meaningful work. Take a look at the work your team is doing get rid of the stuff that just doesn’t matter. When employees have a sense of meaning, purpose, and passion around the work they do, you can’t hold them back - they will do extraordinary things.

5. Make sure they have clear goals and expectations.
Provide your team with clear direction in the form of a vision, mission, and goals, and make sure every team member has individual goals and clear expectations. It’s a proven fact – goal setting works – it drives higher achievement. Having clear expectations and providing regular feedback ensure that employees are doing the right things right.

6. Create a motivating environment.
Right – so how? Start by:
- delegating (or empowering), providing support
- removing obstacles
- providing meaningful recognition
- and having a little fun now and then.
I can walk into any office or building, or sit in on any meeting, and in less than an hour tell if the environment is motivating or not – you can smell it, see it, feel it, and hear it. If you can’t tell, then invite in someone who can and be open to their feedback.

7. Do an honest assessment of your team.
Use a 9 box performance and potential matrix to assess your team’s performance and potential. Or, stack rank your team from highest to lowest performer. Is there someone on your team that you’ve been working around for years, but just haven’t wanted to admit it or take action? Maybe it’s time to – because chances are everyone else has noticed it. One of the worst things a leader can do is what they don’t do – that is, they don’t take action on poor performers. It lowers morale of the rest of the team, lowers your team’s overall performance, and while you think you might be humane, you’re actually doing that poor performer a disservice. You owe it to that person to get them out of a role where they can’t be successful and help them find something where they can be.

8. Create a team.
Build your team – create your vision, mission, goals, and expectations together. Do behavioral assessments and share the results, so that everyone can understand, appreciate, and learn to work with different styles. If you’re not sure how, try Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team, or get someone to help you that does.

No team will ever be perfect, there’s always room for improvement, and it’s a never-ending journey.

The best leaders are always looking to take their team to the next level – they are never satisfied. They know that people like playing on a winning team, and it’s their role to put them in a position to win.


Tim Griffith said...

I pity the foo' who doesn't have time for training his people!! (sorry, couldn't help myself)

Seriously, great list - thanks!

Anonymous said...


Somewhat of a related issue. Do you think that it's appropriate to reward mentors in some way, such as a special bonus? Are most mentors the employee's supervisor or next level person? Are mentors generally volunteers? Is it necessary to reward people to get them to be mentors? How are mentors selected in general?



Dan McCarthy said...

Tim -
Nice. Thanks!

Sidney -
Wow, that's a lot of questions - worthy of a seperate post, but here are my short answers for now:

1. "Do you think that it's appropriate to reward mentors in some way, such as a special bonus?"
I suppose you could, but I don't think it's needed. In fact, some may see it as insulting. Most mentors give back becuase they want to.
2. "Are most mentors the employee's supervisor or next level person?"
Usually not the immediate supervisor, often 2 levels higher, but not always.
3. "Are mentors generally volunteers?" Yes.
4. "Is it necessary to reward people to get them to be mentors?"
See #1.
5."How are mentors selected in general?" Usually there is criteria, sometimes training, and the mentee should have a choice.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments, Dan. The questions I asked were related to a post in the compensation cafe about paying mentors. Perhaps you would like to respond there as well??


Seth Resler said...

Nice call on Pat Lencioni's "Five Dysfunctions of a Team" - it's a great book. We're actually hosting a free webinar with him on July 1st. Details are here:

Heath Davis Havlick said...

I agree with you about setting goals. "If you have no destination, any road will get you there."

Dan McCarthy said...

Anon -
Thanks. I read that post and I'll still stick with my response.

Seth -
Thanks. Free is good. (-:

Heath -
Thanks, good quote.

Mary Ellen said...

Great post! This truly does seem like a recipe for a successful team. Setting goals, and performing honest assessments of your team are great tactics to keeping everyone on the same page and motivated. A great leader is a mindful leader who is in the moment, positive, taking responsibility - for failure or triumph- and open and honest with the rest of the team. I love the idea of "walk the talk" - a good leader is just that because of the standards and expectations set forth by their actions and leading style. Will definitely share with the rest of my team, thanks!

Dan McCarthy said...

Mary Ellen -
Thanks! I like your description of what a good leader is all about.