Building teams is different to team building

Team building is the process of improving the communication and goal setting functions of existing teams and that is most commonly done by programs of shared experience. There are plenty of these available in the market ranging from single day in-house activities to daring multi day adventure programs. Building teams though is starting from scratch, and that is entirely different.

Building a winning team is about building culture. You need people to buy into that culture, not just pay lip service to it. People do that by being part of the culture and having some input into the establishment of that culture. Everyone must buy into the culture, or leave. By leaving I mean you may need to provide them with an opportunity to find an organisation into which they are a better fit. If a person doesn’t want to buy into the culture that is being built-in your organisation they are not going to be happy, they will not perform to the best of their ability and they will likely hinder the development of those around them. Worst case is that they become cancerous to the aspirations of the rest of the group.

Examples of developing a winning culture can most easily be found in sport, but it is equally valuable in all areas of business. Paul Roos is brilliant at it. He has achieved it now at two different AFL clubs, both seen as challenging environments. Both Sydney and Melbourne have benefitted from his approach to establishing winning cultures. He understands that it needs to be business-wide. It is not sustainable in the long-term to have a small segment of your organisation focussed on the winning culture and other areas doing whatever they want.

That is why it is so difficult to build winning cultures in not for profit organisations and sporting organisations. Simply put, they are run by volunteer boards. Though often well-meaning, many of these directors are completely unskilled in the area of high performance. Without the assistance and integrity that comes from professional input at the very top, it will be virtually impossible for any winning-focussed system to be sustainable.

Those people who do not place value in winning, have no understanding of the processes, sacrifices and changes involved and equally place little value in those processes. They regard the effort and the processes as silly and over the top. I have seen it first hand where directors of sporting associations believe that winning is not part of their goal setting and then are perplexed when their representative teams start to lose. They are usually very happy to start pointing fingers at everybody else in the organisation. Coaches and selectors are the first to be replaced in most situations.

Building a winning culture is about integrating standards of excellence into the everyday processes of the organisation. From the way the phone is answered to the way board meetings are conducted. From the goal setting processes of elite performers to the goal setting of the board. It includes the language used in the office and punctuality and dress standards. Equally these processes need to be underpinned and supported at every level so that everyone in the organisations knows where to go to get support, to improve.

Businesses are ideally placed to implement winning cultures. If you are part of a losing culture, perhaps it is time to have a look around and see how changes can be made. Sport is a great place to start.