How to build and strengthen your teams

"If I could solve all the problems myself, I would."

Thomas Edison

Significant success is achieved through teams. You are already on multiple teams. You operate on a team with your spouse or partner, your family and friends. You are on a team with vendors, clients and customers. You are on a team when you engage in sports and when you go to work everyday. Your success level is determined by how well you work within your teams. Here are a few ways to build and strengthen your teams:

Define the goal of the team. A team is gathered together because a larger goal is set that one individual cannot achieve by them self. What is the goal of the team? Why has the team come together to achieve what goal or objective? Make it clear. Make it known. If you are part of a team and you do not understand the goal, it is your responsibility to clarify it. It is essential that the team be reminded of the goal and the purpose or direction. As legendary Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz explained, "All winning teams are goal-oriented. Teams like these win consistently because everyone connected with them concentrates on specific objectives."

Pick a team captain. Indecisiveness and chaos ensues when a team does not have a team captain. All sports teams have one because it helps the team. A team without a captain is like a body without a head. The team captain can change from project to project too. This allows each person on the team to learn how to be a team captain and the responsibility that goes with it. A team captain should be chosen on that person's strength in a given area. If a team is working on solving a computer issue, the best team captain might be someone who is a computer geek, not someone who does not even know how to use a computer. Before engaging on a team project pick your team captain. Then, let that team captain lead.

Keep communications open and ongoing. Who is on first base, second base, outfield, etc. Roles change, circumstances arise, contingency plans are in order. Open communications helps everyone on the team to more effectively execute what is expected, and adjustments within those expectations. Open communication allows for idea exchange, comrade, and evolutions. Open also in the sense of: open your ears, not your mouth.

The best communicators are those that listen well. Frequent, ongoing, and open communication is what sets apart the good from the great. Henry Ford said it best, "If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself."

Apply the same rules and standards to everyone. What is good for one is good for all. Set the standards, norms, values rules, constitution, milestones, and objectives. As soon as rules and standards apply only to a few is when you create many problems within a team. If some are able to be tardy and others required to be on time, you have a problem. If a select few are relinquished from responsibility, others on the team will relinquish theirs. As the team captain or leader of a team be diligent on holding everyone to the same standards.

Foster trust. Trust is the main ingredient to successful teamwork. That's why entrepreneur and founder of IBM, Thomas J. Watson remarked, "The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it's very difficult to build and very easy to destroy." Trust is an undeniable belief or truth or strength of someone or something. If you don't have trust you can't create a team, build a team or sustain a team. Think of trust as the super glue that binds teams together! If you recall a moment in time that you had unstoppable teamwork on your side, you will undoubtedly uncover trust. How do you create trust? One way to do it is to do or follow through on what you say you are going to perform. Words that best describe trust are confidence, reliability, fairness, honesty, responsible, honor.

Measure and evaluate performance. Competency is usually governed by measurement. Team sports are evaluated through a winning score. Can you imagine a professional sports game that does not display a scoreboard? Business is evaluated by revenue. This habit makes the assumption that measurable objectives and performance expectations have already been outlined and clearly communicated. If not, define them. Put it in writing. Communicate performance standards, over and over again. Let the numbers be known! Results are the bottom-line. Keep records of performance. Review them on a regular basis.

Keep an eye on recruitment. Inject new blood. Inviting new team members allows for greater strength. Succession is inevitable. Make it work for the greater good. Awareness of new members and recruitment is essential to the growth and development of teams. New effective team members need to be incorporated in order to make this habit bare fruit. Just like the many seeds in an apple. You need plenty to ensure of possible candidates. Succession planning must be at the forefront of every team if it wants to survive and thrive.

Strive for the Win/Win relationships. You know the drill, right? Relationships are built on win/win, not the lose/win, or the lose/lose. Don't be taken advantage of. Don't take advantage of others. Every successful continued relationship is built on each party exchanging value to one another. If you are giving and not getting from a relationship then you are participating in a lose/win relationship. You are losing and the other party is winning. Are you stuck in this trap? Are you the person who always has to lose, or always has to win? If so, apply a win/win relationship to all of your interactions and watch how mutual respect, value-for-value reciprocity strengthens every aspect of your life. You can offer so many types of value including, but limited to: money, respect, promotion, recognition and appreciation. The best way to create a win/win relationship is to provide mutual value and respect.

Grab onto and implement at least one of these tools, tips and habits to improve your career and personal life. Best of success to you!

Jeffrey Benjamin is the co-author of Real Life Habits for Success‚ the founder of Breakthrough Training in Reno and the host of Breakthrough Radio every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on 99.1 FM Talk. Contact him through


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