Turn your organization into a championship team

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These six steps are simple ways to take your team to the top.

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June 3, 2021

Words of Wilson features a rotating panel of consultants from Bruce Wilson & Company, a landscape consulting firm.

What key elements take players from rookie to elite and on to win championships, or lead teams and companies to the top 1% or Top 100? As companies rise to the top, the percentages keep getting smaller. The majority of companies in this industry don’t even make it to $ 1 million in revenue.

The ratios are similar when analyzing the success of world-class sports teams. Even when new owners inject insane amounts of money into their organizations, money alone will not take your team to the finals.

I’ve played and competed at a high level in intense sports such as soccer and rugby, but I never got to the elite status. However, I did achieve elite status in Ironman races — a field where only 0.01% of athletes ever successfully complete a full Ironman race. I have completed four.

Achieving Ironman status gives me an insider’s look at how championship mindsets are built, and what it takes for athletes and businesses to win. Here are six simple strategies that each organization can use to get their team to the top:

1. A great coach. Business teams need an experienced coach who can call the plays and bring out the personal best in all their players. In rugby, we have a head coach and specialist coaches for performance positions, such as the back and forwards, since they have unique skills. In business, you’d have a leadership coach, a sales coach, specialty coaches for different segments of the industry and a strong level of alignment among the coaching team.

2. A winning vision. You need an inspiring call to action that motivates your team to buy-in to the dream. Work on every aspect of your strategy, the plays on and off the field, give them the support they need to win with no expense spared.

3. The right players in the right position. Not all the players need to be elite, but they need to be coachable, open to listening and respecting the opinions from the coaches trying to build a team of individuals eager to win together.

Focusing on these six strategies will help you improve your team and take your company to the next level.

4. Data. Statistics will let you know what your competition is up to, give you important context for performance improvement, and help you develop the real strengths of your players rather than spending too much time fixing their weaknesses. I remember a story about Messi nearly quitting soccer soon after moving to Italy to play because they spent all their time trying to get him to kick with his right foot. The frustration was too much and after nearly quitting, the coaches gave up and invested instead in giving him room to win.

5. Discipline and structure. Be hyper-focused on execution. This could mean attending all practice sessions, even in bad weather, not being late for team meetings, or even having a curfew after a certain time. An accountability framework needs to be communicated clearly and repeated often. I have seen many coaches make tough decisions by dropping some of their top players for infringing on some of the mutually agreed-upon team rules.

6. Culture and Rapport. Team chemistry is critical, not only to wins and losses on the field, but also to your financial success. If teams are not fully aligned with complete trust in each other, then cracks begin to show and can quickly accelerate. If players undermine others, team unity breaks down. If trust, rapport and team culture thrive, then the results can be amazing.

For example, during the Ryder Cup golf championship, when the American team was clearly more skilled on paper, the European team handsomely won the tournament due to hard work and skill, but most importantly, the bond and commitment to each other.