Building Winning Teams – Learning As A Lifestyle

By: Eric Betts

Whether you are a part of a non-profit organization, a religious organization, a school, or business, the success of the group is what maximizes the success of the individual. For the sake of this discussion, we will call these groups, “teams.” One of the keys to success in working on a team is being able to balance one’s individuality with what is needed from them to help the team win and succeed. If all the individuals of the group are only focused on their own personal peculiarities and ignore the needs and goals of the team, everyone loses. The goal should be to focus on how to integrate one’s individuality to help the entire team succeed. Your individuality has little impact if it is only focused on personal needs, to the exclusion of others. It has maximum impact when one has discovered how to use an individual strength to best serve the team’s overall interests.

Marcus Buckingham is a research analyst from Gallup, and a lecturer on strengths-finding and leadership. Upon reading his volume on team building entitled, The One Thing You Need to Know, I discovered four proven methods of successful team building based on his research. Anyone who works together in a group with others to achieve a goal can benefit greatly from these four keys. These do not belong in any particular order:

First, they dedicate time to building relationships and strengthening team bonds. This may involve going to lunch regularly; special outings outside of the main office; learning about one another’s family; doing fun things together, such as sack races, obstacle courses, ping/pong, a day at the beach; etc. This takes time and effort, but Buckingham believes that it pays off in the ultimate goal of the group. Many teams don’t function well together because they never really take the time to get to know one another. The better they know each other, the more personal walls can come down and strong connections can be made.

Second, they leverage their strengths to help the company grow. This means that they take a careful look at what the team needs in order to grow and achieve its mission. They will discover that there are several needs and structures that must be in place in order to succeed. Seeking to understand which strength within the team works best for each required task is the first hurdle to get over. Assigning each person to the task which works best with their strengths, rather than assigning based on their capabilities, is what sets the team up for success. Most teams assign tasks based on who doesn’t mind doing it, and who is capable. Too many have confused ability with strengths. Ability may mean that you can do it, but it is a very draining activity; you may even hate doing it at the same time. A strength is something in addition to ability; it is what a person looks forward to doing, feels passionate about, and finds personal satisfaction in doing. It doesn’t drain but it energizes.

Third, they seek to understand each other’s natural strengths and instincts, which means they are therefore not irritated by peculiarities or the unheard of ideas brought forward. They engage in regular discussions about one another’s strengths in the context of the team and its current goals. Each team member benefits from understanding one another’s strengths and rehearsing them.

Fourth, they do not personalize disagreement nor create territorial divides which weaken teams, but interpret conflict with objectivity. They have a “we-are-all-on-the-same-side” mentality and have a laser focus on their mission, and not who gets credit or who had the right idea. They hunt together for what will bring the most success.
By: Eric Betts
Assistant Director, Curtis Coleman Center for Religious Studies and Ethics at Athens State University